Add Pizzazz to Your Annual Summer Gathering
summer begins, you're probably making plans for your annual picnic or family
reunion. Chances are the event will
be identical to previous years. Hot
dogs, hamburger, chicken and/or ribs, salads and watermelon will likely be on
your menu and volleyball, softball and swimming on your activity list. Ho-hum.
are some ideas to add pizzazz to your picnic, without necessarily increasing
you have held your picnic at the same spot for more than two or three years in a
row, consider moving it. Look for
alternative locales. If your
barbecue is generally held in a park, move it to the beach. If you're at the beach, move it to a lake.
Even if you have to keep it at the same park as always, try to set up
your event at another location in the park to offer a slight change of vista.
THEME'S THE THING:
a theme for the picnic. Themes not
only add a little excitement, they allow you to make small changes to your plans
that have a big impact. Best of all, themes can provide focus to your plans and
help you stay on track. "Under the Big Top," "Country Fair,"
"It's Best Our West," or "Out On Safari" are all popular,
easy-to-execute and affordable themes.
menu may stay the same if you wish, but by changing the atmosphere or even how
it is served, your familiar fare will take on new appeal.
an "Under the Big Top" event:
Cover the tables with
red and white striped cloths.
Rent popcorn and
cotton candy machines.
* Hire a face painter or find some volunteers to paint children's faces.
Serve peanuts in
shells from paper sacks.
Dress yourself or
other host as the ringmaster to announce activities.
Invite guests to
bring in pets who can do tricks for the crowd. (Check to make sure that the
venue allows animals.)
Bring in a petting
Ask a local
gymnastics group to perform.
Play calliope music.
Serve hot dogs and
ice cream from rented push carts.
entertainers: magicians, jugglers,
stilt walkers, etc. in keeping with the circus theme.
Most have costumes that would be appropriate to your theme to add to the
If you normally rent
a plain white tent, see if a striped tent is available.
Should you hold your
event in a pavilion, fill the structure's ceiling with a large quantity of
balloons to create a circus atmosphere.
* Adorn the party site with circus decorations.
* Dress the serving staff in clown hats or clown noses.
Create a midway of rides and/or games. You
can hire companies to come in to do this or you can rent or buy games and have volunteers staff the booths.
Just be sure to have
a "Country Fair" theme:
Decorate your tables
in a gingham
Set your picnic table with a collection of cheery country
checkered paper products.
Serve beverages from
Invite guests to
bring in their favorite recipe to be judged in a "best chili,"
"best barbecue sauce," or "best preserves" contest.
Ask guests to exhibit
their homemade crafts. (You might
want to have these judged as well by a representative from a local crafts
If you have several
guests who are weekend gardeners, encourage them to show off their prize
Have fun with a
pie-eating or watermelon seed-spitting contest.
(Paper plates full of whipped cream are a sticky, sweet, affordable
alternative to pie.)
country fair games such as three-legged or potato sack races and a tug-of-war
with management versus guests.
Dress your servers in
bib overalls or gingham shirts.
Set up hay rides
around the picnic area or park.
an "It's Best Out West" theme:
Use checked or gingham
table covers (this is the perfect way to use any extra party products from a
previous "Country Fair" party)
cowboy hats make great party favors, centerpieces and bowls for dry snacks.
These can be purchased for as little as $1 each.
They'll get a boot out of these western
paper party products.
When you need extra
seating, bring in bales of hay. In
some areas, you can rent and return any undamaged bales.
Encourage your guests
to toast their own wieners on sticks over the fire.
Host a "chili
cook-off," "baked beans" or "barbecue sauce" contest
* Provide chef hats for your contestants. Pin or stick medals on winner's hats.
* Use brightly-colored bandannas as table decor, napkins and/or party favors.
Locate a nearby rodeo
and bring in cowboys and gals who can do rope trick, quick-draw, or archery
Hire a square dance
caller and get everyone up to learn how to do-si-do.
Bring in pony rides
for the little buckaroos.
Barbecue beef ribs
instead of pork for a more western taste to your menu.
Set up horseshoe
pitching competitions for different age groups.
lemonade or root beer in handled mugs instead of the usual punch or canned
badges as name tags by writing on them with a permanent marker or affixing a
Rent a chuck wagon as
the place to dispense the chow.
* For a colorful addition to your western theme, add Indian headdresses.
* Don't forget the party favors that kids love so much.
On Safari" theme:
helmets can be used as serving bowls and party favors.
stuffed toy jungle animals for centerpieces.
Dress your waitstaff
in animal print shirts or khaki shirts and pith helmets.
* Play Pin the Monkey on the Palm Tree.
* For adornment, crowd control, or prizes, "brand" your guests with an animal print slap bracelet.
For pure jungle chic during the picnic and all through the year, give your
guests animal print sunglasses.
Hang toy monkeys from
Give the kids
butterfly nets to catch "wild" prey.
Try to set this theme
party at a local zoo so the big game hunters can see jungle beasts up close.
Hand out disposable
cameras and have a guide take guests on a photo safari of the zoo.
Set up a scavenger
hunt using natural items found at the picnic site as the objects participants
must find and bring back on their list.
