Idea No.


Under The Big Top 3yr - Popcorn Box Ticket



November 2008


Dana in Lee's Summit, MO USA

November 2008 Winner

Circus & Clown Party

The theme for my son's 3rd birthday party was an Under The Big Top Birthday Circus and Carnival. I started planning the party right after his 2nd birthday so I could make sure I had every detail covered. Seven weeks before the party I sent out a save the date to each guest.

I used fold out popcorn boxes I found at Michaels craft store. I filled clear goodie bags with popped popcorn and tied them with blue, red and white curling ribbon. I then found a printable ticket online and inserted my own text boxes to customize it. The two vertical boxes said Save The Date! and  November 15,2008 3:30 p.m.. The center of the ticket said Admit One Appearing One Day Only! Alex's Birthday Circus And Carnival  Details Coming Soon! You Don't Want To Miss It!. I printed these on golden yellow cardstock and cut them out and notched the corners so it looked like a real ticket. I tucked these in the boxes behind the popcorn. We were able to hand deliver most of the save the dates but some had to be mailed. I placed them in mailing boxes and filled the boxes with colorful tissue so they wouldn't move around. 

I also made the invitations myself. I did a yahoo search for circus flyers. I found one that was colorful and had seven sections in the color red, yellow, white and blue.  I used my photo software to fill in the original wording with the color of the section. I then inserted text boxes and my own custom wording. I found free fonts online by the name of Circus and Oklahoma and used them on the invitation. The first section was red and in blue circus font said GERLING PRODUCTIONS PROUDLY PRESENTS (Gerling being our last name), the next section was yellow with red Oklahoma font and said THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH! The third section already had the word CIRCUS with an elephant head above it with the trunk hanging down over the word so I placed ALEX'S on the top left of the elephant head and BIRTHDAY on the top right of the elephant. Under the word CIRCUS I placed the words AND CARNIVAL so it read ALEX'S BIRTHDAY CIRCUS AND CARNIVAL. The fourth section was blue with white circus font and said APPEARING ONE DAY ONLY The next section was yellow and had a clown on the right side. I typed the party information in blue Oklahoma font. Saturday, November 15th, 2008  Under The Big Top ~ Raytown YMCA 10305 E 350 HWY Show Time ~ 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Don't Clown Around! RSVP To The Ringmaster (555) 555-5555. The next section was red with white Oklahoma font and said YOU DON'T WANT TO MISS IT! The final section was blue with yellow Oklahoma font and said COME AND SEE THE AMAZING ALEX AS HE TURNS ANOTHER YEAR OLDER, CONSUMES HEAPING AMOUNTS OF FOOD AND ICE CREAM AND BLOWS OUT THE DEATH DEFYING BIRTHDAY CANDLES! I printed these on premium photo paper then mounted them on black cardstock.

The day of the party we arrived at the party location 2 ½ hours before the party was to start to set up. When guests arrived they were greeted outside the doors by my niece and me. My niece was sitting behind a ticket booth that my brother in law made for me. I saw one on but it was $50 so I showed him a picture and he made it for me out of mdf and pine trim boards. I painted the main part white with red trim. The shelf was also painted red. I painted the top part red and yellow to resemble a big top tent. My brother in law also cut out three circles that I painted silver then painted a blue star in the middle. I glued one to the top and two on the window opening. There were a bunch of balloons tied to the ticket booth as well. I had my niece hand each child guest a colorful bag (purchased at Walmart) with tickets inside to play the games. I purchased a roll of tickets at a local store called US Toy. I found scrapbooking letters in a circus print and glued each child's name to the front of their bags. I then used several colors of curling ribbon and tied it to the handle of the bag. The bag was for them to put their prizes in as they played the carnival games.

The child then came to me and I put a circus carnival wrist band on them. I purchased them from Oriental Trading (OT) and colored them in with markers. I explained to each child about the games inside and how to use their tickets to play them. I also told them about the concession stand and said Welcome to the Circus!. As the guests walked through the door there was a personalized banner in a circus theme (OT) hanging above the door that read COME ONE!! COME ALL!! WELCOME TO ALEX'S BIRTHDAY CIRCUS AND CARNIVAL. When the guests entered the room there was the smell of popcorn and cotton candy in the air. There was also circus music playing over the speakers. I found a circus CD that I liked and downloaded the songs to my iPod. My husband put it on a CD so we were able to play it through the system they had set up in the room. Before the party I popped a couple of bags of popcorn and opened them up so the smell would be in the room.

