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Photo illustration by Cathie Rowand | The Journal
The backyard is calling

Get the parties started

Themed events get creative juices flowing, local expert says

There is no longer a reason to hibernate. The ice has melted, the tulips are blooming and party season is upon us. It’s time to get outside, turn up the music and ask your friends to help you boogie away the winter blues.

If your party-throwing skills are rusty, consider a theme party, says event specialist Kelly Geiser of A Party Apart.

“Once your mind gets going, the ideas become endless,” she says. “The important thing is that you take that theme and make it your own.”

For backyard, do-it-yourself theme parties, Geiser suggests looking for inspiration on idea-sharing websites such as But be careful not to overdo it.

“With a party on a small scale, you have to be more strategic,” she says. “You can let the theme influence the invitations, decorations, music, all the way down to the food. Don’t get overwhelmed. Just have fun with it.”

Here are four theme parties to consider this summer.

Adult spelling bee

Elementary and middle school students are better spellers than adults (spell-check has spoiled most of us), so give your contestants a “three strikes option.” Assign guests a number, a folding chair and the beverage of their choice. After everyone is settled, begin with simple words and increase the difficulty as the competition progresses.

Also: Serve alphabet cookies and begin the festivities with a dramatic singing of the alphabet.

Drink and draw

In high school, doodling wasn’t just fun, it was necessary. The only way to get through a boring lecture was to draw – geometric shapes, stars, hearts, sketches of your teacher. For this party, let everyone get cozy with a beer, a drawing pad and a few pencils. The only rule: Nobody is allowed to say, “I can’t draw.”

Also: Post a gallery of drawings to the fence or the side of the garage. Take turns being a live model – clothed, preferably – and see if you can hold the Heisman Trophy pose for 20 minutes.

County fair

You don’t need to drive to the outskirts of town to experience a county fair. Aside from traditional goodies such as cherry pie, cotton candy and corn dogs, offer a kissing booth, a picnic table for a hot dog eating contest and make room for the watermelon seed-spitting tournament to beat all other watermelon seed-spitting tournaments.

Also: For seating, pick up a few bales of hay. For dessert, ask everyone to bring a pie. (You can award the cooks later by bestowing blue ribbon for different categories: prettiest, best-tasting, most pathetic attempt.)

Tour de Fort

Who says a party can’t help you lose weight? For mild spring days, take inspiration from France’s most famous bike race, the Tour de France, and begin the party with a ride along the Rivergreenway. Back home, lay out blankets and serve dinner alfresco – baguettes, cheese and wine.

Also: Fill your iPod with French music and give each cyclist a beret.