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birthday party ideas

Additional Information

April 1993
By Alan R. Kahn, Bay Area Parent


What's Available


There is a wide variety of  party entertainers who can come to your home: animals, balloon artists,  clowns, costumed characters (from fairy tales, cartoons, movies, etc.),  face-painters, game leaders, jugglers, magicians, make-up artists, pony  rides, puppet shows, singers, spin art, T-shirt painting, ventriloquists  and more.


Many entertainers offer several of these services.


Where To Find Them


The best place to find a  good act is through word of mouth; ask friends about their experiences  with performers. Look in Bay Area Parent's party section; check the  yellow pages (see specific listings, such as Clowns, Magicians, etc.);  ask a children's librarian (they frequently hire acts); and check at  party stores.


Booking


Before hiring an  entertainer, check with the birthday child to be sure this is something  he or she will enjoy. Some children, especially very young children, may  be terrified rather than delighted when surprised by a clown or a  costumed entertainer.


When getting bids for a  party, specify exactly what you want, so the performer can't talk you  into an act that sounds good, buy may not be suited for your child.


Book well in advance. One month is a good rule of thumb. However, if the party in near a holiday, book two months ahead.


Before booking, consider  the time of the show and the possible weather. One magician booked a  magic show a month in advance. It was designed to be held outside since  the parents wanted spin-art as one of the activities. But they forgot  that Daylight Savings Time would end before the party, so what would  have been late afternoon, ended up being a cold, dark night. The show  had to be moved indoors, where table cloths were spread on the floor to  protect the expensive new rug.


Questions To Ask


Will you sign a contract  specifying the date, time and place of the performance; how long the  performance will be; exactly what it will entail; and the method and  time of payment? (If possible, arrange to make the final payment after  the show.)


What is your cancellation  policy? When is the latest I can cancel and is there a cancellation  charge? If you are ill and cannot come to the party, will you provide a  similar back-up entertainer.


How do you handle "problem" situations, such as scared or overly boisterous children?


For what age children is  your act best suited? (Generally, the more uniform the age of the  audience, the more focused and better the show will be.)


Are there any limits on  location? (Some entertainers will not go to parks, for example, and  others limit themselves to a certain geographic area. If the party is to  be in a place other than your home, such as a restaurant or park, check  to make sure there are no rules against having a hired entertainer  there.)


Do you prefer to perform indoors or outside?


Are animals part of your  act? (If the act does include animals, you should keep family pets out  of the party area until the performer leaves. If your child has certain  allergies, it may not be wise to hire an act with animals.)


How many adults per child  should be present when you are performing? (Generally, the entertainer  should not be expected to baby-sit or have complete charge of the  children.)


When will you arrive? (Some  performers, whose acts require minimal set-up, can arrive minutes  before the show is to go on, while others need more time to get ready.)


May we take pictures during your act and/or videotape the show?


Do you know how to get to  the party location? (Give complete directions including apartment  number, or draw a map, even if the entertainer says he knows the way.)


At The Party


If the show requires extensive set-up, plan for pre- and post-show activities to take place somewhere else.


Make sure the location is  the right size for the group. One clown recalls, "I did a show for a  2-year-old birthday party that had so many family and friends we could  not all fit in the house, and since it was raining, we could not go in  the backyard. So, I did the entire show on the patio under an alcove  with half the audience in the house watching from the kitchen and the  other half outside with me, hoping the wind wouldn't change direction."


Plan the entertainment to  begin at least 30 minutes after the start of the party so late arrivals  won't miss out on seeing the show.


Be ready to start the show at the time specified. Most entertainers have several shows a day and must stay on schedule.


Don't serve food during the performance, especially if the performer uses live animals or props the children may touch.


Depending on your payment agreement, have the entertainer's check ready when he or she leaves.


Alan  Kahn is President of 1st. Impressions Entertainment Group, Fremont, CA.  Since 1978, this troupe of magicians and clowns have been entertaining  at parties throughout the Bay Area.

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