County Fair Party

Last weekend we had a party at my parent's house in Napa for a group of old friends. When we began the party planning we knew we needed a theme. After some brainstorming, we landed on "County Fair." Once we got going it was pretty easy to come up with lots of ideas! The biggest challenge was trying to keep things in scale with our budget and decorating abilities while still creating a well-dressed party. All in all, I think we were pretty successful. I did lots of pre-planning and a little bit of shopping, and the set-up took about a day and a half. Not too bad! My parents did most of the food shopping and got their yard all cleaned up and pretty. Definitely a manageable theme for a home-made party.

Here's some of our ideas...

I found a super fun invitation design on Etsy by Cake. They were customized for our party by the designer and I printed them at home on different colored 5x7 paper cards. We included a few raffle tickets in each invitation for a drawing the day of the party.

Here's the entrance to our party. My dad made the arched sign and attached it to the fence. 

Pretty amazing, huh? The 30 is for 30 years of friendship.

Here's the entry table. We had raffle tickets for games, coins for food and a "Guess the Gumballs" game.

And my 5 minute chalk art. I was running out of time so it's a little sloppy! 

Here's the tables where we ate our fair food. My dad made those two picnic tables. One was the neighbors', but we borrowed it for the party. The third smaller table is just a regular card table. I banned the ugly chairs that went with it, and we used mismatched patio seating instead.

And the pennant banner? My mom busted out her sewing skills for those! 

I picked up the paper checkered tablecloths at Grocery Outlet for 99 cents a piece.  And the galvanized containers from Michaels.

We kept place settings informal by using the metal pail for silverware and napkins. And I had some extra raffle tickets that I put on each table for decoration.

We also used lots of ball jars. This one was filled with home-grown hydrangeas. And it was kind of windy so my friend Katie stole rocks from the neighbors's yard to use for weights. Shhhh! Don't tell!

I knew from the start that I wanted to serve peanuts and popcorn. I found these super fun paper bags on Etsy too, and we filled them up and served them in big party bowls and baskets. In the background you can see our balloon darts game.

I also really wanted to have a candy table. We bought some online and at Michaels and World Market. I have to say, there was a LOT left over. Thank goodness Halloween is just around the corner. And that bale of hay? Michaels, too. I originally wanted full size bales to use for seating. But it just didn't happen. So I down-sized that idea. Probably a good thing.

The lemonade looked cute. But, again, there was a ton left. Maybe we should have spiked it?

Now here's an idea that was all my parents'. Apparently fairs somewhere have salt shakers on a string. (Has anyone heard of this?? It was news to me!) So, my dad (again) built this entire stand to hang salt shakers on. He had to brag that it only took him an hour. So funny. I embellished it with some alphabet stickers.

And here's the corn. With a big ol' dish of melted butter. And a big ol' mess of it on the table! We also served corn dogs and hamburgers with veggie versions of both for us vegetarians. Didn't get photos cuz I was too busy eating!

Tips for the cook, my dad. He didn't make much. I think this was his first, and last, dollar. Definitely not a reflection on your cooking skills, Dad!

I picked up this photo op online. I searched high and low for these things! Not easy! Some are called photo stand-ins. We were originally going to make one, but that just seemed like too much work. So the idea got axed early on. 

We had four games for guests to play to win tickets and prizes. Bottle Toss, Balloon Darts, Bean Bag Toss and Washers. This bottle toss was from World Market. The other games my dad made. (I know, right? To be fair, didn't make them all just for the party. They were projects from last summer.)

As a last minute idea, I created a "Tattoo Parlor." I had picked up some silly tattoos online and whipped out the parlor sign with some drawing paper and sticky letters. It actually was kind of a hit. My friend Katie was our resident tattoo artist. 

These farm-themed tattoos were from Oriental Trading Company.

We knew from the get-go that we would have a Blue Ribbon Bake-Off. I included instructions in the invitation for everyone to bring their best baked good. When guests arrived, they filled out an entry form and at the end of the night we had three judges do a taste test. (The sign was from Party City. It was a big plastic banner with stick-on letters. I would have loved to have made one, but, again, it was just one of those things that got down-graded to store-bought.)

The blue ribbon, however, was not store bought. My mom made it, along with second and third place ribbons.  Much better than the Party City version!

And here's our prize station. We had about 13 prizes that were awarded for raffle drawings, the bake-off and the big game winners. We wrapped them in paper sacks and leftover material from the pennants. The prizes were jams, BBQ cookbooks and other fair-ish doo-dads.

There's more details I can share about how we set things up - from score-cards to scheduling to food service - so if you've got a question, let me know.

Happy Labor Day, everyone!