With Covid-19 sticking around and the warm weather pushing us outdoors, I have received several inquiries about planning private and corporate outdoor parties in local, public parks. I personally love the idea of a party in a park and have planned and hosted several of my own events in parks. Not only does your reservation fee support the park and natural wildlife, but you also get the added value of a beautiful, natural backdrop for your event. I thought it would be super helpful to cover the top 8 things you should know when planning your next party at a park.
1. Do your research well in advance!
When it comes to shelter reservations, each park system will do it differently. Some require an online form while others require direct calls during specific hours. Due to Covid-19, there are a limited number of shelters available for reservations. Because of this, shelters that can be reserved, have been booking up several weeks in advance. If you want to reserve a shelter, do your research at least 2 months before your event and remember, your reservation slot should include setup and breakdown time.
Expert tip: Pick a time slot that is either the first one or the last one so that you have more flexibility with setup or breakdown time.
A vast majority of the park shelters cannot be reserved - instead, they are first come first serve. This can be great for those that are planning their party last minute and have the flexibility to show up early at a park and stake their claim. This can work out well for birthday parties, baby showers, and wedding showers.
2. Consider party location at the park
Whether you plan to use a shelter at the park or not, pay close attention to where you plan to be located within the park. If your party will have quite a few kiddos, it is best to pick a shelter or location that is close to a play structure. If you plan to bring in outside entertainment, you should find a location that has a large open space next to it. If you will be hauling in lots of items, consider a location closer to the parking lot.
Expert tip: Use a wagon to load in and load out all the party necessities.
3. Park amenities
Each park will have different amenities available including BBQs, drinking water, hose hook-ups, electricity access, playgrounds, sports fields, basketball courts, and restrooms. If any of these items are absolutely necessary for your party, make sure the park has them and that they are located where you plan to use them. For example, if the park says they have garden hose hook-ups which you want for the birthday party splash pad, make sure the hook-up isn't all the way across the park from your shelter.
4. Will you have a bouncy house?
Some parks do not allow bouncy houses while others require them to be no bigger than a certain size or they need to be held down with something other than stakes. They may also require an additional fee or a special permit. If you are considering a bouncy house for your kids party, make sure to read the fine print on the park reservation form.
5. Weather concerns
Weather can be very unpredictable. Make sure to have a back-up plan in case the weather is poor or the wind turns direction and you get hit with poor air quality. This doesn't necessarily mean you have to cancel the event or bring it indoors, it could just mean you need to rent a tent or canopy or you need to send out emails to the guests about being prepared for the weather. And always include plenty of water in your planning for those hot days.
Expert Tip: A great environmentally friendly way to provide drinks is to setup a beverage dispenser with compostable cups and some colorful sharpies. The guests can decorate their water cups as a fun activity then re-use them throughout the event.
6. Prepare your decorations
A great topic to cover right after weather is your party decorations. For all outdoor events, it is important that you pick decor that can stand up to the weather. Even the smallest of breezes can wreck havoc on centerpieces, tablecloths, and balloons. I like to pick centerpiece designs such that a rock can be placed inside at the base to hold it down. There are tablecloth clips that can help secure a plastic tablecloth or an even better, more environmentally friendly approach is to rent fabric tablecloths. Lastly, wind and rain aren't the only ways your decorations could be ruined, the hot sun can easily pop your balloons.
7. Be prepared for wildlife
For all outdoor events, along with the natural beauty, you also get the wildlife that call the space their home. This not only includes birds, squirrels, and lizards, it also includes ants, bees, and flies. Each one presents it's own unique challenges. I like to visit the shelter and sit for a bit to observe the wildlife. If you are immediately bothered by bees or flies, it is a sure sign that the event will be disrupted by them as well.
The first thing to be aware of is you should never leave food unattended. Encourage your guests to clear their plates when they are done. Birds and squirrels are very quick and they will grab anything that is easy to pick off. The more they get, the more they want.
Second, make sure your garbage, recycling and compost containers have lids. This will help deter flies and bees. It will also keep those pesky squirrels out of the trash and keep the smell down.
Expert Tip: If the park garbage cans do not have lids, use a flat piece of cardboard weighted down by a rock as the lid.
8. Consider your guest list
For all events, it is important to keep your guest list in mind when selecting a location. This is especially true for outdoor events in an open, uncontrolled location like a park. For example, for children's birthday parties, avoid locations right next to fast moving rivers or roads. If you have guests with disabilities, make sure the location has accommodations.
Parks are wonderful resources and can help you and your guests feel more comfortable celebrating during these difficult times with Covid-19. I hope you feel a bit more prepared for your park party. Now get out there, start planning, and have a great time!
If you enjoyed this post, check out my other blog posts to make your event planning easier.
'Til next time
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