Summer Fun

The Role of Activities in Building a Successful Community

Activities and events are a vital aspect of community living.  They create enthusiasm, get residents involved and acquainted with each other, and provide a safe and fun environment that fosters a feeling of togetherness…of community. However, most importantly, activities are at the cornerstone of what evolves a community from a bunch of buildings with people living in them to a bunch of homes with friendly and happy neighbors.

Community events and activities can range in scope from a simple ice cream social, where a few volunteers help dish out ice cream and provide toppings to young and old alike, to a full-blown Street Festival, where the street is closed off, vendors display and sell their wares, and the public is invited to attend.  The size of your community should not limit the activities or events you can offer.

Community events can be as easy as holding a Fourth of July Bike Parade.  Invite the children to decorate their bikes with red, white, and blue streamers, balloons, and more.  Hold a parade and have a volunteer group select the best patriotic bike in different age categories and present them with a trophy.  Serve cookies and juice to all participants.  This is a recipe for a fun kick-off weekend!

Other examples of activities that are easy and fun are an Easter Egg Hunt, Game Night for the Family, or Game Night for Adults.  Hold a monthly First Friday Social, a community Happy Hour with beer, wine, and light fare for a small donation to offset the cost.  Each month, ask different volunteers to sponsor and host the event.  This is a great way to socialize and meet your neighbors.

Schedule an off-site Monthly Ladies Luncheon.  Provide the date, time, and place, and invite residents to meet for lunch.  Take me out to the Ballgame by arranging and publicizing an outing for the family to a local sporting event, offering a reduced ticket rate.  These are effortless events that promote and help build friendships.

A Family Fun Fest event can be as simple as offering grilled burgers and hot dogs, potato salad, and chips with games for the kids such as ring toss and three-legged races.  Or, you could expand on this event by adding face painting, a moon bounce, a magician, and perhaps a DJ to entertain kids and adults alike.   Invite local vendors to set up tables to display their wares and ask them to provide prizes for the attendees.  Everyone loves to win something!  This is a wonderful event where the entire family can get involved and enjoy the outside and (hopefully) the sunshine!

Hold a Family Camp Out and Movie Night.  Invite your residents to bring their tents and set up in a large common area and show a family-friendly movie.  Set up simple and fun activities such as horseshoes, bean bag, and corn hole toss.  You could have a potluck dinner and provide a grilled entrée and ask everyone to bring a simple side dish or dessert.

Partner with your community and hold a Film Festival in conjunction with your local library.  On the first Tuesday in August, hold a National Night Out event.  National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live.  Include the local fire department and ask them to bring a fire truck to display.  Provide a civic service by conducting a children finger-printing campaign to aid law enforcement’s ability to locate missing children.  National Night Out enhances the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement while bringing back a true sense of community.  Furthermore, it provides a great opportunity to bring police and neighbors together under positive circumstances.

One of the homeowners’ perennial favorite events is a Pumpkin Festival.  Each October, an estimated 400 residents and their guests enjoy a day outside enjoying all the fun of the autumn season.  The Pumpkin Festival revolves around pumpkin carving.  Residents enter the pumpkin patch to select their favorite pumpkins, which are purchased from our local farmer.  After finding that special pumpkin, residents make their way to the pumpkin carving stations.  Once their finely crafted jack-o‘-lanterns are carved, they are placed on the main steps leading to the clubhouse.  At sundown pumpkin spice scented candles are lit in hundreds of jack-o‘-lanterns on the multi-tiered staging area.  It is simply stunning!

Besides pumpkin carving and the impressive light display, young residents enjoy a large hay maze, moon bounce, pony ride, face painting, and obstacle courses.  The local Girl Scout troops sell apple cider donuts from the local farm, soft pretzels from the local Amish market, and candy apples and decorated baked goods from the local store.  Parents enjoy the beer garden, sponsored by the local Bennigan’s and everyone enjoys delicious meals served by our two resident caterers and the great selection of music played by our favorite DJ.  Best of all, the Pumpkin Festival is fully run by resident volunteers, who look forward to participating in this outdoor community event.

