Monday, July 23, 2012

Carnival Party ~ Behind the Scenes

I am a girl who loves cotton candy, and kettle corn, and face paint and squeals of laughter, and any game that could possibly end in prize winning. I am a girl who loves carnivals. Fortunately for me, my little girl happens to love all of those things too. So, a few months back when we thought we were moving at the end of the summer, I promised that carnie loving chica a big birthday bash to not only celebrate her big day, but also to make memories with her dear friends one last time before our departure. After Grammy & Grandpa’s home burned down, we decided as a family to postpone our move to be here to help them rebuild their home and their lives. Although we have put off our move temporarily, I couldn’t bring myself to cancel or even scale down Azure’s ‘farewell’ birthday carnival…so…the show went on. However, I will admit, that my attention was certainly placed elsewhere for the weeks leading up to the party. Thus, this event was thrown together in one week’s time. While it was not Martha Stewart style perfection, it was eight year old girl style elation.

Just in case you are ever considering throwing your own backyard carnival, or just in case you are the type of person who will find yourself haphazardly volunteering at the first PTA meeting of the upcoming school year to head up the annual ‘Fall Festival’, I’ll give you a behind the scenes look on how I whipped together Azure’s fair, to help you get those creative carnie juices flowing!

I designed the invite on Publisher (I know, so old school) and printed them at Costco as 4x6 photos. We ran them around to friends and neighbors one week before the party…and ended up with 34 friends with ‘yes!’ rsvp’s.

You know all those lovely 11-13 year old neighbor girls who love to come over to play? They make the best booth helpers! These sweet girls came early, helped with set up and were some of the most adorable carnies I’ve ever met!

Make a plan, and do NOT invite the wind. Heaven help me. I cannot stand the wind. Remember the backyard wedding reception we threw that was dramatically different than planned due to consistent 40mph wind that day? Apparently, two years is long enough to forget that every day is a windy day here, and that while I had quickly sketched plans for the carnival backdrop to look like this:
it ended up looking like this:
Sweet hubby bought rebar from Home Depot to stake the conduit poles into the ground, tied string across the tops, and we hung red and white alternating cheap plastic tablecloths (54”x108”) purchased at Hobby Lobby by stapling and taping them to the string, and securing them to the ground with big rocks in the back.  Sadly, it didn’t matter how they were attached/secured, the wind whipped them to and fro like they were thin, cheap plastic tablecloths or something. If you have the funds and minimal wind, canvas fabric would work well, or perhaps oversized beach towels.

I designed the signs to be printed at Staples as a 36”x90” $12 Engineer print. Right click, copy and paste, and you can use it too! Happy Birthday to you! Cut out the signs with a little white around the outside edges. I backed mine with blue and red poster board purchased at Target, punched holes in the corners, strung red ribbon through, and tied the blue signs over the red backdrops, and the red signs over the white backdrops. If your neighborhood is riddled with wind as mine is, it might be a good idea to simply staple gun these signs to wooden stakes and plunk them in the ground in front of each booth.

I gave each party goer a polka dot bag with their name on it as their favor bag. I only put a clown nose, a pixie stick, animal cookies and circus peanuts inside, and then they had to earn the rest of their favors by winning the carnival games. They were given a piece of candy for each game they conquered.
Giant Bowling- (purchased from Wal Mart.) Knock over all the pins in 3 tries, and you win! 

Ring Toss - tape colored paper around water bottles, and toss 6 mini discs (from Hobby Lobby) around them. If you get at least 3 rings around the bottle, you win!

Spray Away - stick golf tees (WalMart) into a block of styrofoam (Hobby Lobby), place ping pong balls (WalMart) on top and let contestants attempt to knock the ping pong balls down with a blast of water from a squirt gun. I had six golf tees & ping pong balls, but three would do it. It was difficult for the booth helper to get the balls steady on all the tees in between each player.  

Use Your Noodle - Duct tape 6 skinny pool noodles (WalMart) together as circles, then duct tape those to two thicker pool noodles that function as support poles. Use rebar (Home Depot) inside the support noodles and hammered 6" into the ground to make the noodle structure stand. Each contestant gets 3 skinny noodles to use as javelins to attempt to throw through the circles. Get all three through a hoop, and you win!

 Tin Can Crash - Wrap large tin cans (donated from friends) in colorful paper. Stack, and give contestants 3 tennis balls to use in attempt to topple all the cans. If they can crash all the cans in 3 tries, they win!
Clotehspin Drop - contestants try to drop 10 clothespins in a large glass mason jar. If they get at least three in the jar, they win! (somehow we didn't get any photos of our pin drop game)

Fortune Teller - elect a helper to dress up gypsy style and either give fake fortunes on the fly, or arm them with several paper fortune tellers and let party goers pick their own fortunes.

