Throwing a Fantastic 4th of July Party
Holidays give us a chance to get together with friends and families, eat, tell stories, create memories, and celebrate! One of my favorite holidays is the 4th of July – it is fairly low key with kids out of school, the lazy days of summer, and often the entertainment provided by means of your local fireworks display.
When planning an annual 4th of July bash for our family and friends, I always keep in mind the 3 F’s (which I actually apply to all parties) – Food, Folks, and Fun. If you get the 3 F’s right, your party is sure to be a success.
When I think of 4th of July, I think of potlucks, barbecues, and good American staples – hot dogs, hamburgers, watermelon, vegetables and dip, and Jello. Since I am from the Southwest, I always throw in chips and guacamole. In fact, I add guacamole to pretty much every meal, holiday or not.
Below are a couple of my go-to recipes which are a perfect addition to your 4th of July meal.
12 Layer Jello
I make this Jello for every holiday and change up the flavors to get the color combinations I want. For example, at Christmas I use red and green, at Thanksgiving I use orange and yellow, and for the 4th of July it’s red, white, and blue! It is always a hit with grown ups and kids alike!
- 6 (3oz) boxes of Jello in flavors/colors of your choice – for 4th of July I like Strawberry or Cherry and Berry Blue
- 1 8oz container (227 grams) Sour Cream
- Choose the color of Jello you want on the bottom layer of your Jello
- Add 1 Cup Boiling water to your first box of Jello and stir until Jello is dissolved
- Divide Jello in 1/2
- Add 2 Tbsp sour cream to one 1/2 of the Jello and stir until smooth
- Pour into a 9″ x 13″ pan
- Refrigerate for 25 minutes
- Pour the remaining 1/2 of your first color of jello over the top of the chilled layer
- Refrigerate for 25 minutes
- Repeat process for the remaining 5 boxes of Jello alternating colors
- When the Jello is done and chilled, cut into squares and serve
I love guacamole as does everyone in my family and during the spring and summer when the avocados are best, I make a batch pretty much every day. When friends and extended family come over they always say “I love your guacamole!” which is pretty funny given that I keep it really simple and rely on the avocados for the flavor. Here’s my “not so secret” guacamole recipe.
- Avocados – I usually use 5-6 for a party but the recipe can easily be adjusted for number of guests/guacamole eaters. Normally I buy my avocados from Costco and they come in a bag of 5 or 6. If you do shop at Costco, however, make sure to buy them 4-5 days in advance and leave them out on the counter to ripen up. As soon as they are ripe throw them in the refrigerator. If you don’t shop at Costco, look for large Haas avocados at your local grocery store.
- Green Onions – I figure 2 onions per avocado but this may depend on the size of your onions.
- Lemon juice (or lime juice if you prefer) – I actually buy my lemon juice in a bottle at the grocery store but if you prefer fresh lemons, you will probably only need 1. I use about 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice and then add more to taste. Really the lemon juice helps keep the guacamole from turning brown too quickly. You can also add the pit of one avocado to your prepared guacamole which also helps stop browning.
- Salt to taste
- Chile Powder to taste
- Slice avocados in 1/2 and remove pits. Scoop pulp into a bowl.
- Finely chop 1-2 green onions per avocado and add to bowl.
- Squeeze 1/2 – 1 Tbsp of lemon juice into bowl.
- Add a fair amount of salt. I start with 8 good turns of my sea salt grinder.
- Add about 1/2 Tbsp of chile powder.
- Smash avocados and mix with the rest of the ingredients. Taste and add lemon juice, salt, and chile powder as necessary.
If the avocados are in season and perfectly ripe, they do the work with the other ingredients helping to bring out the flavor.
Serve with your favorite tortilla chips or veggies – I love guacamole on carrots – and make sure to reserve some for your burgers!
If you are looking for a way to add some American pride to your food, you can always add some American Flag Toothpicks to your burgers, dogs, and/or Jello. They are available on Amazon here.
And, if you want to add some extra fun treats to your party, consider renting a cotton candy machine or popcorn machine. Popcorn and cotton candy are two of my kids’ favorite treats and adding them to your menu really makes it seem like a party!
I always try to remember that the right combination of party guests is key to party success. We all know there are certain people who are easy to have around and others who are a bit more high maintenance. I find that sometimes the higher maintenance guests force me to up my game a bit and make the party extra special. Plus, they often add an extra flair to your party and some memories you won’t forget.
As a mom of 4 kids ages 2, 4, 6, and 8 I know that everyone in our house has a playmate…until we invite a friend or two that are the same ages as some (but not all) of my kids. For this reason, I always consider having a friend for no one or a friend for everyone. The right combination of guests can make my life as a host a lot easier and more enjoyable.
Besides who you invite, consider how many guests you would like to have at your party. Are you looking to host an all out bash or a small, intimate get together? Here are some things to consider:
- How much food are you planning to have? Potlucks and catered events work well with bigger parties but if you are planning to cook everything yourself, you may want to limit your numbers if you don’t want to be cooking for a week before.
- What kind of entertainment (aka “Fun”) are you providing? Will everyone be able to participate in the activities if you have big crowds vs a small get together?
What kinds of entertainment are you planning to provide? Fireworks are a 4th of July staple and they are something you don’t need to plan yourself. Here is a list of the best Fireworks displays in Austin.
Aside from public fireworks displays, you may want to consider sparklers, party snaps, or other small fireworks at home. Remember to read the instructions and make safety a primary focus when using fireworks at home, especially with children.
At our house, we always have some kind of water fun and/or bounce houses for the kids. One of our favorites is the bounce house/water slide combo to keep everyone busy and cool during the summer party hours. Reventals can find you exactly what you are looking for at the best price for your 4th of July bash.
In addition to fireworks and bounce houses, why not try an outdoor game like giant twister, giant jenga, corn hole, giant connect 4…the sky’s the limit. At our house we often split into teams and have a big playoff – the winner after several games gets a prize (or doesn’t have to help clean up). This helps get everyone involved in the games and gets any spectators cheering. There are several rental options for outdoor games so if you don’t have these at home, check out Reventals to get ideas and reserve your event rentals.
Food, Folks, & Fun
So, there you have it. Food, folks, and fun (and a little thought and preparation) – if you get these right, you are sure to have a fun and memorable 4th of July!