For the food we had a concession stand open with all the great circus/carnival food. There was a kitchen in the room with a large window opening so it was perfect for the concession stand. Using poster board, balloon borders (the kind teachers use in their classrooms) and colorful letters cut out using my Cricut machine, I made a sign for the concession stand showing all the food we had. We hung this at the window opening. In the top of the window I hung red and white bunting (OT) and also hung the bunting on the rail below the window and all the way to the right of the window. There was a group of helium filled balloons tied to a small bubble gum machine filled with colorful gumballs ($1 store) sitting in the window.  My sister manned the concession stand and served hot dogs, nachos, cotton candy, popcorn, pop and juice boxes. I purchased hot dog trays and nachos trays just like the ones at the real concession stands. There was a red and white stripped box that said Big Top on it sitting on the window counter filled cotton candy. I found an online store that makes and ships the cotton candy fresh to you.

We filled cups with ice for the drinks. I purchased cups from OT that said Welcome To The Circus and had different performers on them. I also purchased plain orange cups as well. The napkins were also from OT and matched the cups. I also found some napkins at Hobby Lobby that were red and white stripped and said Popcorn on them. For the popcorn I borrowed a free standing popcorn machine. To save time and money I purchased microwavable popcorn and popcorn bags from Sam's Club and popped the popcorn at home and filled the bags before the party. I placed the filled bags in the popcorn machine to keep it warm and the guests served themselves. I then tied a bunch of different colored helium filled balloons and a mylar balloon shaped like a bag of popcorn to the machine. For an added touch to the circus/carnival food I carried around a food tray like the ones they have at events. I used the lid from a Xerox box and wrapped it in balloon wrapping paper. I then lined the bottom with black felt. I made a hole on each side and tied a red ribbon with white polka dots through the holes. I made the ribbon long enough so I could put it around my neck and the tray was at my waist line. I filled the tray with animal crackers, candy bars, cotton candy and circus peanuts.

For the circus peanuts I found a printable peanut bag topper online. I printed them on white cardstock, cut them out then used markers to color them in. I colored the peanuts orange to match the color of circus peanuts. The word peanuts was blue and the outline was red. I filled snack size bags with the circus peanuts then stapled the bag topper to the top of the bag. It was such a hit! To give the feeling of being under a big top tent I constructed a tent canopy using a hula hoop and rolls of red and yellow plastic table cloths. A week before the party my sister and I went to the party location to measure for the canopy. We found the center of the room then suspended the hula hoop using hooks from the drop ceiling. We tied yarn around the hula hoop then extended it to the corners of the room, then between the corners. We did this for each piece of canopy I was going to hang. I then labeled the strings from 1 to 14 with tape and took the hula hoop down. I went home and rolled the table cloth out through my living room and into the kitchen. I cut each piece of marked string from the hula hoop and used them to gage the length of the table cloth needed and added a little extra just in case. I did this for all 14 pieces of string. I used a sharpie to label the table cloth pieces then attached each one to the hula hoop by folding it over the hoop and using clear packing tape to secure it. I rolled each piece up and folded them into the center.

The day of the party all we had to do was attach the hula hoop to the drop ceiling using zip ties and extend each piece of the canopy to the edge of the room. We tucked them under the panels of the drop ceiling and alternated the colors red and yellow to give the illusion of a big top tent. For the center we filled several different colors of helium balloons and let them float to the ceiling inside the hula hoop. It turned out perfect and really made you feel like you were in a circus tent!  We also hung paper balls from the ceiling that had crazy colors and polka dots all over them. There were five tables set up in the center of the room for the guests to sit at and eat. The tables were covered in orange table cloths. I purchased tablecloths with balloons all over them ($1 store) and cut them in half. I placed the cut halves on each table as a table runner.

Each table had a centerpiece. On two of the tables I placed a bubble gum machine like the one at the concession stand with balloons tied to it in the center of the table. For the other three tables I made centerpieces using a ceramic base I found at Hobby Lobby that looked like a popcorn box. I put a foam block in the bottom of each one then covered them with yellow and orange tissue paper letting the tissue hang out over the sides. I cut several lengths of the wired garland (happy bday, balloons, party hats) and stuck them in the foam. I stuck two curling ribbon bows to the inside of the base on the tissue paper. I then inserted a happy birthday balloon on a stick, a large sucker, several small suckers shaped like balloons and party horns. I cut dowels rods to size, inserted them into the foam, then slipped the party horns over the top of them. I purchased larger sized circus animals (elephant, tiger, lion) and stuck them to the edge of the base on top of the tissue paper using double stick tape. After placing the centerpieces on the tables I then sprinkled happy birthday confetti on the tables.

