There are three main essentials to a succesful community event whether it is a National Night Out block party, fundraiser, church event, cultural festival, or some other community building happening. I have come up with these tips after hosting 5 National Night Out parties that got larger with each year. Others have followed my advice to hold well-attended events of their own.
ADVERTISE, ADVERTISE, ADVERTISE You cannot advertise your event too much. A month before the event, send out ads so people can mark the date on their calendars. Then closer to the date, send out more info with details of the event to drum up more interest. The day before and the day of the event, send out last minute reminders for people who don't realize what day it is or forgot the date of your event. See the resource section for details on many ways you can advertise.
TALK IT UP Flyers, articles, and ads are not enough. People need a personal invitation to motivate them to get up off the couch and come to your event. Make personal contacts and tell people you hope to see them there. They will be much more likely to come because they know you will be looking for them.
FOOD Make sure the food is worth coming for and that people KNOW exactly what food will be there. Many people will assume there will just be cookies, chips, and soda so they either won't come or will eat before they come. Have food that will entice. While pizza or sandwiches are easy, consider BBQ if it is in a place where people will smell the cooking. For example, at a neighborhood National Night Out party, people are more likely to leave their house and come if they smell chicken on the grill.
FOLLOW UP If the event will be repeated in the future, be sure to do follow up advertising. Talk to people who didn't come and casually mention how much fun it was. They may regret missing it and come the next time. Put up pictures of all the fun you had.