Step Right Up – It’s Carnival Time!

Posted by on Feb 11, 2013 in Fabulous & Free | 0 comments

I have the complete joy and privilege of working as a national conference interpreter for an incredible Bible study teacher, author, & conference speaker.  Recently, the Lifeway team (AKA: some of my favorite people in the world) came to Phoenix to hold a rally for the Living Proof Live conference that will be held March 22-23, 2013 at Grand Canyon University here in Phoenix.  The rally in January was for women’s leadership here in Arizona to become more aware of how this event in March can benefit the women in their churches and women here in Arizona.  It was held at our gracious host site, Bethany Bible Church in Phoenix.  Like most churches, they had a large multi-purpose room that served the function well – but as far as a party environment goes - the room needed to have some pizazz (It is especially fun to say pizazzzzzzz-a! with an emphasis on the last z).  New Orleans isn’t the only place that can host a carnival…we put on a carnival/circus theme for our event that turned out to be festive”.  This event was held in the evening after dinner.  So we served snacks; corndogs, cotton candy, animal crackers, circus cookies, circus peanuts candy, pretzels, cupcakes, popcorn, & snocones….very carnivalish don’t you think?  We had silly straws, a photo booth, and lots of balloons and stuffed animals for a mid-way feel.  We had a fun game; “guess how many candy kisses in the jar” instead of a kissing booth, and lots of door prizes.

I have been DYING (ok maybe not literally dying or I probably wouldn’t be posting this - but very, very, very excited) to put together a carnival/circus themed party for over a year.  For some reason – clients haven’t jumped at this idea when offered as a party theme.  After seeing these photos – maybe they will see that this theme is versatile and has great potential.  It could be used for a child’s birthday (Come ONE! Come all!  To the Jaedyn’s 1st birthday party Carnival!).  How about a 3-ring circus baby shower (Michael & Elaine are expecting and their lives are about to turn into a 3-ring circus!  Come celebrate baby Claire’s arrival!)? How cute would invites be if mailed out with a bag of orange circus peanuts candy? This theme could be used for any celebratory occasion.

My obsession with this theme started two years ago when I purchased a vintage circus toy box at Goodwill on 50% off day for $10. While I did not use it for this event – it will make an appearance at a future circus/carnival party for certain.  I have collected and been gifted with vintage circus/carnival themed decor for two years from friends and family.  My sister, Lisa, and friend, Debbie, get to claim the finders awards for gifting me some of my best treasures. I bought some terrific additions to my circus/carnival collection this past year in Iowa, Tennessee, and California on antiquing trips.  Take a peek at these photos and enjoy the whimsy and ideas for your own party!

Photo booth

We weren't allowed to hang anything on the walls. So for the photo booth my handy hubby made me these concrete filled buckets with removable poles. I set the poles/buckets on two chairs to give plenty of height (I covered the buckets with zebra fabric). Strung between the poles was a "Circus Fun" pennant banner and paper red/white streamer. I pinned red/white striped fabric to the wall as a photo backdrop circus tent feel.


photo booth props

Photo booth props included clown noses, hats, boas, silly glasses, open frames, masks shaped like clown mouths, lions, zebras, & elephants.

Registration table

The registration table was made to look like a midway game booth. I used two concrete filled buckets with removable poles (made by Brad the builder) and strung clothesline in between the poles. The clothesline and poles were covered in stuffed animals attached by clothespins. We added balloons and some extra little touches and ended up with a lot of pizzazz at the entry. Anne & Cheryl worked registration - but Kathy posed as the model in this picture. :)



We covered the tables in red & white table cloths. In the center of each table were stuffed animals to which we tied red, white, & yellow helium filled balloons. We sprinkled peanuts in the shell and carnival candy around the stuffed animals...including mustache lollipos for silliness.


Party favors

The party favors were a popcorn bag filled with the prayer cards, chalk, and directions for praying for the upcoming event (It included an arena map with a different section circled to be prayed for by each person).

door prizes

We had an area for door prize registration and for women to guess how many kisses were in the jar...prizes were given away later during the event. I made a "hit the can" game with vintage looking circus peanut wrappers glued around empty soup cans turned upside down. I curled around "tickets" for whimsical decor (these were not their door prize tickets),& embellished this table with an old circus 45 record, vintage circus program, noise makers, and vintage Barnum & Bailey popcorn bags.




