How to Plan a Neighborhood Fall Festival (photo credit)
Fall is in the air! It is such a beautiful time of being outdoors with friends and family, celebrating a new change of season, remembering those we love, and celebrating the moments we hold dear.
For people of the Christian faith, the season of fall also brings a day of note to discuss ~ Halloween. This link will take you to an article has some information on stances that Christians might take towards Halloween as you decide what is the best course for your family. What we have decided is based on this verse in Colossians 4:5
“Be wise how you live among those outside the Christian faith, making the most of every opportunity.”
In light of that concept, we have decided that we would take the rare opportunity of all of our neighbors outside on the street as a chance to build relationships with them, share love with them, and be available to share God’s story of grace in our lives. Instead of looking for a fair, Halloween or Fall event to go to, it can be very easy and effective to build relationships right on our own block. Here is an easy to follow guide for “How to Plan a Neighborhood Fall Festival.”
1. Touch base with your neighbors a few weeks before. Many neighbors love doing block parties and this is a great opportunity to build relationships. Here is a free downloadable and printable invitation. Just print it out and write in your personal details. Last year we did the cake walk, apple bob, and doughnut dangle. We also served a big bowl of chili and almost every neighbor brought out a meal to share as well.
2. Once your invites are out, plan an easy driveway activity! Here are some simple ideas:
Apple Bob: place a bag of apples in a bin of water and have kids try and grab it without using their hands. (if that’s a bit unsanitary for you, try the doughnut dangle!)
Doughnut Dangle: pick up a box of sturdy circle shaped doughnuts with the center hole removed (we use the bag of mini powdered doughnuts ~ it’s messier fun and provides more turns). Tie a yarn around the doughnut and dangle it from a tree limb or PVC structure. (PVC pipes and connectors can be purchased for less than $1 to make a hanging support for the driveway game).
CakeWalk: have music ready to play and pause on your iphone or cd player. Use chalk to draw a large square and make numbers in each smaller square. Whatever numbers you have in chalk, make the same numbers on paper and drop them in a bucket. Have kids walk when the music plays and stop when you press stop. With kids on each numbered square, pull the number from the bucket and give that child the prize (could be a cupcake or non food item like stickers. We grabbed a few multiprize packs at the dollar store.)
DuckPond: fill up that plastic tiny wading pool sitting in your garage with an inch of water. Use sharpie to write numbers on any kids toys that float (you know, the ones you step on in the middle of the night) or buy a bag of rubber ducks from the $1 store. Let kids pick up the duck for a prize (watch kids around all water).
Rock paint: I think the reason kids love this so much is because it breaks all the rules ~ paint and rocks ~ two things they don’t usually get free reign with inside the house. We set out a large poster board and let the kids paint a rock with washable paint. After the night is done, we hose the rocks off and toss them back into the rock area.
GO Fishing: this is really so simple and kids love it. Attach clothespins to the end of a few sticks with string. Make a blue sheet the “water”. Suspend the sheet up with the same PVC as the doughnut dangle. Have a prize bucket and two big kids behind the blue sheet. When the little kids toss their fishing pole over the blue sheet, the big kids clip a prize on the end of their clothespin. Inexpensive bulk prizes include stickers, erasers, bookmarks, pencils, wrapped candy.
Costume Contest: as groups of kids come through, walk them through a designated spot for a “costume contest” ~ we use a pop up tent canopy with lights on it, and simply pick one child to get a prize. You may try to select a child to win that may seem left out or in need of encouragement ~ use the fleeting moment to celebrate them.
BeanBag Toss: bean bags (or a rubber ball) and laundry buckets. Done.
3. Decide if you want to share a meal or drink with the neighbors. Label the ingredients that you used on the table so families with food allergies know. If you watch your kids and you are the ones providing a meal – then you can keep your family safe. Use common sense consuming items from trusted sources and check prepackaged items. If you provide sealed drink containers, neighbors may feel more comfortable sharing a meal with you. Remember to use wisdom as you plan and as you partake in the neighborhood fall festival. The most successful and safe events we have had included just rolling out the BBQ and grilling good old hot dogs. Kids laughed and laughed while squirting ketchup on their meal & waiting for their turn on the driveway events. Keep it simple. If every neighbor brings over a $2 pack of hot dogs – done.
Of note: Yes – there is a sense of “stranger danger” with this event. Yet, time and studies have shown that knowing our neighbors and having a community neighborhood watch reduces crime. Have wisdom and be present with your family as you reach out to your neighborhood. As we got to know our neighbors better, we all took pride in keeping our neighborhood safer. This night can be not only a way to build relationships, but a first step to initiating a positive community change.
Well, I have shared some really simple, fun, and effective ways that we have been able to plan a neighborhood fall festival. Last year, living in a new city, what started off as an event we thought only ten people might be part of, quickly grew to about 60 neighbors sharing the night with us.
Guess what ~ they are some of our best friends today.
Yes, there are a whole bunch of activities that as Christians we should not participate in on Halloween. Using the night to
“be wise how we live and make the most of every opportunity”
by planning a simple Neighborhood Fall Festival has been one activity that has been a bright light in our community. Have you tried it in yours?
Let me know your favorite neighborhood relationship building event! ~ Joy
You may also want to read: 5 Low Cost Fall Family Night Activities
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