I randomly placed small circus games and characters ($1 store) on each table. There was the strong man, ring toss, circus clowns on bikes and circus animals as well. I purchased paper carnival megaphones from OT. I assembled them and placed two on each table. They said things like; STEP RIGHT UP!, COME ONE! COME ALL!, WELCOME TO THE CIRCUS! The room was filled with groups of balloons. I purchased two helium tanks from Michaels using my 40% off coupon. Each one came with 30 balloons. I used all of them but the black ones. I replaced them with ones that said Happy Birthday all over them. I also purchased three mylar balloons that had a clown on them and said Happy Birthday. The balloons were grouped together and held down by colorful fun balloon weights. Instead of doing all balloon weights I purchased boxes of Circus Gummies ($1 store) and used them to weigh some of the balloons down. The groups of balloons were placed all over the room; on tables and on the floor. We also blew up some crazy balloons using a special balloon pump and put them all over the floor.

At the back of the room I placed two blow up clowns in each corner. I purchased them at US Toy and they were the kind you can bop around. The little kids really loved them! To pull the Circus/Carnival theme together I came up with nine carnival games that were all circus themed. Lining the walls on the left and right of the room were tables set up with the games. To keep with the feeling of a circus tent I purchased red and yellow table cloths. Without unfolding them all the way I cut them in 10 strips. I then unfolded them and used double stick tape to attach them together alternating red and yellow to resemble a big top tent.  I attached these to the sides of the tables as table skirting. The left side of the room had three long tables all pushed together so I had to make one big table skirt for that! I then covered the tables in blue tablecloths then attached Happy Birthday pennant banners ($1 store) on the outside edge of the tables.

I wanted to have games like at a carnival but themed them all after circus animals/acts. For each game I purchased a three panel cardboard science project board from the $1 store. I covered them in wrapping paper that had bright colors, stars and said Happy Birthday on it. I then cut a piece of white foamboard ($1 store) in half. I cut two slits 3'  long on the bottom edge of the boards. I covered the boards in red and yellow tablecloths made the same way as the table skirting. I used the Circus font on my computer and printed the name of each game in different colors. I cut each letter out then glued them to the red/yellow topper.  I also printed out the number of tickets needed to play each game on white cardstock then cut them out in a star like pattern. I glued these to a balloon cutout then glued that to the upper right hand corner of each game topper. I placed each topper on the project boards by using the slits I had cut in the topper and slid the project board into them. Each game had one of these made especially for it. It gave the illusion of carnival booths. The first game was Face Painting and Tattoos. I attached a sample of each tattoo onto white cardstock and printed the name of each one underneath.

My daughter did the face painting so she painted several samples (all circus themed) onto white cardstock. I attached these to the front of the board. I purchased two small yellow baskets for this game booth. One held the paints for the face painting, the other the tattoos. I also purchased two sets of paints, brushes, a colorful bowl to hold water for the tattoos, a sponge to apply the tattoos and circus tattoos from US Toy. The second game booth was Make A Clown Hat. I purchased plain party hats in different colors. I hot glued different color pom poms to the bottom edge of each hat and attached one to the top. I sat these in front of the booth along with several different kinds of peel and stick shapes and sharpies to write their name on their hat. After they finished their hat they picked out a pair of fun sunglasses (Walmart) and a clown nose (US Toy). The next booth was the Duck Pond. I purchased a large orange tub from the $1 store, filled it with water and placed it in front of the booth. I filled it with ducks that were dressed as circus acts purchased from OT. Using a sharpie I numbered the bottom of the ducks with a 1, 2 or 3. Sitting to the right of the tub were three square buckets; red yellow and blue, numbered 1, 2 and 3. They were filled with several different prizes that I had accumulated scouring the clearance isles of every store I visited. The children pulled a duck from the pond and picked out a prize from the bucket matching the number on their duck. This was the favorite game I think!

The next and last booth on that side was Walk The Tightrope. There was another square bucket set up next to the booth with playdoh in small containers and bubbles for prizes. On the floor to the right of the table was a tightrope for the children to walk on. My brother in law used a 2x3 and cut it to length. He then cut a groove down the middle of the board. He attached footers to each end. I took the board home and painted it red then took yellow, white and bright green paint and splattered it all over the painted board. After it was dry I put liquid nail in the groove and pushed a bright yellow rope into the groove. I also made a tutu using left over tulle and ribbon I had at the house. The right side of the room had two tables decorated using the red and yellow skirting, blue table cloths and happy birthday banner pennants that were used on the other side.

The game booths were made the same way as the ones on the left. The first game booth was the Ring Of Fire. I used a hula hoop and red and gold metallic basket filler purchased at the $1 store. I took three strands of red and three strands of the gold filler and double tied them around the hula hoop. I repeated the process over and over until the whole hula hoop was full. It took me about 7 hours to complete it but it really looked like a ring of fire! I purchased three tigers ($1 store) for the kids to throw through the ring of fire. I suspended the ring of fire from the ceiling using fishing line. After they played the game they got their prize from a square bucket filled with tiger shaped whistles and carnival pencils.

