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How to Throw the Perfect Memorial Day Picnic

Hey, no one ever said throwing the perfect Memorial Day picnic would be easy. But it doesn’t have to be stressful or expensive either.

Follow these five easy steps to ensure a perfect picnic celebration for you and your friends and family.

Prep the Day Before

Don’t wait until the day of the picnic to get everything done. Food preparation, shopping, cleaning and setup should happen the day before the picnic. As the picnic host, and to keep your stress to a minimum, part of your job is to delegate and designate.

Hosting a picnic is no easy task. You can’t do everything by yourself. And it’s okay to ask for help. If you try to host, cook, clean, decorate and entertain all by yourself, chances are this will be the last picnic you’ll throw.

The first step is to choose a handful of close friends to help. Rather than asking every guest to bring a dish, ask your closest friends or family to bring food, drinks and appetizers or desserts of their choice. Don’t forget napkins, utensils and serving ware. A little bit of help from friends goes a long way.

As the host, you can do the slicing and dicing ahead of time, and be sure to put your slow cooker to use. Bake all the goodies in advance. It’s best to accomplish what you can before the day of the picnic, before the masses arrive. Your goal is to ensure your guests have a great time, and you shouldn’t be excluded from the fun.

Tips, Tricks and Tasks to Manage or Assign Before the Big Day:

  • Assign a 2-person setup and teardown crew. Teens are great at this.
  • What’s a celebration without decoration? Ask your crew to don your party space in red, white and blue.
  • Picnic invitations emailed to guests can encourage everyone’s clothes to fall in line with the Memorial Day theme.
  • Designated parking for guests is a must, if you don’t want to offend your neighbors. A smart host will extend a picnic invitation to the neighbors, too, for good measure. Even better if guests are willing to carpool.

Feed Your Guests as They Arrive

Have you ever gone to a party and had to wait for the food to finish cooking? You’re so hungry and it smells so good, but the food’s just not ready? Don’t torture your guests like that.

Leave some chips and dip on the table for them to nibble on. Cheese and crackers are another tasty snack and you can’t go wrong with a veggie tray.

Think cold fruit on a hot summer’s day. Chopped watermelon or – heck – a watermelon keg – are awesome options your guests will love.

It’s probably hot, and your guests will be thirsty. Keep a couple of coolers in a common area both inside and outside the house so that they aren’t constantly opening and closing the fridge.

Keep It Social

Free up space in your house so that adult guests can move around and mingle. Make space at the bar, the dining room table and the living room area. Place chairs and stools strategically so that they have places to sit, inside and outside. And keep in mind that rain is always possible, so have a Plan B.

Before guests arrive, set up stacking games or tumble towers outside, like Jenga. KanJam is another game played both inside and outside. Games are a sure-fire way to get them mingling and comfortable.

Let’s face it. A bored kid can be a naughty kid. That’s why it’s good to have a designated kids’ play area. Set up a craft table where kids can keep their little hands busy. Have them create Memorial Day-themed crafts. Visit your local craft store the day before. Buy a variety of items but nothing expensive. The goal is to capture their interest and keep them occupied at the table for as long as possible. Let their imaginations do the rest.

Outside, let the kids run free with pre-filled water guns. Have a friend take charge of some water balloon games. And it goes without saying that a water slide is always a huge hit — for both kids and adults. All you need is a large tarp, some soap, and a water hose or two.

It’s no secret that dogs have a special way of opening dialogue and bringing people together. For people who don’t like to socialize with other people, dogs at a party are an ice-breaker. So, decide beforehand if your picnic will be dog-friendly, and invite the most well-behaved four-legged companions of your human friends.

Remember to Stock Up

Music is a must. Keep it upbeat and streaming in one area, preferably outside. Make a custom playlist if you’re feeling extra festive or check out one that’s already curated on Spotify or your favorite streaming app. Music that appeals to the general population will help maintain a positive energy and good vibes.

Sunscreen, especially for the kids. Sunglasses to protect those peepers. Bug spray and citronella or natural repellents like basil and lavender are a BBQs BFF.

Towels for everyone, because at least one person — or pet —  will get drenched if there are water balloons, sprinklers or the above-mentioned games.

Remember Why You’re Celebrating

Memorial Day means something different to everyone. For some, it’s an excuse to gather. For others, it means a long weekend and a short work week. For grill masters, it’s a reason to break out the grill and showcase their prowess. Memorial Day signifies the end of spring and start of summer. It promises perfectly grilled cheeseburgers and hotdogs. It’s sundresses and sandals and sunshine.

For most people, though, Memorial Day means a gathering of friends and family.

Patriotism is the underlying theme that resonates with every American, which is reason enough to throw the perfect picnic.

Remember the real reason your friends and family have come together. Know the history of Memorial Day. Share some Memorial Day facts with your guests. “Did you know…?” is a good conversation-starter. You’ll learn and remember something yourself.

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