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Best kept summer party secrets



Parks. Fire Departments. And your own backyard.

Throughout the year your child will undoubtedly be invited to several birthday parties.  They’ll range from gymnastics events and cooking parties to sleepovers and ice skating gigs.  If your child has a summer birthday you’re in luck, because planning an outdoor party offers countless options that aren’t available to those with birthdays during the remainder of the year.

Many outdoor party places are those that we frequent daily. With a little imagination and decoration the most common locale can be the stage for an uncommon birthday celebration. Last year I turned Rhinebeck’s Starr Park into a dinosaur excavation for my son and his friends.

I arranged to use the park through the Town of Rhinebeck. My friend Daria roped off a 15 x 15 square in the sandpit that was designated as our “dig site.” We spent the next hour burying treasures just below the surface of the sand: miniature dinosaurs, dino eggs, (plastic Easter eggs stuffed with dinosaur stickers and candy) and other great finds.

Upon arrival, each child picked out his or her own shovel, rake and sand bucket. After the dig the kids snacked, continued to play in the sand or used the rest of the park’s equipment. We had pizza and cake under the pavilion, which was decorated with streamers and balloons. I was able to pick up the treasures, buckets and sand shovels as well as other trinkets at the dollar store and at the Target $1 bins. 

It turned out to be the perfect 5th birthday party for my son and the 30 friends that we invited! Several things make this party easier and less expensive than an indoor party. First, there is no worry about the cleanliness of my home or whether or not I can fit all the guests. With an outdoor space you can invite everyone in your child’s class because space is not limited, and there is no fee for extra children.

Additionally, there was no cost to rent the Starr Park pavilion. Finally, the goody bags – the buckets and shovels – were used as part of the party goody bag. Since my son’s birthday is the first day of summer, we gave each child a $2 shovel and pail set that could be used all season long.  Filled with candy and treasures, it became the easiest favor bag to assemble and hand out. 

Looking for an option that excites both children and adults?  Contact your local fire department. Two years ago I had a firefighter party for my son. I called the Rhinebeck Fire Department on E. Market Street and asked if they would conduct a tour for 20 children and their parents. We talked about what I was looking for and set a date.

The children and their parents assembled at the firehouse at 11am. We toured the firehouse, and the children climbed in the trucks, asked questions and even tried on a uniform!  The children were led outside to an open truck where they climbed in and jumped out like real firefighters. Then the kids lined up and took turns using the fire hose…it was the highlight of the party. 

Afterwards, we walked down the street to Village Pizza where the patio was set for Ryan’s pizza party. I pre-arranged private use of the patio and made sure that 12 pies were ready for our 12:30 arrival. They also kept the birthday cake in the refrigerator for us!  I purchased plastic fire hats and fire truck cups for favors from the party store in Kingston’s Kings Mall, and handed out coloring books that I made from information I compiled online about firefighters, the police and 911.

The fire department was wonderful to work with, and I found that most have someone in charge of education. The programs can be modified to fit your child’s age group. The party costs were kept under control because there is no fee per child or miscellaneous entertainment needed. I gave a $150 donation to the firehouse, purchased balloons and favors and paid for the pizza and cake. If someone brought an extra child or did not attend as planned, the cost was not affected. 

Meridith Ferber lives in Rhinebeck with her husband Chad, and their three children. She is a contributing writer to both HV Parent and HV Life. Meridith runs “Takes the Cake Party Planning” with her friend.  http://takesthecake.weebly.com/