Let's face it, the first birthday party is more of a celebration of the parents surviving the first year than a birthday party for the kiddo. So, I seized the opportunity to selfishly create a vintage French circus themed party (after all, I have years' worth of superhero and transformer themed parties in my future, and I need any excuse I can find to pull out my vintage goods).
To set the party-goen' mood, we transformed the front of our house into a "big top". We strung "big top curtains" made from drop cloth, bunting flags that I made from old sheet music, a "strong-man" photo board made by my crafty mom (which doubled as a game), and, of course, no circus would be complete without a clown of sorts. (note the gorilla statute was a compromise - I couldn't find a monkey trainer - very upsetting.) Pics of the birthday boy's "year of firsts" were plastered onto vintage circus posters.
We transformed the backyard bocce ball court into circus alley, which contained the games and the kids. The circus tent and white/black mats covering the bocce are from Ikea. Red and white pinwheels are from The Oriental Trading Company. (the carjacks were used to prop up a game.)
We created a comfortable and festive seating area with faux sheep skin picked up from Ikea for $10. I had the French flag-style red, white and blue fabric laying around the house (these are always on my flea market hit list). Tree stumps were found on the side of the road.
FOOD AND GOODIES
Every circus needs a souvenir table. Ours was filled with cotton candy, taffy, lollipops, cracker jacks, gum balls, peanuts and clown noses. I created fun signs for "lion tamer whips" (licorice), "elephant feed" (peanuts) and "ring master mustaches" (pencils with felt mustaches glued to them). To create the signs, I started with a vintage French marquee sign, found at The Graphics Fairy (thegraphicsfairy.com). Vintage animal signs were also created from images found at The Graphics Fairy - I attached them to chopsticks we had leftover from Chinese takeout. I found the cotton candy and old fashioned candy at one of my favorite discount haunts, HomeGoods.
We made three different flavors of popcorn, truffle, caramel and butter, and served them in bags I picked up at the Dollar Store and cupcake holders from HomeGoods.
Hot dogs are almost obligatory at a circus, so we featured a sausage bar with all the fixins'.
For adult beverages (every kid's party should have treats for adults), we served Calimocho (the Basque version of Sangria, and much yummier), Champagne of course, and vodka spiked slushees. My Calimocho recipe: equal halves of red wine and cola, a few slices of orange and a stick or two of cinnamon.
FUN AND GAMES
Tickets were awarded for each game, and then the kids cashed in the tickets for prizes of their choice.
French lemonade bottles worked great for the Ring Toss game. We created the rings from rope and duct tape that we picked up at Home Depot.
Remember the strong-man photo board? Here it is transformed into the ball toss game. The face and dumbbell weights velcroed to the back of the photo board (my mom is a genius).
Old (but clean) yogurt containers and clothespins from the Dollar Store were all we needed for this game.
This was our homemade attempt to make a cake a la Big Top style. I used the top half of the giant cupcake cakepan to bake the cake (using Duff's colorful tied-die cake mix), and layered on icing and more icing, and finished with the red icing stripes. The bunting flags (found at The Oriental Trading Company) added the final touch. All in all, not too bad for a $4 cake. I figured that most of the cake was going to end up on the ground anyway, so why spend big bucks on the cake?
I printed the invites on leftover wedding stationary. Visited my favorite free graphics site (TheGraphicsFairy.com) for the images, wrapped the invite in tickets I picked up at the Dollar Store, and voila, a party in an envelope. The kiddie guests were so excited when they received the tickets in the mail.