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It’s Summer: Time to Party

By Lavender June 4, 2009

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Now that the weather is nice, and spirits are high, it’s time to throw a celebratory outdoor soiree. Putting a little bit of thought into decorations can make a simple party idea go a long way. All it takes is a great theme; some time to get creative and decorate; and a few of your closest friends and family.

Local Hops Party
Some of the best beers in the country have originated right in our own area. Party idea number one is a local hops fest. The idea is to transform your backyard into a microbrewery featuring the best beers from the motherland. Let invitees know the theme, suggesting each person bring a local beer of his or her choice to share with the party. It not only gets them involved, but also keeps the cost down for the hosts, and provides a large selection of beers.

Several small tables—tall, bar-style ones might work best—would be the ultimate way to accommodate guests at the local hops fest. They serve as a place to set beer down, while engaging in deep conversation about Minnesota’s deliciously wide array of beers. Small bowls of peanuts keep guests satisfied, and work up their thirst for beer.

Scattered throughout the yard should be buckets—easy to find and relatively inexpensive—filled with ice to keep various beers chilled. Three or four should do the trick, depending on how many guests you are expecting. The rest of the beers can be stored in the refrigerator, and moved into the buckets as soon as their stock is depleted.

What’s an outdoor party without some great lighting?

Local artist—and beer fanatic—Sarah Byrnes suggests making your own microbrew lights. All it takes are some empty clear beer bottles, tissue paper, mod podge, and a string of lights. Cut multiple different colors of tissue paper into small squares, put mod podge on the back of them, apply squares of all colors to a beer bottle, and put another coat of mod podge over the tissue paper. It gives an arty, mosaic look to the bottles. Once the bottles are dry, space them out on a counter or the ground, and put a string of lights into them.

Local beers could include Summit, Surly, August Schells, or Premium Grain Belt. The MNBeer.com blog is an excellent resource when it comes to what this state has to offer. Another is The Four Firkins Web site at <www.thefourfirkins.com>.

Some creative outdoor lighting, beer buckets, and bar tables are all you need to decorate for a successful local hops party.

International Wine Party
Outdoor party idea number two is international wine night. It’s a time to gather your closest loved ones, while learning about wine specialties of different cultures. Like the local hops party, the invite should include a description of the theme: a night of sharing wines from all over the world, while enjoying one another’s company. Each guest should be given a region and a price limit. Then, it’s his or her responsibility to come up with a perfect bottle of wine to represent his or her region.

Wine storeowners most likely would jump at the opportunity to share their insights about wine in selected regions. Some good stores in the Cities are Solo Vino or The Wine Thief in St. Paul, and Sorella Wine and Spirits or Zipps Liquors in Minneapolis.

Local wine aficionado and harvester Doug Weber suggests making a list of great wine regions of the world according to the number of guests, and then choosing the most distinctive wine varietals produced in each respective region. Examples are “Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, Tempranillo from Spain, Chardonnay from California, Malbec from Argentina, and Pinot Noir from France,” he says.

Each guest brings a bottle of wine from his or her selected region, and the party becomes a wine-tasting, conversation-starting fiesta. Plastic wine glasses, inexpensive and practical for an outdoor party, minimize cleanup hassle. Maps and globes add a touch of simple decoration, while providing a visual for each wine region.

Wine bottles make excellent candleholders. All it takes is a box of candlesticks and a few empty wine bottles. Presto: some additional outdoor lighting. If you have the time and resources, a wine bottle candle is the perfect solution to lighting a wine-themed outdoor party. It requires empty wine bottles, wicks, soy wax, and a bottle cutter. Bottle cutting can be quite dicey—literally—so it’s important to get a bottle cutter that works well. Decide how tall you want the candle to be, cut the wine bottle down to that size, heat the score with a candle or a lighter, and cool it with an ice cube to get the glass smooth. Pour soy wax with essential oils into the bottle around the wick to get a sweet-smelling aroma. For an outdoor party, wax with a citronella scent will help keep pesky Minnesota mosquitoes off the guest list. A couple wine bottle candles adds pizzazz to the international wine-themed party, along with some extra outdoor ambience.

Decorations Are the Key to Success
Not all outdoor parties need a theme. In fact, having no theme leaves more room for creativity when it comes to decoration. In some cases, less is more, but when hosting a stellar outdoor party, the more eclectic, unique decorations you have, the better.

World Market online offers a wide array of great lighting for outdoors. Recycled metal dome lanterns are funky and eye-catching, providing a little more lighting. Multicolored, round, paper string lights, also from World Market, add some color too.

Summer is incomplete sans the perfect outdoor party to attend. Hosting one doesn’t have to be stressful. It’s a good excuse to gather loved ones, eat good food, and spend some time in the great Minnesota outdoors.

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