How to throw a neighborhood Halloween party

Oct 10, 2015 at 12:00 p.m. ET
Image: I Love Images/Getty Images

Once upon a time, if you were planning to have a great party, you invited all the neighbors so nobody would complain about noise or feel left out. It's so easy to put a Halloween spin on an old idea, while simultaneously revitalizing your neighborhood's spirits and strengthening local community.

You only need a couple of weeks to plan a fun Halloween party once your "planning committee" has met and made a few basic decisions.

Who can help you plan?

Hand deliver a flyer to a few mailboxes with an invitation to meet about a neighborhood event. Meet in your own front yard for an hour to see who is willing to have some fun. Involving both the adults and the kids in decorating and role-playing makes for a better, safer evening.

What sort of party will you have?

Decide on a theme. One year we did Pirates of the Caribbean: paper hats and eye patches, striped t-shirts and a couple of stuffed bird toys go a long way to creating the illusion. Add a couple of bed sheet sails and a "plank" to the porch, skull and crossbones stuck on or carved right into your pumpkin. Harry Potter characters are simple... capes, wands and a bit of makeup! Candle stubs in juice glasses make any scene spooky and magical. If you get really stuck, a whole neighborhood dressed as Minions will do the trick! Overalls, yellow shirts and big sunglasses, anyone?

When should your party happen?

Halloween night of course, but start early enough to accommodate the little ones — maybe 6 p.m. — and plan to go until about 11 p.m. to allow for clean-up time. Post a few flyers along the block about a week before the event, inviting all trick-or-treaters. Encourage cameras!

Where will this Halloween bash be?

Aye, there's the rub! There are a few options:

  • Everyone congregates in the largest yard for one big display.
  • Each yard takes care of one piece of a bigger theme. If you go with The Wizard of Oz, for example, one yard can be Kansas; one, Dr. Marvel's Caravan; one, the Witch's Castle, etc. Signs help with this sort of party: "Beware the Enchanted Forest! Enter If You Dare!"
  • A neighborhood park or school grounds can often be borrowed at no cost for the night.

How will the party come together successfully?

  • Each household contributes as they are able: old clothes, junk jewelry or scavenged scraps for creating "sets."
  • Ask your friends without kids of their own to come in character for the evening, so parents can accompany their children door-to-door safely.
  • A potluck of spaghetti, salad and bread in self-serve mode on a picnic table just away from the main action will keep everybody fueled.
  • Hot chocolate in a "cauldron" will ward off the cold or simply get everyone in the Halloween spirit.
  • Designate a decorating day just before Halloween so the whole crew can go house to house to help set up.
  • Have recycle bins and garbage bags handy to make cleanup easier.
  • See if there is a local high school theatre arts class willing to pitch in to paint faces and string cobwebs.
  • Treats to give out to trick-or-treaters should be pre-packed and nut-free, if at all possible.

Why throw a neighborhood Halloween party?

Everybody loves a party — a reason to get dressed up, be silly, make new friends and exercise their creative muscles. Neighborhoods are safer when folks know one another, and nothing brings people together like a fun common cause. Take things to the next level and include donations to the local food bank, have prizes for Best Costume, Best Yard, Best Acting or Best Pet Costume. Everyone involved will come away with a good story to tell — and the desire to do it all again!

Don't make the neighbors who choose not to join in feel guilty. Leave the invitational door open. There's always next year, especially once they see what you can do!