Fourth of July parties are a tradition for my family. We have been hosting them since our son was young. As he’s grown in size, so has our party. Mostly we have kept the gathering casual – no themes or planned games. But because our son and his cousins won’t stop growing despite our desire to keep them young forever, we realized we won’t have many more parties where everyone will be able to attend. From that sad thought came the Carnival Spectacular.
There’s something about the chaos of a carnival that makes me happy. Kids laughing. Food everywhere. Carefree shenanigans. The perfect setting for some Fourth of July fun! After trolling Pinterest, we discovered some ideas that would help transform our backyard to a Midway of sorts without us having to spend a ton of money.
The first step was to get the event on people’s calendars. We know that this is a big holiday for family get togethers. Typically we just spread the word about our party to our family and those we hear won’t be traveling to see theirs. This time, we decided mailing invitations might be fun. I came up with the invite below using a background image I found online and then added text and design elements using the free program at Canva.com (Love Canva and they’re not paying me to say it!). Once designed, I used Shutterfly to print the invitations.
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Beyond Pinterest, I found inspiration for festival food from a cookbook my brother and his familygave me titled Haute Dogs by Russell Van Kraayenburg. From it was born the idea to have a Haute Dog Bar. The main menu included the fixings for:
- The Chicago Dog
- The Coney Island Dog
- The Texas BBQ Dog
- The Real Kansas City Dog
- The Chili Cheese Dog
Fortunately, we had in storage all of the chafing dishes from a birthday party held a few years earlier that was catered by a local restaurant. The baskets and checkered wax paper we used to serve the hot dogs were from the Dollar Tree store.
I created the signs for the various hot dogs, again, using the background from the invites and Canva to update text. Then, after printing the signs at home on regular paper, I used spray adhesive to adhere them to card stock. The t-stand on the back of each sign was made simply by folding a triangle and gluing it on. The signs contained a listing of the ingredients so people knew how to prepare their haute dog.
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Friends and family always come to the rescue when it comes to helping round out the menu. They bring snacks, salads and desserts. One of the desserts I made were cupcakes to look like popcorn. They were very simple to make. A white cake mix helped speed the process, and then homemade buttercream frosting with a tiny spray of yellow food covering helped with the illusion. To go with the red, white and blue event I picked up Cracker Jacks at the Dollar Store and to in the carnival spirit, one of my sisters-in-law found small containers of Cotton Candy at Costco.
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When it came time to build the games, a friend helped put free pallets in our hands. I talked with my husband about what I wanted and away he went to build them. With everything else going on during the summer, we didn’t have much time to pull this together. You’ll see some of the pictures were taken at night because we only gave ourselves a couple of days to pull everything together and were still working on projects the night before. He did a great job!
The games we had were:
- Shooting gallery
- Watergun Shoot Off
- Balloon Darts
- Balloon Ring Toss
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A pallet and 2 x 4s were used to build the shooting gallery. The targets were playing cards held in place by binder clips tipped upside down to their flat side. Nerf guns were used to shoot the cards. We were lucky in that it wasn’t a windy day. The cards may not have worked well otherwise; something to take into consideration come the day of the event. However, I’m guessing other targets could be used as well – soda cans, paper plates with binder clips, etc.
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Yes, another “gun” game. This time, we used water guns to shoot ping pong balls off of golf tees. Again, a tricky game if it were windy. We also had to be sure that the strength of the water gun could move the ping pong ball. You end up standing a lot closer than one might think, but it was still a challenge. We kept a large tote filled with water near the game so kids could easily put the gun in and fill it up if needed.
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Adult supervision was needed for this game, because yes, we used actual darts. I’m part of the generation that survived Jarts so our family decided to take the risk. The board was spray-painted plywood with nails already hammered in. Whenever we had to hang a new balloon we just poked the portion where the tie was onto the nail. It worked great! When the darts weren’t in use, we put them in a small bucket of sand so they didn’t pose a hazard laying in the grass.
Typo in the sign…I know. 😉
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The Dollar Store helped a great deal with this game. The balloons, their anchors and the hoola hoops were purchased there. Written on each balloon was a score with the obvious goal of trying to ring a balloon with your hoop. Again, a windy day would make this game more challenging.
This game was easy. Spray paint and the spinner from the game was all that was needed.
Lastly, I had a little fun making a centerpiece for our snack table. I was inspired after walking through Pier 1 Imports and seeing cardboard firecrackers for $29.99 that I swore I could mimic for much less given the decor is only used one time each year (if that). How did I do it? A pool noodle, scrapbook paper and ribbon. I also had extra balloon anchors and stole some of the bling off of those. For the purpose of coming up with something cheap and festive, I think it worked well!
All in all, it was a beautiful day with friends and family that was well worth all the work.
See it all in action…