Creating a memorable family gathering for the Fourth of July doesn't have to be fussy or complicated. Here's how to set a sizzling table, serve a crowd-pleasing meal, and keep everyone entertained with minimal effort or hassle. Your guests will remember this as one of the best 4th of July parties ever.
You can't go wrong with a red and white checkered tablecloth and lots of small and medium flags, red and blue bandanas, and white Gerber daisies!
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- Fold a bandana and place it in the center of the table. Set a vase full of daisies on top of it, and add several large flags to the arrangement. You can also tie several strips of red or blue metallic ribbon to one end of a skewer or chopstick and curl the ribbon to add 'fireworks' to your floral arrangement. Tie a bandana around the 'neck' of the vase, cowboy-style.
- Poke small flags in the top of everyone's drinking straw.
- Tuck bandanas into mason jars or glass mugs and fill them with silverware for each place setting or for the buffet. Add a small flag or two to each one.
- Use bandanas as placemats and napkins. If you have extra flowers, tuck them into little jars or juice glasses for each place setting. Cut a bandana into strips and tie one around each little "vase." Add a small flag, if you have extras.
People enjoy a few cute touches, but they really appreciate simple, traditional picnic fare. The stars of the meal come from the grill: burgers, brats, hot dogs, barbecued chicken. (You can poke little flags in the buns if you want!). People will be disappointed if the side dishes don't include potato salad, baked beans and, most important of all for many picnickers, deviled eggs.
- Water, soda and beer are all traditional beverages, but lemonade is extra refreshing. Make it from scratch, from concentrate or from a mix, and serve in a glass pitcher with lemon slices and lots of ice. If you can get your hands on a handful of fresh mint leaves, stir them in as well. Minted lemonade is super refreshing on a hot day.
- Dessert is the best place to have a little fun with the menu. For a healthy option, layer vanilla yogurt in glass serving dishes with sliced strawberries and blueberries. Or top cupcakes with white frosting, a sliced strawberry (slice most of the way through the berry and then press to one side to make a pretty fan shape), and a couple of blueberries.
- Make cute little 'smoke bombs' by dipping unwrapped Lindt truffles, cake balls, fresh cherries, or any other round sweet you can think of into white dipping chocolate, then red sprinkles. Add a tiny licorice whip "fuse" and a wisp of blue cotton candy "smoke."
Intergenerational team games are perfect for family gatherings. Retro favorites include three-legged races, sack races, watermelon seed spitting, and tug of war.
- Set out an assortment of sports equipment and some quieter card and board games, so people can fill unstructured time. If the weather doesn't cooperate, try charades or get some art supplies for Pictionary (just like charades, but drawing rather than miming).
- At some point, you'll want the kids to amuse themselves while the adults enjoy some quiet conversation. If it's a hot day, a sprinkler or a wading pool full of water balloons will distract them for hours. If they're stuck inside, offer them a table full of craft supplies. Paper, glue, scissors, crayons, yard, and a few empty egg cartons or oat boxes will go a long way.
- If you plan to let the kids play with fireworks, even sparklers, make sure you have several adults on hand who are willing to be in charge. That means they don't drink any beer or alcohol until after the fireworks are over. Or everyone can caravan together to a great spot to watch the nearest professional fireworks show.
Lauren Haas is a writer who specializes in finding the fun! Lauren was the publisher of the St. Louis Area Family Gazette for eight years, and now writes freelance articles on St. Louis events and attractions, budget travel, arts and entertainment and fitness topics. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.
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