For a large corporate
event or business promotion, set up
elephant or camel rides.
Encourage children to
draw their favorite animal and then let them save their artwork in an animal
Cover tables in animal
print cloth, paper or plastic tablecloths.
Buy novelty animal
masks for guests to wear.
Bring in a face
painter (or get volunteers) to turn little faces into jungle beasts.
African-American guests to share some of their ancestral culture with your other
Add an aural element
to the occasion by playing authentic African music and sounds of wild animals.
* Make multiple diagonal cuts into your hot dogs, not quite all the way through, and fill the slits with ketchup, mustard and relish. Then tell your younger guests they're eating a "snake."
Instead of beef,
consider serving your guests ostrich
meat burgers. Many specialty
butcher shops carry these beefy-tasting, but low fat red meat. Look for online sources if ostrich meat is not available in
Let your guests
create their own tribal masks with paper maché, paints, feathers and beads.
Make a punch and call
it "jungle juice."
* Kids will love the spoils of the hunt party favors in their goodie bags.
the party starts when the invitation arrives, try these ideas to start
excitement about the event weeks before the picnic date and answer any typical
questions guests may have.
For added fun, invite
your guests' children and ask them to "bring their parents."
Write the invitation
using language that compliments the theme. (For instance, use words like chow or
vittles for a western theme.)
Include not only the
date, but day of the week, to avoid possible mistakes.
Include an RSVP (yes
or no) date
and reply contact information.
Encourage guests to
come dressed in keeping with the theme.
It will add greatly to your atmosphere.
It will add greatly to your atmosphere.
Designate if it's a
"rain or shine" event or if there is a rain date.
Assign someone to
take responses and answer any questions.
* Set up a special voicemail box to field responses. Record your greeting with appropriate theme music playing in the background.
If you are holding
your event at a new location, be sure to enclose a map and directions.
Include the start and
stop times of the event.
arrange a car pool service for people who may have transportation problems.
Be specific on your
invitation if guests, other than immediate family members of guests, are
permitted to attend. Some guests
may assume they can bring along other relatives or friends of their children, so
be specific to avoid any embarrassing situations.
whether pets are allowed. People
often believe they can bring pets to any outdoor events.
For safety's sake, except for certain exceptions such as having
pets included in your circus theme, discourage guests from bringing their
animals. If you choose to have them
included, insist that animals be tethered or caged at all times. Also be certain
to provide a shady area, sufficiently large to keep pets segregated as
necessary, plenty of fresh drinking water, bowls, and a place for owners to walk
their pet and plastic bags to dispose of waste.
If alcohol is
prohibited at the site you have chosen, please remind your guests not to bring
decision whether or not to serve alcohol at your event may not only lie with
you. Many public parks and private
venues prohibit the use of alcohol on their premises. If you wish to serve alcohol, keep in mind the following
Be sure to have a
sufficient amount of soft drink options in addition to any alcohol you may
serve, not only for the children, but any adults who may choose not to imbibe or
limit their alcohol intake.
You may not or may not be legally libel for any accidents that may occur
by a guest who has left your event, but you are morally responsible to make sure
of your guests' safety.
If you suspect
someone has over-indulged (and it takes only one drink -- a can of beer, a glass
or wine or a mixed drink per hour for most people to reach or exceed their
alcohol limit by law), be certain that they do not drive themselves home.
Establish a car-pool
system, request volunteers to be designated drivers (and offer an incentive if
you must) or hire a transportation service to make sure everyone arrives home
Arrange for a
bartender or two to ensure that no one is either over-indulging or imbibing and
are under the legal drinking age.
don't let friends drive drunk. Be a
friend to your guests and their guests.
For alcoholic and
non-alcoholic beverage recipes, look for Party Potables on
the PartyPlansPlus.com Web site.
SAFE THAN SORRY:
people assume that their homeowners insurance will cover them during an off-site
party. Depending on your policy,
that might not be the case. Likewise,
when you are working with vendors, be sure to obtain a contract for services.
insurance provider to determine if you have sufficient coverage.
Insist that any
vendors hired for your event are covered with a minimum of a $1 million policy
and provide you with a valid insurance certificate that has you named as an
additional insured for the day of the event.
Have any contracts
for services reviewed by your attorney. For
general guidelines of what provisions should be found suppliers' (entertainers,
caterers, photographers, etc.) contracts, check Chapter 5: "When It's Time to Go Pro" of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Throwing a Great
Party (Alpha Books, a division of Macmillan Publishing).
of all, make your picnic an event that will be looked forward to, not only by
your guests and their families, but also by yourself. After all, don't you deserve a wonderful day in the great
You will find guidance on food and beverage quantities needed for your group at Summer Parties by Phyllis Cambria.
Making it a Beach Party? Fabulous Fun and Frugal Beach Party
Outstanding list of party planning publications in the PPP Catalog.
Cambria is a speaker, co-author (with Patty Sachs) of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Throwing a Great Party, celebrations
and marketing expert and partners with her co-author in PartyPlansPlus.com.
We'd love to hear from you. Please sign our guestbook.
Click below to tell a friend about this site.