The next booth was the Clown Fish Pond. It was a free standing game booth that didn't required a table or special booth topper. I purchased pvc pipe and my brother in law built me a free standing three sided frame for the game. I spray painted to frame black then attached velcro to the edges. I purchased some material on clearance that resembled water. I cut it to fit the frame, hemmed the edges then sewed the other side of the velcro to the edges. I then attached the material to the frame using the velcro. I used different color foam sheets and cut out triangle pennants for the wording. I printed CLOWN FISH POND on white cardstock using the same circus font I used on the booth toppers. I cut the letters out then glued them to the foam pennants. I then glued the pennants to yellow ric rac I had in my sewing kit. The wording hung on the front of the material covering the frame in two sections. The first one said CLOWN. The second said FISH then it had a foam fish that I doctored up with glitter glue, cut out a clown hat with a pom pom ball glued on the top and attached it to the head of the fish. The fish also had a small red pom pom glued to his nose to make him look like a clown. After the fish was the word POND. I made three more fish like that one using different colors and attached them on the material beneath the wording. I purchased a small play fishing pole at Target. For the prizes I filled cellophane treat bags with polka dots all over them with pixie sticks, starburst, tootsie rolls (the fruit ones) skittles and peppermint patties. When the kids threw their line over the top of the pond they reeled in a prize!

The next booth was set up on a table with the skirting, blue tablecloth and happy birthday pennants. It was called the Trunk Toss. I purchased a blow up elephant head at US Toy. I then attached it to the booth board by sticking a nail through the hole provided to hang it and then through the back of the board. I used packing tape on the backside to hold the nail in place. The object of the game was to throw three golden hoops (Hobby Lobby) on the trunk of the elephant. Once they played the game they chose a prize from the square bucket filled with mini Frisbees (a Michaels clearance find) and crazy straws. On the table in front of each game booth I sat a ceramic circus train piggy bank that I found at the $1 store. To play each game, the kids put in the number of tickets it said on the game booth topper then played the game and got their prize to put in their bag. It made them feel like they were at a real carnival! To the right of the last game booth was a stand up circus performers that you put your head in to take a picture. I purchased it from OT. It was just a plastic (like a tablecloth) sheet with the circus performers printed on it. I used white foam board and cut them to the size I needed then taped them together. I sprayed adhesive glue to the board then placed the plastic sheet on it. I cut out the holes for the faces. My brother in law made a frame and stand for the board to attach to so it could be sturdy and stand up on its own. I was a great photo opportunity for the guests! At the back of the room was the gift table and the sign for the clown.

The gift table had the same red and yellow skirting but was covered in a happy birthday/balloon table cloth. There was also a Happy Birthday banner hanging above it. On the table was a sign for the clown we hired for the party. I used the same type of three panel science project covered in the happy birthday wrapping paper. I then used a piece of white foam board and covered the edges with the balloon borders that were also used on the concession stand sign. Using my Cricut machine I cut the letters out of different color cardstock. The sign read SHOW TIME 5:00 STARRING PINKY LEE THE CLOWN!. At 5:00 the clown came in and did a 30 minute act for the kids. She even had the birthday boy do a trick with her where he added ingredients to her pot and with magic it turned into animal crackers for everyone to enjoy! The kids really loved the clown! After her show was over she made balloon animals or objects for all the kids.

As she was making the balloons we served the ice cream sundaes. I decided to do icecream instead of cake. We scooped the icecream into waffle bowls and placed them on plates (OT) that had circus acts on them and said Welcome To The Circus! We invited the guests to come to the concession stand to add their toppings. There were sprinkles, chocolate, strawberry and caramel toppings, whipped cream and cherries. I purchased red spoons to eat it with. As the guests were finishing up their sundaes the birthday boy opened his gifts. I stood by the door as the guests left to thank them for coming to our Circus! I made sure the kids took home their bag of prizes and also had them get a parting gift from a table we set up next to the concession stand. I purchased circus themed gable boxes (OT) and filled them with circus themed items. There was a grow a circus animal, ringmaster, popcorn or cotton candy (the kind you put in water and it expands), itty bitty circus animal cookies, a clown sucker, gummi hot dogs, packets of sixlets and an ice cream cone popper. Everyone left with big smiles on their faces!

For the thank you notes I ran across a website called Smile Box. You can customize greetings so I choose one with a circus look to it. For each guest I inserted pictures of them or the birthday boy having fun at the party. I then typed a special thank you in the comments section. I emailed them to each guest. I had to create a separate thank you for each guest so I could customize it with their pictures and thank you note.

It was a great hit! People called and emailed me to let me know how much they appreciated all I put into the party and for the special pictures of them and their children enjoying themselves. One child even told their mother they wanted to have their party there next year! I know this is a very long description of my son's party but a lot of time and thought was put into it. I couldn't have pulled it off without my special helpers who helped me set up the party and manned each game to make sure the kids really felt like they were at a Circus Carnival!

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