Face Painting - I purchased my Snazaroo face painting pallet from Amazon, and was quite pleased with the quality. I would suggest to do all the face painting AFTER any water games, as lots of painted faces got washed away during our water balloon fight!
Photo Booth- Who doesn't love to don a feather boa and a cowboy hat every now and again? I freehand cut black paper mustaches and hot glue gunned them to skinny wooden dowels (Hobby Lobby). I gathered props and costumes from our playroom as well as Hobby Lobby and Party City. 
As much as I love carnie games, at a party like this, it’s a good idea to have other group games planned as well. It gives you a chance to gather all the kids up for a little structured play time before you do cake and presents .

which quickly ended up in a (parent sanctioned) WATER BALLOON FIGHT.

 An obstacle course, relay race, and/or hula hoop contest would all work really well here too. We just ran out of time.

I am a simple country girl. I don’t know if there is any food I love more than Navajo tacos and elephant ears. I needed to keep it a little more simple for this carnival though, since I knew I would be busy keeping close tabs on a lot of kiddos, coordinating all the events and running the face painting booth as well. The food needed to consist of items that could be prepped before hand that little fingers could help themselves to. So, I decided on some of mine and Azure's other favorite fair treats…kettle corn, cotton candy (machine rented from Bruno’s Party Time Rental), licorice, salt water taffy, pretzels from Costco with melted Velveeta cheese, sugar cookies made to look like Whirly Pops, and cake & cupcakes made to look like buckets of popcorn. 
Yes, my dears, get your printers are the RECIPES for my homemade fair fare:

Make your favorite cupcake recipe. Mine is found at the cheekykitchen.
Top with your favorite butter cream frosting, mine is found here.

And then follow one of the many guides to making mini-marshmallows look like popcorn. I watched this one, and modified.
In an effort to save time whilst creating 80 cupcakes, I did not cut my marshmallows – I ripped and twisted and pinched and then placed them on the buttercream topped cakes. I scoured my city and couldn’t find red & white striped paper anywhere, and remembered while standing in the middle of the fifth store on my search, that I had red & white striped wrapping paper tucked away in a closet back home. That’s what I used, and though it was a little flimsy, did the job. {Thanks Grammy for helping with cupcake paper wrapping!} I also did not get to the 'butter' painting. I saved that for very last of all my things to get done that day, just in case I had spare time. Clearly, I did not have spare time, but I think they looked just delightful, even without it.

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2/3 cup whipping cream
*cream together
5 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
*mix together
Bake at 350 for 6-8 minutes

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp. milk
2 tsp. light corn syrup
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
red food coloring (only for swirls)

Insert the sucker stick immediately after baking, with cookie lying on cooling rack. Let cool completely. Frost with white icing. Let harden. Ice with red swirls. Put in freezer over night to harden. Place in clear treat bags (purchased at Target), and tie with red ribbon. Return to freezer for up to 2 weeks until the day of your party.

MOCK KETTLE CORNair popper style, (popcorn bags from Hobby Lobby)
½ cup unpopped popcorn
¼ cup corn syrup
1/3 cup sugar
¼ cup butter
½ tsp. vanilla
1 tsp salt

Pop corn in a hot-AIR popper
In a small saucepan, combine butter, corn syrup and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
Cook over medium heat 1 minute, continuing to stir gently.
Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Sprinkle salt over popcorn, then pour syrup over popcorn and stir to coat evenly.
Let cool slightly before serving.

And there you have it. A carnival fit for a king, or a sweet eight year old girl, and 34 of her closest friends.


nicole12 said...

Thanks for sharing! Great ideas!!

Diane | An Extraordinary Day said...

What an absolutely fabulous party!!! So many ideas...well done...and in just a week!! Oh my are amazing!

This is my first visit to your blog...I found you on Pinterest via your Buddy the Elf quote. Which I love!

You didn't say goodbye on your blog....I'm hoping that you'll be back. I'd love to follow you for sure.

What ever you're up to....Godspeed!

jldelange said...

Do you know the name of the font you used for the invitations?

Alusco said...

the printable signs can you send to me when i copy and paste they are very small. or tell me how to fix please

Cumorah said...

Fonts: on the invite I used Carnivalee Freakshow & Traveling Typewriter. The posters are in Carnivalee Freakshow as well.
Alusco, I emailed you the pdf & jpg of the signs, hope they work for you! Happy carnival-ing!

