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Party idea submitted by BizGirl Feb 2nd, 2008
The Great Pumpkin Party
By: Tammy Stables Battaglia
Halloween parties for families must strike a delicate balance: exciting enough for older kids but not too scary for the little ones. Four years ago, my family discovered a party format that worked out so well, it has become a much-anticipated October tradition; a pumpkin-decorating party. Each year, usually the Sunday before Halloween, our friends arrive toting their carefully chosen pumpkins. We set out tools, supplies, and some easy-to-eat fare, put on spooky music, and let everyone get to work. From toddlers to teens, our guests carve, paint, and decorate their masterpieces, hoping to take home the coveted grand prize (some families spend days devising their pumpkin design). Even though the party format is straightforward, we’ve learned a few ways to really make the event stand out. Here, then, are our top tips.
1) SPREAD THE WORD WITH FUN AND SIMPLE INVITATIONS
Set the mood for your carving fest with an easily mass-produced invitation that doubles as an award tag. Fold in half a rectangle of orange construction paper (ours was roughly 5 1/2 by 6 1/2 inches) and cut a half pumpkin on the fold, as you would a valentine heart. Unfold it and write out the details using a marker. We make our event BYOP (Bring Your Own Pumpkin) and hold it the Sunday afternoon before Halloween. Be sure to mention prizes to draw Sunday afternoon quarterbacks off the couch!
2) THINK “PUMPKIN GOO” WHEN SETTING UP
Outside among the changing leaves on an Indian summer afternoon is the best spot for a carving party (both for the atmosphere and the mess). But be ready to move to a garage, basement, or covered porch if the weather turns lousy. Your artists need space to work, so set up picnic or folding tables in the backyard and cover each with a plastic tablecloth or newspaper. Not only does it protect the table, it also rolls up the spilled pumpkin goo for easy cleanup when the party’s over. And speaking of goo, be sure to set a roll of paper towels on each table for messy hands.
3) PUT ON SPOOK-TACULAR MUSIC
The right party music will help your carvers get in the mood. Pick up a CD of scary sounds or a fun Halloween song mix (try your library first).
Here are some of our favorites:
- Halloween Hits (Rhino Records) We especially love the merengue of “The Blob” and the silly sounds in “Martian Hop”.
- The Nightmare Before Christmas: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Disney) We’ve been using this one for years for the eerie yet melodic music.
- Very Scary Music: Classic Horror Themes (Delta) You name the spooky TV or movie music, it’s here.
- Boo, Cackle, Trick or Treat (Wee Bee Music) A great selection of not-so-often-heard Halloween songs with a folky, sing-along sound.
4) MAKE THE SCENE FESTIVE FOR LITTLE GOBLINS
Decorating for this affair can be as easy as pulling out all your Halloween decor. For extra credit, make a pumpkin-head scarecrow to greet guests as they arrive or set jack-o-lanterns aglow for an evening party. Let the kids become pumpkin art themselves with the help of a pumpkin face-paint stamp. You can buy these at craft stores or make your own by cutting a small pumpkin out of craft foam, then gluing it to a piece of cardboard. Cover with orange face paint, dab off any excess, and decorate the carvers.
5) CREATE STATIONS FOR CARVING, SCULPTING, AND PAINTING
Traditional carving is always fun, but we’ve found that offering other decorating options too makes for more creative results and allows younger kids to participate. Set up stations that let your guests experiment:
- Carving: Stock this table with serrated kid-friendly pumpkin saws, as well as kitchen tools, such as ice-cream scoops, for scraping. Put out bowls for discarded pumpkin goo with one labeled “Seeds Only” for those precious roasting seeds.
- Sculpting: Set out a mixture of precut veggies and toothpicks for fasteners. Carrots make great noses, and the lacy green tops become hair. Big chunks of broccoli and funky-shaped gourds become anything from eyes to antennae. Keep a glue gun hot and handy for more difficult attachments.
- Painting: Lay out nontoxic craft paints, a few brushes, and water for those who want to add a little more color.
6) MAKE JUDGING FUN AND FASHIONABLE
Judging shines a spotlight of appreciation on all the artists hard work. Let your guests know when judging will take place, so they’ll have a deadline for finishing. To give your judges (we usually have at least three) the ceremonial seriousness their position requires, make our Pumpkin Judge’s Hat. If other partygoers want their own and they probably will, they’re a snap to make.
7) AWARD PLENTY OF PRIZES
When your judges are suitably attired, explain to them how the judging is done. Before the party, you’ll have put a handful of candy, stickers, or trinkets in brown paper lunch bags, one for each carver. After reviewing the entries, the judges declare each one best at something: Best Eyes, Most Artistic, Scariest, and so on. They then write the award on a pumpkin cutout (see invitation directions for how-tos), tape the cutout to a goody bag, and award the prize to the artist. For the judges best-in-show grand prize, pick up something a little more special. We usually award a fall decoration such as a front yard scarecrow or some other seasonal novelty that will remind the winner of the party each time he or she sets it out in years to come.
8) SERVE WARM AND PORTABLE FOOD
Brisk fall weather can bring out hearty appetites, but gooey fingers demand that eating be easy. Serve chili in paper cups, set out a platter of hot dogs, and offer finger foods such as these Pumpkin Roll-ups. For dessert, try Pumpkin Bread Pudding with chocolate chips.
9) PLAN AHEAD FOR NEXT YEAR’S PARTY
Pumpkin decorating parties easily can become a tradition, and you can use that to your advantage. If the party is a success and has guests looking forward to next year’s gathering, shop for supplies the first or second week in November. Pick up plastic utensils, plates, cups, decorations, table coverings, and prizes on sale. You’ll have almost all you need for next year’s great pumpkin decorating party.
Photo by: NCBrian on Flickr
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