Emily Clarke’s daughter Lincoln had party ideas for her third birthday narrowed down to two: monkeys or mermaids. As Texas is fresh out of mermaids, Emily helped coax little Lincoln toward monkeys, like the particular toy Lincoln played with since she was 6 months old, and soon enough a trained capuchin monkey named Miki, wearing red overalls, was sitting in a highchair at her carnival-themed birthday party. The monkey rivaled Lincoln as the star of the show, shaking hands, playing catch and climbing onto guests’ shoulders for photos.
// Click on image at left to view more images from this party.
While the monkey was occupied, a clown sans the white face paint churned out requests for balloon animals, kids tossed rings around classic Coca-Cola bottles and a friend of Emily’s painted faces. Lincoln chose simple cat whiskers. “You don’t have to hire professionals for everything. It’s a 3-year-old’s face,” said Emily, mother of two and owner of Emily Clarke Weddings and Events and Pipsqueak Party Planning. “Creative parties don’t have to be expensive; it just has to be clever. Half of the battle is knowing where to look.”
Emily found her ideal party venue at the nearby Glencoe Park and reserved a section of the field. Her husband set up a rented red and white striped tent, and Emily laid out stain resistant tablecloths, which she made herself in anticipation of the traditional carnival fare: corn dogs, French fries, chicken fingers, funnel cakes and cotton candy, provided by a catering company, as well as freshly popped corn from a vintage-style machine.
Cupcakes with simple pink icing sat in a shiny, miniature Ferris wheel and the big-top-shaped cake shared the table with Lincoln’s party gifts. The kids loaded their own treat bags at the candy bar with handfuls of rainbow colored candies from apothecary jars. The sunny but 65-degree day turned out to be the perfect temperature for the crowd favorite drink – milk served from a glass dispenser into small bottles with striped straws.
After wiping off their milk mustaches, the kids (and the adults too) donned paper ones at the photo booth using mustaches or lips on a stick, clown noses and top hats. Lincoln and friends grabbed skirts, tiaras and more props from the “Princess Lincoln” toy chest brought from home. “It wasn’t completely on theme but it doesn’t have to be,” Emily said. “Don’t get caught up in perfection. Be playful.” After all, you can let loose under the big top.