Throw Strangely Amusing Parties

throw an art party,

We used to throw strangely amusing parties on a more regular basis. Box parties where kids made forts and mazes and castles out of huge boxes. Tie dye and batik parties that were a messy extravaganza of color. Science-y gatherings where everyone worked on the same ridiculous experiment with vastly different results. Even an election commiseration event where everyone had to bring a few jokes about a certain president whose name rhymed with “tush.”

The longest lasting tradition? Our summer pig pen parties. These were grand messy BYOB affairs, as in bring your own bucket—of dirt. It was dumped in a backyard kiddie pool and mixed by all children in attendance into perfectly creamy mud, which they used to coat themselves until they were recognizable only by bathing suit outlines. We put a garden hose at the top of our slide and the kids careened down in glorious streaks of mud. We handed out cans of shaving cream for use as body décor (with firm instructions to avoid faces because it’s not fun in the eyes). We brought out ample water balloon supplies. And we insisted the kids eat without utensils or hands, just direct face to plate. Like pigs. Of course these parties got out of hand once the grown-ups refused to sit in lawn chairs watching their kids have all the fun. Some neighbors showed up in pig masks, others showed up with water balloons sneakily hidden in baby strollers and red wagons, others brought massive auxiliary supplies of shaving cream. Normally well-behaved men used hoses to fill garbage cans with water, which they dumped over the heads of the few civilized mommies who thought they’d keep their hair looking nice. One year the entire assemblage of pig pen partiers were incensed that a regular pig pen attendee decided to stay home to repair a fence. All of us walked down to the street in wet, muddy, shaving cream streaked glory to drag him to the party. His police chief father who was there helping him make the repairs looked seriously alarmed. We dragged him anyway.

I’ve been fantasizing about a backyard Jackson Pollack party where everyone brings leftover paint to fling at canvases, maybe even using the giant trebuchet our kids built for some super-charged paint tossing. I can just see us all in splattered clothes, posing for a group picture with candy cigarettes hanging out of our mouths. What’s stopping me? I live with practical people who wonder if paint will get tracked in the house because partygoers are human and will eventually need to use the bathroom.

My recent event was a quietly civilized affair: a collage party for some artful cutting and pasting. I have all sorts of glue-able stuff here. Old sheet music, sewing patterns, stockbooks, wallpaper, tiny do-dads, lace, game pieces. All I asked people to bring were their own scissors, marked with their names (because scissors are migratory beasts) and a potluck offering. They brought a lot more glue-able stuff to share. I thought we’d stick down some background, let it dry while we ate and drank, then finish and move on to a second or third one each. But my friends ate and drank and talked while collaging. They didn’t want to stop cutting and arranging. It’s as if we all have too little time for something as simply satisfying as placing a scrap of paper on a page exactly as it pleases us. The event was less lively than the average pig pen party, that’s for sure. But it was restorative. No phones. No screens. Nothing else to do but indulge in the kind of play we call creating. I guess that doesn’t happen unless we make time for it.

Here’s a sample of collage party creations. (Some are backgrounds awaiting finishing touches.)

And let me know your ideas for strangely amusing events. I plan to steal them.

turn junk into collage,

art party,

make a collage, throw a collage party,

science collage,

11 thoughts on “Throw Strangely Amusing Parties

  1. I absolutely adore the collages. so sorry I had to miss it, but I could start ripping and shredding right now. Lord knows there’s enough spare paper around here. As for weirdly amusing parties, right now something sticky and involving leaves.


  2. How terrific to have a mud party! My daughter did all these things at home alone with me, but I never thought to invite other people over; I thought they’d be horrified rather than gleefully engaged as you describe. What wonderful memories!

    This wasn’t planned, but a few years ago my scientist husband had his colleagues from work over for dinner. My daughter’s Kapla building blocks were out, and the scientists ended up spending much of the evening building elaborate structures that eventually covered not only the floor but went all over the bookcases and mantelpiece and tables as well.

    One thing we did do during our kitchen remodel (unplanned) that left us with a huge empty concrete-floored room was have several science parties for kids. One featured a huge table with dry ice, water, bubble-blowing liquid, dish soap, all kinds of containers and things like wire, cans, straws, boxes, etc. to make different shapes of bubbles. It was a huge hit.


  3. Oh, the memories! Hunter, now 23, had a stuffed pig named “Oink Oink”. Every year, on March 1st, we had a Pig Party for Oink Oink. It was indoors, but we ate messy, slurpy food without utensils, played ‘pin the tail on the pig’, and gave prizes for the best oink, snort, slopping noises. I’m going to start collecting buckets for a pig party, Laura Grace style:) Date: Thu, 18 Oct 2012 13:02:15 +0000 To:


  4. Wow! Your parties sound awesome! I always meant to do stuff like that. I have a book by John Lithgow called “A Lithgow Palooza,” which is just full of ideas for silly parties and games . . . but I never did any of them 😦

    However, we did have a rock climbing wall in our garage while living in Hawaii. Every week, our posse of rock climbing friends would come over for dinner and a climbing party.

    We also did a couple of themed mystery parties for special celebrations (we bought inexpensive downloadable files online that included all the characters, clues, directions, etc.). Those were fun with groups of flamboyant teenagers. Now I’m busy thinking of parties . . .


    • Wow, a rock climbing wall! (My mother used to tell my dad on the phone during long days at home with us, “I. Am. Climbing. The. Walls. Maybe if she could have scaled the garage wall it would have helped.)

      I’m ordering Lithgow’s book from the library, looks like he has a second book too, “Lithgow Party Palooza.” My kids aren’t little any more but I’m hoping I can use some of his ideas.


  5. Awesome ideas!!! Something else to do with “flamboyant teens”….. I come from a performing arts-minded family, and we often do a 24-Hour (or plug in the amount of time you have) Theater Party. Pick volunteer director/playwright couples, split the rest of the group up into casts for each couple, brainstorm about what kind of a play could be written with one’s particular cast, and go! While the playwright is busy writing, the others are trying to put together scenery, costumes, and props based on the concept and rough plot discussed. This is firmed up later, once the script is finished. Actors and directors rehearse, musicians compose (if you get so lucky) and at the end of the 24 hours you pop some corn, pull up some chairs and watch your own one-act festival!


    • Wow Miz L, that’s fantastic. We used to do a “playwright’s” group with a bunch of (smaller) kids. It took not much longer than an afternoon. They talked over a plot, spent a lot of time fussing over what interested them (fashioning scenery, swords, costumes), practiced briefly, then put on a performance with improvised lines. Was an absolute hoot.


  6. Laura,
    I LOVE these collage creations. What a synchronicty of events that around the same time that you guys had this collage party, my daughter and I were collaging away for three whole days!
    It’s such a playful and meditative process….
    Thank you for the comment on my blog and for sharing that post.
    We keep throwing some fun parties, too, but your post has given me more courage and ideas! So thank you 🙂


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