Memorial Day Party Theme - Memorial Day Parade
My husband Doug and I grew up in a small town in Minnesota and we've missed the sense of community we felt in our town on special holidays. We decided there was no reason we couldn't bring that same grass roots feeling to our big city neighborhood.
Memorial Day was coming up so we thought it would be a perfect day to plan our grand affair. Most of our friends were planning to stay home and spend the long weekend barbequing with family and friends. Doug and I called up an artist asking for help in designing a unique invitation. The artist made beautiful invitations that could be recycled! No, not in the usual way, but by planting them the ground! Wow, we loved it! Not only was it creative and colorful but they were made of paper with flower seeds embedded in it.
Memorial Day was a big day for our town. Everyone would get together for a parade and. barbeque. The parade was mostly made up of ordinary citizens who made their own floats, or rode in decorated cars, tractors, wagons or horse back. Everyone had a great time whether they were participating or watching and we both missed this traditional part of our Memorial Day celebration.
Doug and I rolled up our sleeves and dedicated an entire month of weekends to our mission. We wrote out a list of all of our friends, neighbors and family members. All of a sudden our eight year old daughter Ashley burst into the room and blew a few quick notes on her toy trumpet. Doug and I were startled at first then we looked at each other and started laughing.
"That's it," Doug said. "We're going to have a parade, the Jefferson Street Parade!" Ashley came back into the room with her trumpet and began marching around us, laughing and giggling. When our son heard about our idea he ran into his bedroom and grabbed his little toy drum. Trevor and Ashley marched around and around our sofa until we finally begged them to play some video games for awhile!
We called up a few of our friends and told them about our idea of having a block party and parade for everyone in our neighborhood including families and friends. Everyone loved the idea.
It didn't take long for the phone to start ringing. Lots of people wanted to participate in "The Jefferson Street Parade." In no time we had Pete and his Model T car club, Heather and Jorge and the entire 4H club were going to ride their horses, Carole planned to have her Siberian husky pull her son Justin in an old-fashioned dog sled she put wheels on, the high school marching band and drill team were also coming. A couple of the guys in the neighborhood volunteered to dress up in military uniforms. They had put on a few too many pounds since their younger days so they had to rent military uniforms from the costume shop. The best part of all this planning was everyone got to know their neighbors better.
To make the planning easier we and a few of our neighbors formed a committee and started dolling out responsibilities so this would be an event to be remembered! Neighbors began contributing money as our block party barbeque extravaganza grew. Instead of the pot luck, Doug decided everyone had enough to do without worrying about the food too! So he hired a caterer who specialized in picnics and barbeques. The menu was tri-tip, chicken breasts, hot dogs and hamburgers with of course, corn on the cob, potato salad and cole slaw. There were sodas for everyone and Corona beer and wine for the adults. The caterer was bringing an old fashioned ice cream sundae bar for dessert. For the parade we got some of those old-fashioned food carts so the people could get cotton candy, churros and popcorn. We hadn't had this much fun since we planned our wedding. We could hardly wait!
A huge canopy tent was set up on our front lawn. Doug also rented some tables, chairs and a dance floor. Each table was covered with either red and white and blue and white checked linens. At the front of the canopy a speaker's podium was set up. We hung red, white and blue bunting to hang around the edges of the canopy and to put on the front of the podium, and a brand new American flag made by a local flag and banner company.
Maggie's friend recommended a balloon decorator who put some balloon arches over the street. Bunches of Red, white and blue balloons decorated everything from the legs of the canopy to mail boxes all up and down the street. It looked like a Norman Rockwell painting!
We were almost done with our planning when Trevor and Ashley suggested we should have some games for the kids. They said they would rather share some carnival games with all the neighborhood kids than have anything special on their birthdays in August. I thought it was so sweet for them to offer and Doug and I decided to spend the last of the money on some fun stuff for the kids. Little did Trevor and Ashley know that we already planned a special party for them. A reptile party for Trevor and a puppet show for Ashley were already booked for a combined August birthday.
Ashley wanted a moon bounce and Trevor wanted some old fashioned carnival style games He thought everyone would have fun playing balloon darts, ring toss or knocking down milk bottles with a softball. Doug loves baseball so he and his buddies were happy with this choice. We ordered prizes for the games from a party supply company. There were plenty of small plush toys, toy rings, hats, little toy cars and other goodies for the kids. One of the neighbors was an entertainer for children's parties and agreed to come and do face painting, magic and balloon animals as a way to advertise her service to the neighborhood. Trevor thought it would be cool to have a tattoo artist and a juggling stilt walker.
Everyone in our community was so excited about "The Jefferson Street Parade and Barbeque." Everyone felt like kids again when the day arrived. The vendors all arrived early and started setting up. Our front yard looked like a movie set--there were people everywhere.
People started lining the street carrying lawn chairs, coolers, umbrellas, bringing their kids and dogs--everyone anxiously awaiting the start of the parade. The parade would go through a three block area of the neighborhood. Down Jefferson street to Elm and back the other direction on Blackhawk. Leading the parade was Jessica who had been practicing baton twirling for years and this was her dream come true. After her was the High School Marching Band. They were great! The band played a Sousa march and the bass drummers even put red, white and blue tassels on the ends of their drum sticks! The crowd cheered as the parade went by.
Though some of the parade entries were a little unusual, they were very creative. Our city paper heard about our block party and sent a photographer over to take pictures of the event. Along with the Model T cars, horses, and dogs there were also kids dressed as clown pulling wagons, five boys on motorized skate boards, a group of cheerleaders who did a routine as they marched, and three crazy fishing buddies pretending to catch a big fish as their boat and trailer was pulled down the street. One even put a huge plush toy fish on the hook of his fishing pole! Everybody loved the parade and it was so much fun.
After the parade was over a DJ announced a special Memorial Day dedication composed and read by Maggie our neighborhood poet under the large tent on the lawn. Maggie's poem was very touching and spoke about dedication to country, to a cause and to freedom. She spoke of the lives given by many patriotic Americans defending the principals of freedom and how their sacrifice was priceless. More than a few eyes were damp with tears by the time she finished.
The DJ played the Star Spangled Banner, and everyone sang they lyrics. At the end of the song there was a blast of beautiful red, white and blue streamers from a confetti cannon. It was a surprise from some of our friends who wanted to thank us for all the time and energy that went into planning this event.
The DJ announced the games were open for kids of all ages to play and what time the barbeque was being served. After the announcements he started playing music. The DJ played a variety of music for the party and everyone had a lot of fun. I never thought I'd ever see the day when I'd do the chicken dance again but there I was, in the middle of the dance floor, showing everyone how to do it! I felt like I had retuned to my little town in Minnesota! I can't remember when I had such a great time.
Everybody raved about the party! Doug and I fell in love all over again, it was just like the Memorial Days we had when we were kids. The carnival games and entertainers were a big hit and everyone from Grandma to the gardener got into the action
The following Sunday Doug and I were sitting on the porch staring at our empty lawn sipping our cups of coffee Ashley and Trevor ran up to us holding up the Sunday's edition screaming in joy! There were color pictures of our parade all over the community section and one of me teaching our guests the chicken dance! Doug and I nearly fell over with laughter. Next year we're going to do it again!