How to throw a great backyard get-together

Kevin Kreitzer is the minister of backyard brouhahas. When time comes for the block party, the big game or an impromptu grill-out, his Belmont Avenue home in Westlake is party central.

"I know practically everyone on the street, which is good because I can go for a walk or see people I know and say, ‘Hey, we’re having a party,’ ” Kreitzer says.

In early May, Kreitzer and his friend Ricky Krupka begin spreading the word about Belmont’s annual August block party. Kreitzer equates the bash to tailgating, and as secretary/treasurer of the Avon Lake Browns Backers, he takes his party preparation and execution seriously. Attention, neighbors: Once about eight neighbors commit to a block party, Kreitzer gets it on paper — preferably green or blue, something snazzy. Invitation verbiage sets the tone for the evening. Kreitzer recites an invitation he sent last year as an example: “On Aug. 23 beginning at 3 p.m. until … question mark,” he emphasizes, chuckling. “Whenever.” Kreitzer can feel the party already, his voice dropping into Come-on-Dooown brogue. By the way, avoid holiday weekends and opt for Saturday events for the best attendance.

The setup: Nothing says happy hour like a backyard bar and 32-inch flat-screen TV. Kreitzer’s Char-Broil grill allows him to cook 20 burgers at once. A large cooler holds exactly 52 drinks of choice. The outdoor speakers, amplifier, DVD/VCR and CD player are rigged so he can control the entertainment with a single remote.

The music: Avoid a noise warning by always inviting the neighbors. “If they are at your party, they won’t complain about the music,” Kreitzer says. And, be willing to mix-a-lot. “Know thy audience,” he adds. He’ll break out Celtic music, soft jazz and some Dean Martin for a “fancy” feast of beef brisket or sausage casserole. Island music, a la Jimmy Buffet, works for most backyard bashes. Just don’t force guests to yell above the chorus. “You want conversation to rule your party, not the music you’re playing,” he says.

When there’s family: “Watch your language,” Kreitzer advises. Those who have nothing nice to say probably need a Pepsi.

For rain or crowds. Be prepared with a pop-up tent if necessary. Kreitzer doesn’t bother renting when he can pick one up at Marc’s for about $40. Watch it: A tip that may disappoint those who figured the 52 cold ones stashed in the cooler were house beers: “You can’t get smashed at your own party,” Kreitzer warns. Moderation rules.

The ultimate payoff: “All of a sudden you visit people more often and you are concerned about their family and their health,” Kreitzer says. Neighborhood bonding in the backyard generally carries on after the party shuts down.

Wondering where to find Kreitzer’s place? “You won’t miss the house,” he assures. “There’s a sign outside that says ‘The Bar Is Open.’ ”

A guest says … “Most of my friends live downtown and don’t have yards,” admits Dave Stack, founder of and 
But he knows a successful bash. “You can never have too many trash cans,” he points out. Same goes for ash trays. Strategically placed smoking tins save your landscaping from collecting butts. And when in doubt, choose a theme. “People seem to be more perceptive and friendly when there is a theme to talk about,” he says.

Beef Tenderloin Vino Rossa (serves 4) “My cousin Carlo, owner of Marconi’s restaurant in Huron, gave me this recipe,” says Haven Ohly, a former chef at the family-owned restaurant. “It’s perfect for a sophisticated summer grilling experience.”

4 8-ounce tenderloin filets
8 ounces olive oil
4 pinches fresh thyme
4 pinches fresh rosemary
4 pinches fresh basil
4 whole garlic cloves, minced
16 oz. Cabernet Sauvignon
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all marinade ingredients and marinate tenderloin for at least four hours. Allow marinade to drip off before grilling. Season with kosher salt and pepper. Grill to desired temperature.

Share this story: