Introducing a new feature by local party-thrower extraordinaire Denise Delaney! Tune in every Friday for the next four Fridays leading up to Halloween for a feature on the art of throwing a fabulous Halloween party, by Denise Delaney.
Denise Delaney (aka Patty O’Furniture) has lived on the Coast with her husband Bill Barton (aka Tristan Shout) and daughter Victoria (aka Jennifer Convertible) since 2005. She has an MS in Mass Communications from San Jose State University, where she has taught undergrad courses in branding and presentation skills. She currently works as a freelance graphic designer and does freelance radio and television production. She is a Peninsula Arts Council board member, and volunteers frequently at Coastal Repertory Theatre. Her hobbies include snowboarding, road tripping, and being crafty.
I don’t think people believe me when I tell them I start planning for our annual Halloween dance party, “The Eye Ball,” on Nov. 1st. But it’s true!
All year long I’m making decorations, contemplating the guest list, bidding for treasures n’ trash on eBay, taking mental notes of recipes, and jotting down potential songs for the set list.
Make no mistake - I recognize my obsession with Halloween for the neurosis it is, and I’m not going to say your party will be a disaster if you don’t dedicate 365 days to its planning.
As a matter of fact, the first year my husband and I threw “The Eye Ball” we put everything together in under a month. I think it was about the first week of October - we wandered down “the spooky aisle” at in our new hometown of Half Moon Bay, and the idea started to gel when I spotted the stacks of boxes of eyeball lights. The conversation went something like, “We really ought to throw a party, you know, to introduce ourselves to our new neighbors…something with lots of music and dancing…goth dancing…with goth dance LESSONS…and lots of food. It would be like a ball…"
"It needs a name. The Fur Ball? The Hair Ball? Wait a sec—there it is—The Eye Ball!”
When you have a theme in mind, everything from decorations to costumes to food will come to you that much more easily. Once the whole idea of a party centered on eyeballs started to click, we knew what we were on the lookout for: anything round, and preferably white. I bought ping pong balls in bulk, painted them up with glow-in-the-dark paint, and strung them up with monofilament around the black lights that hang over the dance floor in our front yard. We’ve used them every year (except the year we were essentially rained out by an oppressive, heavy fog). I’m especially proud of the ping pong eyes, because they cost practically nothing to make, and they look like a million bucks. Also from Year One, we have a couple of exercise balls painted up like eyeballs; the kids roll them around the yard, bounce around on them, and get into elaborate games of catch.
If you only have a month or so to plan what you’re going to do for Halloween, there are a few things to consider. You’re probably going to spend a lot of prep time doing everything from fall housecleaning to ice runs.
The end result will be all that much more gratifying if you have a good-sized crowd. There’s a lot of stiff competition on Halloween - stake your claim by getting the word out about your gig early. Nothing motivates me to clean the house more effectively than the knowledge that people are coming over. My mom and I used to throw an annual Valentine’s Day Tea Party, and I can remember the thrill I’d get as I pushed open the mailbox and dropped in an armful of handmade invitations; I couldn’t get home fast enough to start detailing the house, even though the party was weeks away.
Another thing to bear in mind is this: when you see something Halloween-oriented that you like, BUY IT IMMEDIATELY. Most stores placed their Halloween orders six months ago, and they can’t restock anything once they’re sold out. This rule applies to everything from costumes to candy. Anything bearing the ominous words “limited edition” is doing you a favor by reminding you to dig deep; NOW is the time to buy candles with names like “Marshmallow Fireside.” You could run the risk of waiting until the “Day After Halloween” sales, but what would be the point? Get your costumes and what-not lined up sooner rather than later; lots of folks will be throwing parties on the two weekends prior to Halloween, and you don’t want to show up in street clothes (or, worse yet, with your glued-together costume falling apart as you walk, looking like some last-place escapee from Project Runway).
The main reason why we throw our party on Halloween Proper is, we like luring in the trick-or-treaters. Every year I’ve managed to find goody bags with eyeballs printed on them, and I spend weeks filling them up with all sorts of thematic loot. I usually make 100 bags if Halloween falls on a weekend, and half that, otherwise. It’s a lot of work and certainly more cost-ineffective than tossing out handfuls of generic candy, but what it comes down to is this: we’re less likely to be “tricked.” Kids seem to really respond to receiving a treat bag full of eyeball-themed pencils, bouncy balls, tattoos, gumballs and the like. I think even the most hardcore miscreant would sense that to vandalize our digs would be in poor form. Plus, what kid is going to TP a house with a dance floor in the front yard? That would take brass ones, to be sure. To me, not having to scrape rotten eggs off my car the next morning is a bargain at any price.
I’m looking forward to next week; I’m planning to share some fall housecleaning tips - and by that, I mean tips for cleaning your actual house in preparation for your Halloween decorations - as well as some gardening concepts.
I’d love to see any of your Halloween-related ideas in the comments!