Intermediate: Throwing a Carnival Themed Party

couple in party hats blowing whistlesEvents with games, prizes, and concessions stands are not just for kids these days. Adults looking for a unique idea for a summer party, fundraiser, or birthday bash can “Wow!” guests with a carnival-themed party. The cost of throwing such an elaborate event may be more expensive than a standard party as there are additional elements involved: concession stands, props for various activities, and carnival-themed decorations.

Carnival setups usually include a variety of booths for food and games. Channel that concept by setting up different tables throughout your backyard space. Some food booths to consider include:

• Popcorn – Just be sure it stays hot in this concession machine from There’s nothing like the aroma of hot popcorn, especially when guests can dish it into a red-and-white striped carnival-style holder.
• Cotton candy – Hire a helper or have friends take turns making this classic carnival treat. The machine, stand, flavors, and holders can all be purchased at You’ll be surprised at how much fun adults can have with this task.
• Funnel cakes – If you don’t have time to make homemade funnel cakes, order a batch from a local bakery.
• Hot dogs, French fries, chicken tenders, pretzels, cookies, and candied apples – These food items may be placed on the same booth or table as the funnel cakes.

Place the food booths along the perimeter of your space to prevent guests from lining up or gathering right in the middle of your carnival space. Use areas in the middle to set up the most appealing features of a carnival – games and prizes. Here are some popular carnival games that can be recreated with a bit of effort:

• Balloon popping with darts – Pin or staple small, colorful balloons to a thin piece of plywood board. Allow players four darts. If they hit two balloons, they win a prize.
• Ring toss over bottles – Set up empty bottles of the same height in short, empty boxes. Allow players 5 rings and if they can manage getting one over a bottle, they win a prize.
• Bobbing for apples – This game will get guests a little wet but will provide a ton of laughs for all involved. Set up a wide tub with water and fill with apples. Guests who can grab a certain number of apples over a specific time win a prize. To add an extra element of competition, set up two tubs side-by-side so guests can compete against each other. It’s a fun way to settle scores between old friends.
• A “Selfie” Booth – Add a twist to this classic carnival element by providing silly accessories and clothes that guests can wear to take selfies. Stick mustaches and glasses are always fun, as well as hats, masks, bow ties, and feather boas.

Unless you plan to hire help to manage each game booth, use the honor system when it comes to prizes. Keep a table next to each game booth with pre-wrapped prizes for winners or set up one big prize table where winners can pick out prizes.

When it comes to decorations, there are plenty of options to choose from, depending on your style.