(SEE PART TWO of the circus party with more details HERE.)
Well, it WAS in town... in early December. Which is why we decided it should be a Christmas Carnival. Do you remember when I told you I was in charge of a large party for all the kids at my church? Fortunately, in my area, there are only about 40 kids who actively attend church... in other areas, a party with this scope would be impossible for the amount of kids they have! I should probably explain that the entire reason for this carnival was to reward the kids for "good behavior". Throughout 2011, starting right away in January, the kids earned tickets during Primary. They earned tickets for sitting quietly, participating in lessons, volunteering to help, service for their teachers or classmates, singing nicely during singing time, etc. And to clarify, as we had to for our kids, they did NOT get tickets for being REVERENT. As a Primary Presidency, we had discussed ways to improve reverence in primary because it was a huge issue for us. The tickets seemed like a great incentive, but we didn't want to confuse the kids by telling them we were rewarding their reverence. Reverence is, after all, very personal, INTERNAL and subjective. We were rewarding the good behavior that hopefully LED to reverence (or stemmed from being reverent - whichever.) Phew. Just had to put that out there. When the kids earned a ticket, we wrote their names on the back. We gave them their tickets before they were dismissed to individual classes and they kept them in baskets in the Primary room so they wouldn't lose them.
Of course, we needed something to use the tickets FOR... and so I came up with the crazy Christmas Carnival idea. I decided to break my Carnival ideas up into two posts, so as not to inundate you with crazy amounts of photos and information all at once.
With all of that said, there are a few things I'd like you to keep in mind.
1. This party took place inside my church building, in the gym. Have you been in a church gym? Like most gyms, it is cavernous, has crummy crummy lighting and NO windows - so... no natural light at all. Why am I telling you this? So you'll be gentle in your judgements about my photos, of course.
2. Like all other parties I've ever been involved in, we were on a budget here. A LOT of what you see was found in someone's house, rented or bought on the cheap. If I'd had all the money in the world, I would have bought scads of material, hung it from the ceiling in the center of the room and had swags covering ALL of the weird twine walls. (yeah, the walls are like twine, or sisal or something strange... which is handy for putting tacks in to hang stuff up but NOT attractive.) So we're, you know... amateurs here.
AND C. This isn't a birthday party, it's a carnival for all the kids. So obviously, there are ideas and tricks and resources you can tweak for a birthday, but that's why you don't see the typical "favor table" and "cake table", etc.
Ok, ok, let's get on with it then, shall we?
For Part One of this two part post, I thought I'd show you the behind the scenes stuff - the invites, the layout of the space, the general decor, and how I kept track of everything. Then in Part Two I can give more specifics of all the food, games, activities and how the party actually went. Capish? Great.
I think this is my absolute favorite part of this party, because I created them from SCRATCH with a myriad of different software programs to get the look I wanted. I admit that I kind of copied a look that I found online, but I can't locate the link now. If you do an image search for "carnival posters" you'll find a lot of inspiration.
Here is what I came up with:
I created the striped background in picnik and added some layers of old paper and some "cross process" editing to make it look vintage. The rest of the shapes (the center shape, the trapezoid in the upper corner, the pennant buntings, the banner at the bottom) I created in pages by drawing my own shapes. I used two different carnival fonts: Carnival, and Carnevalee Freakshow, both of which can be found for free at dafont.com. I also looked at lots of vintage circus posters to get the right wording and feel for the whole thing. There are some AWESOME vintage posters out there...
If this had been for a birthday party, I totally would have printed these on nice paper, maybe even SMALL poster sized, rolled them up, and sent them to the guests in a mailing tube cut to size. In actuality, I just made a ton of color copies and gave them to the kids at church along with a few extra for them to invite their friends.
Would you like my blank invite for your personal use? I thought you'd never ask.
Right click to download. Sorry, it's missing the pennant buntings, which were a last minute addition, but you can add them easily - they're just triangles.
I've decided to share my "carnival to-do list", just so you can see how many things needed to be taken care of and how I kept track of them. Now that I've read the tips from the experts, I realize that a spreadsheet would have been more efficient, most likely, and I'll probably use that in the future. But this time, I simply used a document, like any other, and color coded it as listed at the top. This was emailed numerous times between me and the other three ladies helping me, with color updates each time. At the beginning of planning, nearly everything was RED. But at the end, nearly everything was GREEN and it was an awesome sight to behold after putting so much work in.
When they came through the door, the gym was set up like this:
The popcorn and peanuts were located just inside the entrance. To the right there were the sweet treats - cotton candy and mini cream puffs. Across the room from this, there were mini corn dogs and the accompanying condiments. And in the corner there was the drink station with water or lemonade.
Here is the view looking towards the entrance and the food area. We set up several tables in the center between the food stands so the kids could rest and eat when they wanted to. Just beyond the chairs and tables, moving further into the room, there was a Tin Can Pitch on one side of the room and the Cookie Decorating Station on the other.
In the very center of the room, between the cans and cookies, we had the duck pond set up. Just opposite that, also in the center is the tic tac toe game beanbag game.
In the back of the room, we had the Photo Booth set up on one side with the "Kissing Booth" in the corner. In the middle we set up the face painting and tattoo stations. The other side had the Ring Toss.
In order to decide the best way to set everything up to make sure it all fit and there was enough room to move around, I just drew a mock-up of the room from bird's eye (not to scale, but it would have been helpful if it was...) Then I just drew in the tables and labeled them and moved them around until it looked right. When we were actually setting up, very few things changed from this hand-drawn version, and it was great because I made copies of and distributed it to those helping me so they didn't need to keep waiting for me to tell them what needed to go where.
Although I was in charge of the party and had my three main helpers (the rest of the Primary Presidency), I knew I'd need more help. One of the presidency members ran the entrance booth, another dressed up as a clown (more on that later), I worked the photo booth (since it was my camera) and my sister (the President) had plans to be out of town! That stinker... So we were pretty busy. I enlisted the youth of our ward (teens, ages 12-18) to volunteer as carnies. I had them run the booths. We asked the other adult teachers in our Primary to come and help the kids (especially the younger ones) at the games and activities and put some of them to work at the food booths. We also requested that the parents stay for this activity - although we don't always do that - because 1. we thought it would be fun for them to help their kids and 2. we needed all the adults we could get with 50+ kids running around!
Aside from help at the actual party, we also wanted to borrow as many of the necessary party items as possible so we could stick to our budget. I sent around sign up sheets about a month in advance to the whole congregation letting them know what we needed so they could list their name and phone number next to the item and I could get in touch with them. This was really helpful, too (although none of them signed up to be Carnival Sideshow Freaks which was kind of disappointing... I really wanted a conjoined twin, a bearded lady and a strong man. I guess you can't have it all...)
Well, you've got the behind the scenes look... tomorrow I'll show you the details!