Labor Day is a national holiday that always lands on the first Monday in September, giving us a long, three-day holiday weekend to enjoy the last, unofficial days of summer. For families, it's a weekend for camping, picnics, and parties as we spend time outdoors before the weather begins cooling.
Although Labor Day is a day for rest and relaxation, there are often local events such as parades, speeches, concerts, and sporting events you (and prospected guests) may wish to attend. As with any party, it's wise to check your community itinerary before you begin planning to find the best day and time for your shindig. The ideas below will help you get you get organized.
To squeeze out every last ounce of summer, most Labor Day parties and activities are planned to take place outdoors because that's where everyone wants to be -- weather permitting. The most popular and convenient location is your own backyard. It's cheap and easy to prepare food and drinks nearby.
Other alternatives are parks, beaches, and campsites. Public locations are often packed on holiday weekends and are on a first-come, first-served basis for areas, picnic tables, etc,. so you will need to have someone get there early. If your party will be large, consider renting a community hall to reserve your space.
Try to have a backup location. Extended weather forecasts are often unreliable and your party will be ruined if you don't have shelter for a rainy day. If this is not possible or something you just don't want to do, consider postponing your party until your area experiences Indian Summer, which provides a small window of opportunity for an impromptu party outdoors (if you're lucky enough.)
Patriotic decorations fit the Labor Day theme perfectly, though you don't have to decorate with anything fancy to set the atmosphere. For a barbeque, cookout or picnic, table decorations will suffice. Tablecloths and other colorful tableware such as paper plates and napkins will give your party a down-home, traditional look.
If that's too conservative for you, try adding table centerpieces, bunting, rope lights, or tiki lamps. Your local party or flower shop can make foil balloon arrangements that are fairly inexpensive but not so handy on a windy day. Otherwise, blow up your own balloons, tie them together with red, white, and/or blue ribbon and attach them wherever you like.
Having fun together is what parties are all about so you will need to provide some entertainment for adults and children. You'll find plenty of ideas for all ages on our outdoor page. Kids love racing games and they'll get just enough exercise to tire them out. A scavenger hunt will have your guests scuttling about trying to find related items on your list.
The best foods for outdoor parties are quick dishes that don't spoil easily, but chances are, you will still need to be concerned about foods that should be kept hot or cold. It's not such a hassle if you have a refrigerator, coolers, bowls, and ice handy with lots of space. When planning your menu, take into consideration just how much space you will have available and if you will have electricity for appliances.
Food that will be consumed soon isn't concerning but leftovers are. Hot dogs, hamburgers, roast beef, and steaks that will be eaten right away can be put on a plate covered with foil, then transferred to a roaster or crock pot after guests are served. Sloppy Joes can be kept in the crock pot from the get-go but are somewhat... well, sloppy. Still, they're a favorite! Hot side dishes should be kept in a crock pot on low (don't forget to stir occasionally.)
Salads should be placed in a bowl, inside a larger bowl filled with ice. On very warm days, it will be necessary to refill the ice or transfer to a fridge or cooler. For the most part, foods should be covered for sanitary reasons and to keep out bugs, leaves, etc. Sometimes, it's easier to serve in shifts if you have people coming and going. It can be quite a chore. Ask for help when it's time to put away and drag out food. It will keep the food safer and reduce frustration.
If you're having a large party, a small horse trough or clean trash can filled with ice works well for storing canned and bottled beverages. Some enjoy their drinks "on the rocks." Have some cups and straws ready and a separate ice bucket or covered container for clean ice. Even if your party is b.y.o.b. or soda, you should have some basic drinks handy for children and those who show up empty-handed.
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