Barnyard Bash

MS Mag Sept Oct 2013Mississippi Magazine
September / October 2013

Imagine waking up on the morning of your third birthday and discovering that your home has been magically transformed into Old McDonald’s farm.  For many preschoolers, this sounds like an absolute dream come true.  But for birthday boy Peyton Smith, this barnyard birthday bash was a reality.

Shanna Lumpkin of Shanna Lumpkin Events has had the honor of planning all of little Peyton’s birthday parties.  “Peyton’s mother originally brought me in to help plan a 40th birthday party for her husband, Allen,” Lumpkin explains.  “She mentioned that her son’s first birthday was coming up and asked if I could help plan something for that as well.  I have planned every party since then.”

Every parent of a preschooler knows that kids can become obsessed with certain items – like planes, trains, automobiles, or in Peyton’s case – pigs. 

“Peyton is a very sweet, fun-loving and energetic little boy who loves animals,” said Geri Beth Smith, Peyton’s mother.  “Shanna asked me what kind of things Peyton was interested in and the theme evolved from there.”

“We thought a barnyard theme would be so much fun,” adds Lumpkin. She enlisted the help of caterer Wendy Putt of Fresh Cut Catering & Floral and friend Gail Mateer to transform the Smith’s Bridgewater home in Ridgeland into a farmstead both adults and children would enjoy.

Party goers were instantly transported into another world as they arrived that cool but sunny Saturday morning.  Thanks to Taylor’s Pony Parties, LLC, the Smith’s driveway was transformed into a petting zoo complete with pony rides for the kids.  Inside the petting zoo, children could interact one-on-one with real live barnyard animals including chickens, rabbits, goats, and of course, pigs.

Because no farm is complete without a big red barn, Lumpkin and Mateer constructed a huge wooden barn façade to serve as the focal point for the party.  The barn also doubled as the perfect backdrop for family photos.

“The barn provided a really neat tactile experience and gave us all kinds of activity opportunities for the kids,” said Lumpkin.

Putt’s menu – served buffet-style – incorporated creative spins on classic party food ideas that tied in perfectly with the theme of the party.  For the little field hands, the menu included kid-friendly foods such as pigs in a blanket, pretzel haystacks, cow print Rice Krispie treats, and mini apple pies.  Caramel corn was formed and wrapped in green tissue paper to create “popcorn on the cob,” while deviled eggs were shaped to look like baby chicks hatching from a shell.

The adult’s table included more grown-up fare.  The tablescape was accented with red and white gingham and burlap accents and featured fresh minted fruit salad served in halved out oranges, pasta salad with feta cheese, black olives, and pimentos, corn and couchon on toasted bread rounds, and bacon soufflé served with toasted bread rounds.  Cute but rustic looking mini chalkboards served as descriptive place cards for each dish.

Everyone knows that second only to the birthday boy himself, the birthday cake is the star of the show.  Lumpkin enlisted the help of Maria de La Barre of The Cake Diva to design the three-tiered strawberry cake complete with “a-moo-sing” barnyard details. The cake was offset by a blue ribbon candy bar that included whimsical cupcakes – also by The Cake Diva – an assortment of candies, and sweet little pony-shaped cookies.  Mini paper bags and scoops were close-by so guests could create their very own goodie-bag of assorted confections.

Obviously, after the festivities came to an end, The Smiths didn’t want to send their special guests home empty-handed.  Mateer hand-painted metal buckets to hang on the back of each guest’s chair.  The buckets held small personalized matchboxes that opened to reveal a set of assorted crayons molded into the shape of farm animals, tractors, and a barn.  Younger guests also received adorable broomstick ponies.

“The party definitely exceeded my expectations.  Within a few hours afterwards, I was receiving emails and text messages from guests letting me know what a wonderful time they had and asking to be put on the invitation list for next year,” said Smith.  “Everyone did a fabulous job pulling this off.  The food was over the top.  Everyone loved it.”

Shanna Lumpkin’s Top 10 Birthday Party Planning Tips:

  1. Plan for more than are invited.  Always ask for RSVP, but plan for more than will actually reply. For everything from food to favors, plan for about 10% more than actually invited.
  2. Ask parents about food allergies.  It’s always better to be safe than sorry! There are so many food allergies and no one can plan for them all without knowing. Most parents will let you know, yet it’s still a good idea to check!
  3. Serve the sweets (including the cake) during the last half hour of the party.
  4. When deciding how many children to invite, a good rule of thumb is to invite one more kid than the age of your child. If it their 4th birthday, invite 5 kids, 10th birthday invite 11, etc.  Once the child is school age and you are inviting schoolmates, it can be difficult to follow this rule. But if you can, it is a nice way to manage the guest list.
  5. Plan multiple celebrations.  If you have a large family, it’s a nice idea to have multiple, yet simple, celebrations. Rather than having 50 guests at one time, it might work better to have a smaller birthday party and then lunch/dinner with the grandparents or aunts and cousins.
  6. Ask for help.  If planning a party is something you excel at… perfect! Plan away! But if planning is not where you find your joy, by all means… hire a planner!
  7. Set an end time. Especially as kids get older, parents will begin to drop their kids off and it is important for them to know what time to return.
  8. Let guests know what you will serve.  If you plan to serve cake and snacks (a perfectly acceptable menu!) than let guests know. It’s a nice idea to incorporate that onto the invitation. There is no need to plan a full on meal. The time will also help to indicate your food choice. If you plan a 2-4pm party – in between lunch and dinner – a meal would not be expected.
  9. Plan a fun, but low maintenance, activity.  It makes the party much for enjoyable for the kids (and the parents too!) when the kids can entertain themselves. A fun craft activity that an older sibling or family member can oversee is great for older kids.  Something fun and low maintenance is ideal for younger kids, such as a baby pool full of colorful balls or balloons can do the trick!
  10. Consider alternating the big parties.  As a party planner you would think this goes against everything I believe in, but consider spacing out the “blowouts” and making the other years more simple and intimate. Not only will this help with your pocket book- but it will also help to make the larger parties more special and memorable for the birthday boy or girl.