Trunk or Treat is not only a fun activity in itself, but it’s also a safer alternative to door-to-door trick or treating.  Ask residents to decorate their car trunks in the Halloween spirit and set up in a central community area.   Have a contest for best-decorated car trunk.  Hold a costume parade and have the ghosts and goblins strut their stuff.  Add a Chili Cook-Off for the adults.  Make certain you have Alka Seltzer handy for those spicier versions!  Welcome all children to trick or treat from one decorated car trunk to the next.

Dedicated volunteers can help elevate the type of activities and events you can offer to the community.  A local association Garden Club holds an Annual Fashion Show and Luncheon at an offsite venue.  Resident volunteers model the clothing and accessories donated by local businesses.  All proceeds from this event benefit the local community college scholarship fund.  This is an example of helping your neighbors both in your association and within your community.

Schedule a Doggie Swim!  This particularly fun event requires very little preparation and is held on the last day of the pool season for obvious reasons!  Invite residents to bring their dogs to the pool to swim.  Bring your camera and capture the fun!

An active Social Club can present such fun events as a Murder Mystery Dinner, where volunteers act out a skit and attendees are invited to figure out “who done it” while enjoying a meal with their neighbors, to a Kentucky Derby Party where residents can gather together and watch the Run for the Roses on a large screen.  Set the mood by asking the ladies to come dressed in their best hats and serve refreshments such as mint juleps and hors d’oeuvres.

Volunteers are the backbone of any community.  They offer their time and effort to enhance the community for one and all. 

Schedule a Volunteer Appreciation Dinner to celebrate their contributions to the association.  Develop a fun party theme, provide dinner, and entertainment.  The entertainment can be as simple as piped-in music, to a DJ and a photo booth, to an extravagant fire dancer show, and audience participation.  Ask all volunteers to vote for the resident who, in their opinion, deserve the recognition of Volunteer of the Year.  Present that volunteer with a gift and engrave their name on a Volunteer of the Year plaque placed in a prominent location in the community to be seen by all residents and acknowledging their contribution throughout the years to come.

Last year, my association’s theme for the Volunteer Appreciation Dinner was to “Join us in Margaritaville.”  We invited our volunteers to come dressed in Jimmy Buffet casual attire and dine on our “Margaritaville Terrace” by the pool.  The mood was set by decorating the pool area with colorful parrots, lighted paper lanterns, palm trees, and filling our pool with battery operated tea lights in the center of pink flamingos!   As our residents entered, we greeted them with leis and margaritas.  Jimmy Buffet music was piped in until after dinner when the entertainment started.  We offered a frozen T-shirt contest, which was a hoot.  We froze colorful t-shirts and handed them out to the brave contestants.  The first contestant to unravel the frozen t-shirt and put it on won a prize!  Next, we held a hula hoop marathon.  This is where the coordinated and not so coordinated are discovered!

We concluded our fun-filled night with a show presented by the Pacific Rhythm Island dancers and Fireknife show.  The entertainers were a family consisting of a mother, father, and six children ranging in ages from 5 to 12.  The entertainers involved our party goers by inviting them up to learn an island dance.  Everyone had a phenomenal time and wondered how we were going to top it!

A full-bodied community calendar of activities and events can bring association residents together in a unique way, which can help residents build supportive, lasting friendships, and provide a happier, healthy community.  A successful community association is made up of more than a group of homes.  Dedicated residents help make a community successful and dedicated residents are made up of happy, connected neighbors.  Moreover, a robust activities program can promote your community to the outside.  It may even (and likely will) factor into a family’s decision to become a part of your community.  The activities program in your community will attract people to it and will make them want to be a part of it, thereby, keeping the property values up.  Everyone wins!

By Vicki E. Eaton, CMCA, AMS, LSM, PCAM and Elizabeth Garofalo

Vicki is the general manager of Worman’s Mill Community Conservancy, Inc. She has been engaged in the management of community associations as a senior portfolio manager since 2003, before transitioning to on-site management in February 2015. Vicki is a member of the Chesapeake Chapter’s Expo Committee and serves as chair of the Education Committee.

Elizabeth works for Community Association Services, Inc.  She is the activities director and website administrator for Clarksburg Town Center Homeowners Association.  Elizabeth has been working with this homeowners association since 2007

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