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Although the thought of the circus might conjure up memories of the Big Apple or Barnum and Bailey, the modern circus has been around since the 1700s. Of course, it really took off in the United States when P.T. Barnum launched his traveling oddities exhibition. By the late 1800s, the circus was known as the most popular form of entertainment in the entire country.
While animal rights activists have managed to tarnish the image of this time-honored tradition, circus artists have prevailed and have reinvented and reinvigorated the format with tremendous success. Despite the fact that only 8.38 percent of Americans aged 18 to 29 went to the circus in 2018, contemporary circus-inspired organizations like the infamous Cirque du Soleil have entertained upwards of 180 million audience members in 60 different countries. Our preferences may have evolved, but it’s clear that people all over the world are still awed and delighted by these incredible feats.
You might assume that you have to go to a huge arena or a fancy tent to enjoy the splendor of the circus. But the truth is that you can bring the circus to you with just a bit of creativity—and there’s no better way to celebrate a milestone birthday. Your home may often feel like a three-ring circus, but that doesn't mean your daughter's or son’s next birthday shouldn't be the (big) tops. Here's how to throw the most memorable circus-themed bash (or the greatest show on Earth) your friends, family, and neighbors have ever seen.
Set the stage
Set the stage.
First, you need to transform your home into circus party central. Whether you plan on hosting indoors or out, you’ll want to use the distinctive color scheme (red and white stripes with blue and yellow accents) to ensure the theme is recognizable. Multi-colored bunting garlands and helium-filled balloons will make for a perfectly cheery atmosphere. Old-timey signs, fake admission tickets, large stuffed animals, and carnival games will make guests feel welcomed when they arrive. Although not everyone who’s in attendance needs to dress up, hosts should feel free to come in costume as tightrope walkers or ringmasters to make the experience even more magical for everyone.
Focus on the food.
A trip to the circus just isn’t complete without sampling its signature foods. Popcorn is a must, of course. Not only do Americans consume 13 billion quarts of popcorn every year, but it’s one of the hallmarks of the entire circus experience. If you really want to go all out, you can even rent a retro popcorn machine that will allow you to give out fresh bags to every guest. Other themed treats might include cotton candy (fresh, if you’re able), cupcakes or cake pops, hot dogs or corn dogs, candied apples, soft pretzels, and peanuts (check for allergies first!). If you want to offer some healthier or more gourmet options, consider adding fruit skewers, vibrant veggies, turkey sliders, or grilled corn on the cob into the mix. Finally, add some colorful gum balls into glass jars or dispensers and put out some seltzers or juices (with fun straws, of course) to make sure all those in attendance have everything they could want. Set up plenty of tables to display these vibrant and delectable snacks and that they’re showcased in a way that will make guests “ooh” and “ahh” on sight!
Be sure to entertain.
You can’t have a circus (or a circus celebration) without the best entertainment around. And contrary to what you might think, there are plenty of ways to make certain your guests are entertained from start to finish. If you’re in the tri-state area, you’ll certainly want to hire some bonafide clowns in the Bronx to tell jokes, make balloon animals, and bring smiles to the faces of guests both young and old. Magicians and jugglers are also extremely popular, both performing amazing feats that will captivate everyone who attends your celebration. Face painters, stilt walkers, puppeteers, fortune tellers, mimes, sword swallowers, acrobats, plate spinners, and countless other circus artists can truly bring the fun and the wonder right into your home or backyard.
Whether the birthday boy or girl is two or 92, an amazing time will be had by all when you throw an incredible circus celebration. Not only will you be able to create unforgettable memories, but you’ll also feel good about keeping the art and tradition of the circus alive in your own way.