My sister, Betty, had the idea to throw a themed party for my son Alan's fourth birthday, but didn't want to go overboard on the costs. Alan loves playing cowboys and Indians so we thought a western theme would be great.
The invitations were Alan's idea. We wrote the party information on the inside of paper ribbons and wrapped them, like hat bands, around miniature cowboy hats. The boys were given the location, date, time and to bring a water pistol and a change of clothes.
I decided it was better to have the party outside in the backyard, not only was there more room for the boys to run around, we would not have to worry about them tracking too much dirt into the house going in and out.
Betty got very creative building the miniature western town. She picked up a bunch of cardboard boxes from the back of the mini-mart and supermarket. She had Alan help her staple them together and painted them to look like a bank, jail, saloon, grocer, livery stable and even a pony express office. They set them up in two rows facing each other like the main street of a western town. I was surprised how good they looked.
I filled a few dozen water balloons, too. We had those in two large buckets on the back porch while Alan's dad, Ted, set up a couple of picnic tables and the barbecue. The paper plates, cups and napkins all matched our cowboys and Indians theme. Everything was ready just in time.
The parents of the boys were invited to stay and enjoy the party. A few of them had brought cameras for taking pictures of the fun. Alan was given the silver Sheriff star. He chose two boys who wanted to be deputies and the rest would play bank robbers or other outlaws. The ran around the buildings yelling, making gun sounds and squirting each other. No one was getting very wet until Alan got hit by a water balloon one of the outlaws stole from the bucket by the back porch. Instead of crying or getting mad, he ran to the bucket and grabbed two water balloons and started chasing the outlaw who had hit him. Soon everyone was throwing the balloons and getting soaked, including some of the parents. The professional photographer managed to get some incredible pictures while somehow staying dry.
The boys changed into their dry clothes then sat around the picnic tables for some of the burgers and hot dogs Ted had grilled on the barbeque. Betty brought out some some French fries she baked, which the boys gobbled up. There were several different kinds of soda for the kids. For the adults there was Corona beer and Sebastiani wine. I brought out the cake. The wild west scene painted on the white frosting had horses, tumble weeds and cowboys. "Happy Birthday Alan" was written beneath the picture. The ice cream was, chocolate mint, Alan's favorite.
After the boys finished the cake and ice cream, the photographer came in with a trunk full of costumes for the boys. The costumes were authentic reproductions of clothes worn in the Old west, complete with hats and gun holsters. A photographer took pictures of the boys individually and in groups wearing their costumes. When the photos were finished they would be black and white prints with a slight brown tinge making them look like old photos. In a week every parent would receive a proof of the pictures of their child and order prints of the ones they liked.
The boys changed back into their own clothes and played for the rest of the afternoon. Alan loved being Sheriff so much he slept with the silver star pinned to his pajamas.