It's time to party!

Posted: Sunday, May 23, 2010

Money is tight, oil is gushing into the ocean with no end in sight, and people are fighting over health care and the environment. People are scared. Pick up any newspaper and you'll see this fear manifesting as insanity. Besides an alien invasion, there is something small we could do to help our divided world come together more; throw more parties.

Happy people have lots of energy and energy is needed to tackle big problems. Happy people are open and receptive, not bogged down by the weight of the world.

People need to be informed, but ignorance is bliss. It's rare to find someone informed, blissful. Usually some of the people are partying it up Vegas style while the rest are burdened with tackling things like Social Security. There has to be a happy middle ground, a place where the partiers get informed, and the informed get to party. We need balance.

I realize some issues can't be solved at a party. If environmentalists went to a party with BP, as oil washes into the mouth of the Mississippi, it would turn into a wild-west chair-smashing brawl. But with a little extra thought some parties can help unite and point us toward understanding.

In my early twenties, I was a host helper in Los Angeles. I worked a different party every night. Here are some lessons I learned about great parties.

Abundance is key. Abundance at a party is nourishing. Think a medieval feasting scene. Good food and drink, live entertainment, roaring fire, comfortable seating, and someone to keep the mood light like a jingle-belled jester.

Buy more food and beverage than you think you'll need, even if it's a Juneau potluck. Things happen and sometimes guests can't get a dish together. You can always save it for later.

I once worked a Fourth of July backyard pool party in Bel Air. Host Helpers cost double on holidays, so the frugal hostess decided to skimp on food for the helpers. We were all hungry and disgruntled as we worked on one of the best holidays of the year, then she stiffed us on the tip. If you're lucky enough to have helpers, treat them to good food.

Don't overserve alcohol. Abundance isn't good when it comes to alcohol. Some people will take it so far they won't even remember your fabulous party. You want people sociable, not hammered. Weddings are especially troublesome. When you combine alcohol with family dynamics, and the pressure to create the 'perfect' day, stress hits the red zone.

I once worked a wedding reception for 200, with only one other helper. I bluffed my way into the bartender position because it paid more hourly. Let's just say I thought a margarita mix ratio is one-to-one. At the end of the night, guests were being poured into cabs as the other helper and I sang a Jimmy Buffet song with the band. An over-abundance of alcohol.

Mix it up

Just like a drink, parties need the right mix of ingredients to feel good. Witty, informed conversationalists are essential. You also need some kind of activity to get people to mingle. I had a sociology professor hand out different nametags for each guest with our new identities. People lost their inhibitions in their new identies, and the conversations got as lively as the names. She also staged the room so people were forced to stand and mingle. And she assigned questions to ask of others.

I had a lot of belly dancer friends who danced at parties, and invited me along. The energy in a room changes as soon as someone starts shaking their hips. Think Elvis? Dancers and dancing shake people out of their safe zones.


As a party or event approaches hosts start to worry. Did I get enough ice? Is anyone going to show up? Just prepare the best you can, then let it go. If panic shows up, kick it to the curb. Nobody enjoys an uptight, crabby host. And no one ever knows about the rolls that never got out of the oven. Let it go and have a good time.

Give to a cause

You can use a party to raise awareness of an issue that concerns you. Guests will go home feeling a little more warm and fuzzy toward others. And with a feeling of having helped. Conversations about issues may even lead to helpful ideas and action. A Juneau woman just had a hair-cutting party and then sent the hair to be made into a boom to help sop up the Gulf oil. Guests left feeling good about themselves, and groomed.

Party on!

Courtney Nelson is a Juneau resident breaking it down with sassy, sensible truths. She can be reached at

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