Truthmonger said...

did you make those signs yourself? so do i just take the email on a flash drive to staples and have them print out as engineer prints

Alusco said...

i got the email, do i just put on flash drive and take to staples to print? also i downloaded that font, but how do i use it in my google document

Becky Howard said...

Could you email me the pdfs
Thanks ;)

helizas said...

Would love to have the sign file e-mailed to Thank you!

Marylee said...

please send the signs to

Thank you!

Unknown said...

Would it be possible to get a pdf of your cute signs?

Thanks :)

cashfield said...

I, too, would love a PDF file sent to me of those cute signs…
Obviously, you threw one heck of a party!

Valerie Satterfield said...

Wow! What an amazing, FUN party! Would you be willing to share the invite (publisher document) with me? I was beginning to work on one but would greatly appreciate just editing yours to include our info! Feel free to send any other files you created for the carnival ;) From one busy mom to another- Thank you!!!

Aubrey W. said...

Can I please also get a PDF copy of the black and white signs? I love them!
Thank you so much!

Stephanie :) said...

I would like to use the signs, but I am only seeing a thumbnail.
Where do I find a printable size image or pdf?
They are great!

Unknown said...

How can I gain access to the invitation?

Unknown said...

Could you PLEASE send me the invitation?

Unknown said...

I would like to appreciate your work and would like to tell to my friends.If you want more information something like visit full Hotel bedding collections get more details.

Unknown said...

Can you please email me the printable for the signs when I save it, it is really small and blurry when I enlarge it. Sorry to bother you, they are awesome signs.

That Fat Chick said...

Great party! Would you mind sharing the invitation file to Thank you!!

Nicole said...

Would you be willing to send me the carnival signs? Thank you!

Unknown said...

please email PDF's to

A&B Bounce Houses in Tampa said...

This is SO well done! VERY VERY nice! If you are in the Tampa area, you should consider some additions for this carnival style birthday party for the kids... can provide bounce house rentals, concession rentals (cotton candy, popcorn, and snow cone machines, with attendant), inflatable slides, and even face painters! If you are in the Tampa area and want A & B Bounce Houses to come help setup some of these sweet carnival theme party rentals, check out the photos and see what can be rented, A & B is one of the best bounce house rentals in Tampa.

Kristen said...

Would you mind sending me the invite and signs in publisher and pdf! I absolutely love all your ideas. I am going to try and have a carnival theme for my son's first birthday party in May :) Thanks so much

Glory272 said...

Has anyone successfully received the invite in publisher? I would love a copy of it for my sons birthday party.

Unknown said...

Would you mind sharing the invitation file?? I would even be willing to pay!, THANKS!

Mickey said...

Would you be willing to share the invite? My friend loved your invite.I would like to purchase the invite for her grandsons carnival party. Please send to

Tausha said...

Could I get the signs emailed too? They did the same thing to me.

Tausha said...

sorry it is

Unknown said...

Would I be able to get the invitation PDF? If you'd like to list it in ETSY I can even buy it from you. My email is Thank you so much!

Unknown said...

could i get the pdf of the signs...if still available?

Unknown said...

could i get the pdf of the signs...if still available?

Unknown said...

can you email me the signs please?

Melanie said...

My daughter wants to be a fortune teller for Halloween and I would love to use your fortune teller sign for the front of her "booth". Can you please email me the sign pdfs as well? Thanks so much!

Melanie said...

My daughter wants to be a fortune teller for Halloween and I would love to use your fortune teller sign for the front of her "booth". Can you please email me the sign pdfs as well? Thanks so much!

Unknown said...

Hello! Love everything you've done here. Would it be possible to get templates for the signs and invite sent to please? Thanks!

L*J* said...

Everything you did was so great! Can you email the PDF for the signs, please? I so would love to use some of them for my boys first birthday!

Thank you!!

Unknown said...

love this theme idea! are you sharing your templates for the signs and invitation? if so would you please be so kind as to email them to me?
thank you for an awesome idea!!

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing so many great ideas. If possible, I would also love the pdf's for this if you are willing to share.

Unknown said...

hello can I Please get the Jpeg to your adorable Carnival invitations and signs please! I would appreciate it very much! Thank you

Unknown said...

The general black and white signs that you printed on big sheets at staples, could you email them to or share the font and template so that I can customize to our church's fall festival?

Unknown said...

Super fun party!! I'm sorry, but here's another request for the signs - an editable version if you have it? You're an inspiration and a life-saver!

Paula Mooney said...

any chance of getting an editable sign love love love it

Drew Watts said...

Carnival Party! It is just so stunning but personally I can’t do such parties because of lack of time. But I hope to do one day for my son’s upcoming birthday. Might host this party at one of the LA event venues and I think that the kiddos would love it.

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