Food table

All over the food table I sprinkled peanuts in the shell and used vintage books, antique noise makers, tins, puzzles, kalidescopes, etc...all circus themed of course.


We used a large popcorn maker and then filled popcorn bags and set them in large, square buckets from Dollar Tree.

Food table 2

I found cute circus tent bags at Michaels. I glued two together over a dowel I painted red and poured loose kernel popcorn inside of individual popcorn containers (Dollar Tree) and added pom pom fringe to the bottom of the bag. Popcorn/hotdog banners were glued to the dowel too. I tied ribbon on the dowel (which wasn't done yet when I took this photo). I layered bright colored fabric over the red table cloth because this big room needed color. I stacked boxes of Barnum circus animal crackers (Walmart) for decor along with a ring toss game purchased from Party City.

cotton candy

I bought individual circus animal cookies (12 to a box at Wal-mart) and placed them in a bowl. Those are vintage carnival straws (thanks Lisa) propped up against the cookies. Plates and napkins were put ina large popcorn bucket (Dollar Tree). Our budget didn't allow for the adorable circus tent napkins and plates currently at Michaels.


I made several of these carnival pennants to tuck into the food scape and registration tables.



I found this authentic icecream sign in Iowa this past summer. We placed it on a large easle to add height to the table. It allowed us to tuck the coffee underneath the easle.


 (3% pinwheel

Hobby Lobby had these great, huge pinwheels so I picked some up (naturally on sale; 30% off). I have two white columns my handy hubby made into holders that fit these pinwheels perfectly which added height to the table. Like a good pair of shoes - every woman should have a handy hubby - or be handy herself. I added this vintage sheet music from the musical "Carnival". Strung between the two pinwheels was a bright colored paper streamer.


I made a "circus fun" pennant banner and tied it to the cupcake stand.

Anne at food table

Here is Anne standing in front of the food table. You can see the paper streamer strung between the large pinwheels. The ceilings in this room were very tall so the scale of these pinwheels worked perfectly.

Cotton candy sign

You can see by this cotton candy sign - our colors were red and turquoise.

silly straws

Here is yours truly with my clown mouth and nose. I found these silly straw toppers at Hobby Lobby.

circus peanut candy

Bags of circus peanut candy (Walmart) were so cute with the lettering and clown picture I set the bags out in a large bowl for decor more than a real snack.


I found this vintage circus poster in Iowa this summer...I used spray adhesive and mounted it to foam board. I laid a colorful paper streamer (Party City) over the top of it after I set it in an easle. Balloons and another large pinwheel dressed up the stage/podium area.

door prize signs

I painted paint stir sticks red and mounted "Circus Fun" signs on the sticks. These gals shouted out "Step right up and register for a door prize" while waving their signs.


While this was a "womens event" we would have been lost without Howard's help. He worked in the kitchen, was our photographer in the photo booth, and helped set up the registration table and run sound. Three cheers for Howard - servant's heart award goes to him!


Napkins cups straws

We placed the cups and napkins in popcorn buckets. I had a vintage clown mug we used for coffee stirers. A cute vintage circus book set in an easle adds to the circus mood along with the peanuts.

more color

This room was quite large - we used pennants to add color to the room. These are from a pack from Party City. It came with a streamer penant that was used across the front of the stage.


Food table

Here's another section of the food table...lots of vintage circus/carnival items were tucked in everywhere on the tablescape. I set out a large bowl of animal crackers with a scoop in addition to the Barnum Animal crackers.


Betsy & Mary Margaret

Here's the stars of our show...Ms. Betsy & Ms. Mary Margaret. You would have had to be here to see them walk the high was quite a performance!

Ringmaster Carrie

Here's our volunteer city coordinator and ringmaster, Carrie, and Betsy, Lifeway Event Coordinator, getting ready for the "Best Show on Earth!"


Promotional Table

We had a table of promotional materials. Paper pinwiheels were taped to the front of the table, smaller colorful pinwheels that matched the pennant banner joining this table to the food table were added for height. In the center was a circcus bean bag toss game (Party City) and some vintage circus tickets.



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