Idea No.


Mississippi River Party 2 & 7yr



July 2008


James in Fairfield, CA, USA

Special Mention


My wife and I like to spend the year planning our sons' birthdays as a hobby. We are doing different eras in Americana for our youngest. Last year we did an 1850 California Gold Rush theme, and this year we are doing the Mississippi River c. 1875.  INVITATIONS: For the invitations, my wife used Mrs. Grossman's Great Adventures Steamboat stickers on green card stock. Inside had the party details printed on light green paper and then glued in. Envelopes were sealed with boat wheel stickers and we put vintage unused stamps on for postage (32 cent Riverboat stamps, 4 cent Louisiana stamp which pictures a riverboat, and 5 cent the Great River Road stamp shows the Mississippi river = 41 cents).  DECORATIONS:  The front yard had 3 long rectagular inflatable pools to represent the Mississippi River. Foam cutouts and fake plants line the sides to hide the blue plastic, and make it look more real. The outside of our Victorian farm house was supposed to look like a steamboat with a big sidewheel made out of foam reading J.M. White". Patriotic bunting placed above windows American flags along roof edge and a sign on the front door that states "All gamblers and fancy women must sign in with the captain before boat leaves for New Orleans".  Upon entering the house the first thing you see is the hallway. We decorated it to look like a swampy bayou scene with a black plastic tablecloth runner on ceiling to darken area weeping willow / mossy faux plants hanging from stairs light and dark green paper cutouts of long grasses and reeds taped along the bottom of walls. Tree branches made of long cardboard tubes with light and dark green crepe paper hanging from them on the ceiling and crepe paper in varying lengths taped all along the top of the walls. Firefly lights (like those on Pirates of the Caribbean ride) taped to ceiling.  The dining room we transformed into a gambling parlor with a spinning money wheel and Faro table. Old time playing cards were purchased at the Virginia City Gambling Museum and the 1875 copies of paper money were found on eBay. Riverboat $1 casino chips also found on eBay. We gave each guest one chip and kept half for the house. The windows were lined with colored green and purple cellophane then accented by black plastic cutouts (shadows of moss houses docks so it looks like you are on the river looking at the opposite bank). We purchased a Dept 56 lightup riverboat as an added decoration.  Our living room we made to look like an old shack along the river. I painted 6 bayou scenes on canvas and then framed them with old wood. I placed glass jars on the sills and hung them along the walls so it looks like they are the windows of the shack looking out. I hung old rifles on the wall as well as a bota bag (canteen) and coonskin cap. I took the books off our bookshelves and replaced them with all kinds of old glass jars bottles crockery and anything with an antique look. We bought an old transistor radio that is a model of Disneyland's Mark Twain steamboat as a decoration for this room also.  In the backyard we have a wooden shed that I painted on one side to look like the front of an old shack (modeled after the one you see at the beginning of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride). My Dad built a small porch for it as well as an overhang that we stapled Spanish Moss to. I made 2 windows out of old wood and stapled burlap sacks to the back for curtains. We put a child's rocking chair on the porch as well as a bamboo pole fishing rod and straw hat. I also strung some plain light bulb lights over the patio area.  We set up several tables with white tablecloths & gas lamps for guests to relax and eat at. I also made a bunch of lily pads from vinyl tiles to stick all over the patio. A local restaurant called Huckleberry's donated activity placemats for the children.  COSTUMES: My wife found an old time boys' union suit pattern on eBay and planned to make one for each of our sons but after making it for our older boy she decided it was too tough to make another. The instructions expected women to know a lot more back then and left a lot to the imagination. But she got the one completed and it was really cute on our 7 year old. Our 2 year old birthday boy got to wear some overalls with no shirt. We got straw hats for both boys and brown leather sandals to wear.  MUSIC: New Orleans Jazz (Dixieland) in gambling area Mark Twain era music in backyard Bayou sounds cd for hallway Banjo music near shack  FOOD:  Main: Fried Chicken & Oven Baked Catfish nuggets  Sides: Potato salad fried green tomatoes Mississippi Six dip collard greens watermelon  Breads: Corn Pone Hush puppies zucchini cakes biscuits  Desserts: Loganberry pie peach cobbler cake ice cream (Currier & Ives saucers featuring a riverboat found on eBay were used as cake plates and given to guests as a souvenir to take home afterwards).  Drinks: Lemonade Iced Tea Mint Juleps  ACTIVITIES: Learning how to play Faro (each guest gets 1 poker chip featuring a riverboat). The house keeps 50 to give out to winners. We reconstructed a Faro board layout and used old time cards without numbers. Money wheel gambling game: My father and I constructed this out of a wooden circle form Home Depot on a Lazy Susan. I painted it and glued copies of the 1875 currency to it (2 each of $12510205010 & $500 bills). I also glued some faux gold coins to the center for decoration.  Whitewash the fence relay: 2 Teams do a relay race to the picket fence dip the paintbrush once and they get 2 strokes (one up and one down) then they race back to give the brush to the next child. The team that covers the most area of fence wins. Playing in pools (Mississippi River): The children cooled off in the wading pools and washed some of the paint off Great Steamboat race: all kids got a wind up wooden paddlewheel boat to race in a pool. I found the pattern for the boats online at and made 24 with a bandsaw. (Each child earned a Pilot's Certificate copied from Samuel Clemen's original in the Mariner's' Museum Virginia at finish). Lastly before leaving the party each child got to cast the bamboo fishing rod with a clothespin on the end over the fence to get a goody bag.  GOODY BAGS: Brown paper sacks each contained a slingshot a wooden yoyo 8 trading cards of riverboats and play corncob pipes.  FAVORS: White chocolate steamboat lollipops from a candy mold were given to every guest as they left.  THANK YOUS: Pictures of the birthday boy in his overalls.  RESOURCES: Mrs. Grossmans eBay KB Toys Home Depot Oriental Trading Co. Smart & Final Party City Michael's Virginia City Tyrumas Goodwill"

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