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How to plan a party for the Fourth of July

June 29, 1999

Fourth of July PartyBy MEG H. PARTINGTON / Staff Writer

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

If the Fourth of July has you feeling festive, it's not too late to round up some patriotic decorations, plan a simple menu and gather friends and family for a sparkling good time.

[cont. from lifestyle]

"I keep things simple," says Liz Kowalski, who has hosted a Fourth of July party for three years at her home in Harpers Ferry, W.Va. The gathering, which people pay $25 per person to attend, benefits Millbrook Orchestra.

For informal gatherings, it's acceptable for hosts to provide the main dish and to ask guests to bring dishes to share, says Susan Kille, owner of Gala Event in Chambersburg, Pa.


Annette Rini, owner of Elegant Celebrations in Hagerstown, says if the gathering is for anyone other than family, you should provide all the edibles.

"If you're inviting people over, don't ask them to bring food," Rini says.

Rini says a basic menu should include some sort of meat and another hot dish - baked beans usually are a hit - pasta salad and fruits. Don't forget the vegetables, possibly in the form of green salads or raw vegetables with dip.

If you're planning on serving potato salad, make a recipe that is not mayonnaise-based, because it can spoil easily, Rini says.

Kowalski serves cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, then offers a buffet dinner.

Meats can be marinated in the refrigerator the day before the party to boost their flavor, Rini says.

If you're cooking on a grill, keep a squirt bottle filled with an equal mix of water and vinegar on hand. The combination neutralizes grease that causes flames to fly high, Rini says.

To accompany your sizzling steaks and chicken, "Cool, refreshing types of foods are good," Rini says.

Watermelon is always a favorite, Rini says. She recommends cutting it into bite-size pieces rather than large chunks because it's neater and the less dripping you have, the less ants and bugs will have to feed on.

Opt for foods that can be made in advance and frozen or refrigerated.

"Any preparation you can do ahead of time saves a lot on the day of the event," Rini says.

If you're hosting an outdoor party, Rini suggests keeping food inside. If you must keep your eats outside, don't leave them out for more than an hour and keep everything under some kind of shelter, perhaps a canopy or pavilion.

To keep foods cool, fill big, plastic tubs with ice and place the food, in bowls, atop the ice. Place a piece of wood or a stick in the center of the tub and drape netting over it like a tent to keep pests away.

"I'm big into taking what you have around the house and putting it to use," Kille says.

Make room for guests

Don't be afraid to ask guests to bring lawn chairs or blankets if you don't have enough seating, Kowalski says.

"It's a summer thing. It's a picnic," she says.

If you don't have enough tables and chairs to seat every visitor, rent or borrow them, Rini says. If possible, put them in the shade.

If you're planning an outdoor gathering, have a backup location if it rains. Offer ample parking and bathroom facilities, too, Rini says.

More than food

"It's always good to have a theme," says Kille, whose expertise lies in planning and decorating for parties. She says themes not only are fun but make the party look more put-together.

Offering simple games is a good idea if many of your guests don't know each other. They break the ice and add a festive flair.

Plan some activities, such as badminton, volleyball or bocci, for guests to participate in after the meal, Rini says.

Sparklers can be a fun diversion for children, as long as they're handled safely, Rini says.

Have an adult light the sparklers and keep a bucket full of water handy in which the kids can drop their lighted toys after they burn out, she says.

More for the Fourth!

-- Decorating for your party

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