Sunday, August 30, 2009

No-Labor Labor Day Party!

With Labor Day coming up, we asked party-planner and author Penny Warner to help us celebrate with style! Here's Penny--

by Penny Warner

I’ll use any excuse to host a party—even Labor Day. Not the pregnancy kind of labor—it’s too distracting hosting a party when some woman is screaming “Get this baby out of here now!” I mean the upcoming holiday that celebrates the fact that we can finally send the kids back to school!

But I’m also lazy and don’t want to work too hard on the hosting duties, in spite of the fact it’s “Labor” Day—the one day we actually celebrate “work.” (Who came up with that idea? Somebody’s boss?)

So I’m here to help you plan a no-fuss, “no-labor” Labor Day Party, because it may be your last opportunity to party until Halloween. Begin by choosing a theme for your party. Hosting a plain old Labor Day Party doesn’t sound too inviting. Your guests may think you’re having them over to help you paint the house or build an extra bedroom. That’s not a party. That’s a scam. And if you’re inviting me, I’m busy that day. So choose a theme, such as “Totally Awesome Tailgate Party,” “Texas Eat’Em BBQ,” or my favorite, “Your Friendly Neighborhood Block Party.”

First, set yourself up as CEO, then micro-manage the party by dividing the neighbors into groups (according to how well they get along), assign them a task, then give them “cool” official titles like, “The Invitation Committee,” “The Food Group,” “The Decorating Team,” “The Games and Activities Coalition,” and “The Clean-Up Crew.”

For invitations, enlarge a map of your neighborhood, make copies, and label each of the homes with clever names, such as “The Wonderful Warner Family,” “The House of Usher,” and “Tara,” and mark the party site with an “X.”

Set up the party in the middle of the court or street, someone’s big backyard, a nearby park, or the homeowner’s association clubhouse. Have everyone bring their folding tables and chairs, then decorate the tables with neighborhood maps and tie colorful balloons to the backs of the chairs. Have personalized T-shirts made for the party, imprinted with words like, “River Heights Rager 2009” or “Castle Rock Block Party.”

Next, ask everyone to bring a special dish covering the four food groups—noodle casseroles, rice casseroles, corn flake casseroles, and dessert casseroles. Unless your crowd prefer something healthy, like tofu casseroles.

To keep the crowd under control—and the teens from toilet papering your house—have a few games and activities ready. You might have a “House Hunt,” by taking obscure close-up shots of neighborhood houses, like their rusty drainpipes or gothic door knockers, and have the guests try to guess which house is which. Or have some old-fashioned fun from your grandparent’s day—a corn-husking contest (blindfolded), a scarecrow stuffing contest (make them Goth this year), a pie-eating contest (cherry is the messiest), pumpkin seed-spitting contest (the gals will love this one), and pumpkin-tossing-from-the-roof contests (which one makes the grossest splatter.)

To get everyone to help with clean up, write down tasks on small sheets of paper, such as, “Fold up the chairs,” “Throw away the paper products,” “Destroy evidence,” or “Call in crime scene cleaner.” Place the tasks in a bowl and mix them up. Have each guest draw a task and complete it before you release them from the party.

Better yet, make the kids clean up everything.


Penny Warner is the author of THE OFFICIAL NANCY DREW HANDBOOK, (Quirk, Agatha Award nominee), LADIES’ NIGHT: 75 Parties for Women, (Adams Media) and the upcoming mystery series featuring event planner Presley Parker, HOW TO HOST A KILLER PARTY (February, Obsidian/NAL/Penguin.) She can be reached at


Terri Thayer said...

You're such a hoot. Any time you're around, it's a party. Thanks for coming to KH!

Children on clean up is brilliant.

Camille Minichino said...

So true, Terri! Welcome to Killer Hobbies, Penny.

Great ideas -- Love the close up photos quiz. I'm going to spring it on my family next Sunday.

As for clean up EVERY NIGHT, I'm going to use a variation of that task trick on my husband.

Betty Hechtman said...

Love the idea of a grab bag for clean up tasks. It makes if feel like you're winning a prize.

I took a mystery workshop with you through the CWC at Asilomar a while back. Your new series sounds great.

Count me in on my blog sisters' welcome to Killer Hobbies.

Penny said...

Thanks, Killers!
I'll toss you a party any day!