Create a kids zone brimming with activities as well as red, white and blue craft supplies such as star stickers. Red- and blue-striped straws make a festive display in a Mason jar. Tiki tabletop candles add color and ambient lighting and help repel mosquitoes.Photo by Photo: Tiki Brand
Easy, colorful decorating is as simple as inserting flags into pots of flowers.Photo by Photo: Tiki Brand
July Fourth is all about grilling and chilling.
The long holiday weekend — thanks to the Fourth falling on Friday this year — calls for relaxing with family for food, fireworks and backyard fun. Decorating in festive red, white and blue is the expected choice for any Independence Day party, but designer Kellie Clements has some ideas to put a fresh spin on your family fun.
Clements, who was voted the Fan Favorite on Season 6 of HGTV's "Design Star," suggests trying the unexpected. Mimic a stars and stripes theme, but use black-and-white striped fabric with red or blue plates.
"I think you can deviate from the traditional flag and stars and use turquoise, white and hot pink. Or navy, raspberry and light blue. Mix it up so it looks festive, but doesn't scream I ran right out to the store," she says.
The interior designer offered more tips to celebrate your independence from ho-hum parties.
1. Show your colors: Just adding small flags in potted plants, inside utensil holders or at place settings can ramp up holiday spirit. It's easy and inexpensive.
2. Occupy the kids: Clements, mother of two boys ages 9 and 5, says it's important to keep children entertained.
"Having children under your feet while trying to visit with friends is not at all relaxing. If you provide some age-appropriate games, your guests will love you for it.
"Sidewalk chalk is great because it washes off. You can use it more places than the driveway or front walk. If you have a wooden fence around the yard, set up a bucket filled with sidewalk chalk and let kids draw. Draw a little something on the fence first to encourage them, so they know what the chalk is there for. Sometimes we've drawn a big target with chalk and thrown water balloons at it," she says.
3. Old-school super soakers: Another game she suggests is hanging a hula hoop from a sturdy tree branch and letting kids throw water balloons through the hoop.
"There are balls made for use in the pool that you can soak in water before throwing. Throw them through the hoop. The kids who catch them get wet, get to play in water without being in a pool, so it's a safe activity for little kids."
4. Circle the wagons: Ask parents to bring their children's favorite transportation -- bikes, trikes, wagons or scooters. Provide red, white and blue craft materials for kids to decorate their wheels, then have a parade to show off their creativity.
5. Designate kid zones: For children, seating should be low to the ground or on blankets to avoid spills out of adult-sized chairs, Clements says. This will prevent mom and dad from having to help them up and down repeatedly and will also ensure there is plenty of space at the adults' table.
Also keep guests circulating to avoid congestion around the drinks and food. Have a drinks station separate from the food area. Make s'mores around the firepit. The food/dining area should be far enough away from kids' activities that adults won't have to dodge stray balls.
6. Festive food: Clements says it's easy to incorporate the Fourth's colors into your food.
"Nothing says July Fourth like a watermelon and blueberry salad with the watermelon cut out in star shapes. This can be done quickly by slicing the melon then using a small star-shaped cookie cutter."
Or, just lay pieces of watermelon and blueberries in stripes on a tray for a faster, easier version of the idea.
"You can make Jell-O molds with red or blue gelatin. You can freeze blueberries in ice cubes and throw them in a pitcher of water for a subtle touch. I think it's just important to have fun with it."
7. Parting surprises: Provide paint pens and plastic cups at the drink station. Guests of all ages can decorate their cups to make sure no one snags their drink during the party, then they'll have something memorable to take home.
"If it's a party for just adults, you could give out little bottle openers. If it's not, bubbles are good for kids," suggests Clements -- again useful for the party and afterward.
8. Southern sipping: More guests than glasses? There's always red or blue Solo cups, but pouring drinks into Mason jars just oozes Southern hospitality. They can be purchased in cases of 12 at most local grocery stores.
9. Conversation starters: Clements says a recent study done on outdoor entertaining showed that nearly 40 percent of Americans repurpose items they already have for outdoor use. The designer took a weathered piece of wood and carved a rectangular hole in its center. She set the board on top of two step ladders to make a stand, then dropped in a plastic planter filled with ice and colorful drink bottles. Instant drink station.
10. Provide plenty of ambient lighting: Keep the party going after dark with tiki torches and Geo buckets, which are hurricane candles that come in red, white or blue and are filled with citronella to keep mosquitoes away. Clements also suggests TIKI brand's new globes, which are tabletop candles that glow with color from within as well as giving light from its flame. A variety of ambient lighting adds style to a party, she says.
Although she didn't win "Design Star," Clements says the television exposure has opened up a range of opportunities. In addition to her own company, Modern Whimsey, she has her own line of window coverings through Blinds Galore and is spokeswoman for TIKI products.
"One of the things I've loved is being able to speak to college students and different local groups, getting to tell my story about my faith and everything that's happened to me."
Contact Susan Pierce at email@example.com or 423-757-6284.
Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...