String up your twinkly outdoor lights, blow up some balloons, and bring the celebratory atmosphere of the fairway to your guests with a backyard carnival party.
Go big with interactive party equipment rentals, or do it yourself with homemade games of skill, and sweet and salty snacks. Try draping brightly colored, inexpensive fabric from the roof or second story window to your back wall; you’ll get the look and feel of the Big Top without the price of a tent rental and setup.
If your budget allows, go authentic with your carnival treats. Many equipment rental companies rent popcorn machines, cotton candy machines, and snow cone machines; they’ll staff them for you or you can operate them yourself. Soft pretzels (which can be purchased in the frozen foods section and reheated), roasted peanuts, and caramel apples also make delicious DIY treats. For a simple variation on a classic, serve caramel dip and sliced apples. If you want the heavenly smell of buttered popcorn but don’t have the money for a circus-sized popper, try microwaving several bags and splitting them up into smaller portions for people to carry with them and snack on.
Get your bounce on with inflatable rentals to suit any space or budget. From small single bouncers to giant-sized obstacle courses, inflatables provide an exciting activity and a festive focal point for your event. Dunk tanks, slides, and interactive sports inflatables are also unique additions. For the kids, balloon animals are always a must; hire a balloon twisting artist, or, if you know someone who is full of hot air, give them a package of balloons for practice and send them to Balloon-Animals.com for some how-to help.
Use everyday items to create your own carnival stations with games of skill and activities for all ages:
Basket Toss: Set up a basket or small trash can at an angle. Allow each player three softballs or foam balls per turn. All balls must stay inside the basket for a prize.
Quarterback Throw: Hang a hula hoop from a tree, and challenge players to throw a foam football through the hoop. Want more of a challenge? Give the hoop a push to create a moving target!
Putting Green: Set up a putt returner on the lawn and give players a go with an old putter. This is an easy game to adjust for players of all different skill levels: just increase the distance from the ‘hole’.
Face Painting & Tattoos: Be sure to use paints that are FDA-approved for cosmetic purposes, or play it safe with pre-fab tattoos in a variety of colors and designs.
Astrology/Tarot Reading: Every group seems to have an amateur astrology enthusiast among them. Hire a psychic, or enlist a friend to read cards or explain the signs of the zodiac.
Remember that the most important ingredient in your carnival planning is creativity. Whether your treats and activities are entirely homemade or you host an event to rival the Ringling Brothers, your backyard carnival is sure to bring out the kid in everyone.