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The Perfect Memorial Day Party: Food and Activities From Start to Finish

Memorial Day Games, Summer Barbeque Recipes

A Brief History of Memorial Day

Since 1868, the United States has set aside a day to pay tribute to her fallen soldiers. While originally only those who died in the Civil War were honored, over time soldiers who gave their lives in all venues were included. For a complete and deeply compelling article on the history of this important commemoration, please take a look at the article titled “Why We Celebrate Memorial Day.

Planning the Perfect Memorial Day Party

Combining the seriousness of the occasion with the ability to get together with friends and family members and throw a party or barbecue on Memorial Day does not have to be difficult. Instead, the perfect Memorial Day party can be held in your very own backyard or neighborhood park if you follow seven simple steps that guarantee success.

1. Observe the occasion. Many municipalities will have special Memorial Day programs taking place in the morning. By way of a kick off for the day, invite your friends to meet you at one of these locales, enjoy the program, honor those who died for the country, and set the mood for the rest of the day. This is especially important if you have children, as the next generation should not grow up thinking that Memorial Day is little more than an excuse for a mattress or furniture sale, barbecue, and flag pins. Check your city’s or county’s website for times and locations.

2. Plan for the kids. Be mindful of children who will attend your Memorial Day party. While they will enjoy playing together, it is always wise to have a few structured activities on the backburner in case there are prolonged periods of time where little is going on. If you anticipate a lot of children attending, plan on having a little parade around a mock obstacle course. Each child receives a noise maker; party hat in red, white, or blue; and a little plastic cup. Set up obstacles, such as crates, pillows, chairs, and a pretend limbo station.

The goal is to carry water in the plastic cup while wearing a party hat and making music with the noise maker from one end of the parade route to the other. The obstacles will slow down the kids, make for a lot of squealing and spilling, and since this game can be played for a long time, is sure to get them tired out a bit and hungry.

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For a quieter activity, plan on having some coloring pages ready. Apples 4 the Teacher has a number of them, which you can print out right from your computer. Add some crayons, markers, and colored pencils so the kids can create their own masterpieces.

3. Plan the theme. No, you do not have to have a theme, but some folks enjoy the idea of making it a themed get-together. If you have a pool, the obvious idea is a pool party. Even if you do not have a pool but perhaps some leftover summer decorations from last year, you could plan on a beach party theme. Get out the old tiki torches and lawn chairs, and ask everyone to wear their best (worst?) Hawaiian shirts. In the alternative, just opt for the tried and true family barbeque and get out the red checkered table cloths.

4. Invitations. More and more partiers plan their events online and your Memorial Day party does not have to be an exception. Evite has a number of great invitation ideas that will permit you to set the theme of your party and get an accurate count of guests who will be attending. It is wise to get these out as far ahead of time as possible. Anyone who has not responded you should follow up with five days ahead of the party to make sure your email was received.

5. Decorations. With the theme firmly set, the invitations emailed out, and the Memorial Day party planning well underway, getting decorations often appears to be an afterthought but it really should be done as early as possible. Savvy shoppers may have stocked up a year before on such decorations when they went on sale after last year’s Memorial Day.

Those still in need of decorations could just go to the local party supply store and spend a small fortune on specifically themed items, but why? A much more budget-friendly way of shopping may be found at your local dollar store where you may purchase red, white, and blue crepe paper, balloons and streamers, scotch tape, American flag garlands, paper plates (if the dollar store does not have the durable kind, it is wise to visit your big box home good store and buy them there), plastic cups, paper napkins, and of course tableware.

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Don’t forget the paper tablecloths! Keep it all red, white and blue or follow your theme, and if you are a savvy shopper, the odds are good that $50 will buy you quite a bit of mood-setting ornamentation! Other decorating ideas for your Memorial Day party include torches or outdoor candles and, if the weather still turns a bit cold in the evenings, some logs to burn on an inexpensive portable hibachi.

6. Food and drinks. The possibilities are virtually endless. Is it a New England clambake you favor? The odds are good that you will find everything you need (and more) at your membership warehouse store. Buying in bulk will save you a lot of money, and depending on the size of your guest list, this is a must!

My personal favorites are kabobs and bratwurst. Sure, I am German and so Bratwurst is a given, but add to that the fact that kids really love the taste and even finicky eaters enjoy a few slices, and it quickly becomes apparent why this is a great offering from the grill when young ones are on the guest list.

Kabobs have the added advantage of not only bringing an amazing variety to the grill (seafood, beef, chicken, pork, vegetarian, hot and spicy, sweet and sour, traditional barbeque, and even Hawaiian are all options) and thus greatly accommodate individuals with varying palates, dietary needs, and taste preferences, but they can also be made ahead, which takes pressure off you on the day of your Memorial Day party, and they do not take that long on the grill! No longer does the grill master have to look wistfully at the partiers while he or she mans the grill, but instead cooking is a snap!

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Take a look at Chiff’s tips for great kabob recipes and you are sure to find some you will enjoy.

7. Activities for the adults. While the kids may enjoy their coloring and parades, the adults can have fun, too! A best (worst) Hawaiian shirt contest, a limbo competition, a few decks of cards for some friendly games of blackjack or poker, some basic board games for the quieter folks, or some of the charade games for the louder and more extroverted attendees, and of course the Karaoke machine for the closeted American Idol wannabes all round out the party.

For an exhaustive collection of patriotic music (singing the Star Spangled Banner is a lot harder than it looks!) visit the Wave Themes site.

Last Minute Tips and Tricks

Wise is the host who understands that the unexpected will happen! Have some frozen pizza on hand for the child who will not eat anything, or some chicken fingers for the other one who turns up her or his little nose at the pizza and the kabobs. Have spare charcoal and lighter fluid if you are a purist or an extra tank of propane if you use a gas grill.

Keep some extra drinks in the fridge, and also have some spare sunscreen on hand for the folks who are starting to bake in the sun. Limit alcohol consumption if you are in the blazing sun and close the bar a couple of hours before the party is over.

Stay safe and enjoy your Memorial Day party!