Party Planning Advice: How to Plan an End-of-Summer Blow-Out

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Where did the summer go?

It seems like just yesterday that we were celebrating Memorial Day, but now Labor Day is right around the corner.

That means you still have time to throw a big end-of-summer bash, so why not go all out?

With a little preparation, you can toss a party that your friends will remember all winter long!

In order to make your end of Summer party a success there are some things you will need to keep in mind.

The setting
The very best place to have a summer party is around a pool, so if you have one, you’re all set to party in style. However, if you’ve been neglecting the pool so that it looks more like the Black Lagoon, it’s time to clean up your act and get that pool in shape for guests. Make sure the pool looks its clearest and most inviting for your summer’s end event.

Get your pool area in more of a party mood by adding a few accessories. If you don’t already have outdoor speakers, pick up a couple (or more) and place them around the pool area for cool sound. Check out the ones that look like rocks or planters, so they blend in with the outdoor ambiance. Why not put together some of your favorite summer tunes for a rocking party mix?

How does your lawn furniture look? If the answer is “pretty crappy” or “What lawn furniture?” then it’s time to check your local Home Depot or discount chain, where you’re sure to find some spiffy outdoor sets marked down to clearance prices. If you’re not crazy about your outdoor grill, or the old one has died, now’s a great time to pick up a new one on sale.

The guests
Now that you’ve set the stage for your end-of-summer bash, it’s time to make a guest list. Invite friends, invite neighbors, invite family—anybody who knows how to have a good time, and can be counted on to bring either food or booze. Preferably, both.

Send out the invites a week ahead of time and keep in touch to be sure who’s bringing what. Hopefully, you’ll have some pals with culinary talents who will bring things like mixed green salads, fancy dips and decadent desserts.

The menu
After you’ve got the grill all cleaned up and ready to go, it’s time to plan the food. Since the kitchen is just a few steps away, you can go all out and cook the good stuff, like steaks, chicken, seafood, kabobs, grilled vegies and ribs. Of course, there will be the usual burgers and hot dogs, but why not make this a more upscale bash with really great food?

All this will require a major trip to the store, maybe more than one store for the best food and the best deals. Be sure you have BBQ sauce, marinades, steak sauce, hot sauce and all the seasonings you’ll need to grill.

The drinks
For a long party that starts in the afternoon and carries on into the evening, you’ll need plenty of drinks, both alcoholic and not. You’ll want cans of beer and soda, as well as bottles of liquor and mixers. A pitcher of ice tea or lemonade is a nice touch for a warm day. Be sure to have lots of bottled water, too.

So now you’ve completed all of your planning and prep work and are ready to get the show on the road.  As they say ‘A little planning goes a long way.’  Keep reading as the countdown is on until party day.

The countdown
Two days to a week before, bring home the beer and other drinks. Grab some decent tequila and margarita mix, plus any other mixed drink fixings you’ll need. The day before the bash, go out and shop for provisions. Stash the meats and other perishables in the fridge, then get started on food prep. Pick up a couple of big bags of ice and put them in the freezer.

Ribs need to be coated with BBQ sauce and preheated before going on the grill the next day. Chicken can be marinated ahead of time, precooked, then grilled to perfection. If you want to marinate seafood, wait until an hour or so before the party because shrimp can get tough and rubbery if left in the marinade too long.

Party day
On the day of the party, get up early and start getting everything ready. Make sure the area is cleaned up and you have enough trash cans or bags in place so it will stay that way. If you don’t have enough outdoor furniture to set up lots of serving space, bring a couple of tables out from inside the house. You’ll need one for food and another as a bar.

One hour before the guests are due, start setting up the outdoor tables with a tablecloth, napkins, plastic plates, cups and flatware. Set up a special bar area for drinks, and bring out the blender for margaritas. Bring out the cooler and place it near the bar. Bring out the charcoal and your grilling utensils. Be sure you have the implements you need for the items you’ll be cooking—skewers for shrimp or kebobs, a long fork for turning chicken, tongs for steak, a flipper for burgers.

A half hour before party time, fire up the grill and start icing down the beer. Start the music and put out the chips, salsa, dips and other snacks.

The guests arrive
Hopefully, you’ll have everything ready to go when the guests start coming, because you do want to enjoy your own party! Encourage everyone to put the goodies they bring on the tables. Be sure all items are ready to serve, complete with spoons, forks or tongs. Invite guests to take a dip in the pool or lounge in the sunshine.

Hopefully, the grill will be ready to go by the time the majority of guests have arrived, so you can start showing off your expertise as King of the Grill! Decide ahead of time which items you want to cook first. You don’t want your guests to fill up on dogs and burgers, then have no appetite for the finer dishes you’ve had marinating all night! Better to start with lighter items like shrimp or skewers of chicken and vegies before bringing on the juicy steaks and BBQ ribs.

If there’s a lot of cooking to be done, you might want to enlist a helper who can do some of the turning and flipping and watching while you mingle with your guests. Have large platters ready for the grilled meats so they can go straight to the table.

Party on!
Once the food is served and everyone is raving over your expertise as a host and grillmaster, sit down and relax with your guests. Enjoy the rest of the evening with a few drinks. You deserve a break after throwing the party of the year!

Written on 8/16/2013 by Linda Cauthen.

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