Last year for my son's 4th birthday I was determined to host a Halloween Carnival, although I'll admit I'm not sure if it was more for him or me. I mean seriously, who doesn't love Halloween AND Carnivals?! So, I consulted my husband and started a budget... both said NO WAY! Did I let a little thing like a budget stop me? Heck no, I threw that piece of paper out the window... Just kidding! I actually threw my husband out... Haha, just kidding again!! But, I did have to get creative with my ideas so he didn't throw me out (probably not kidding).
The first thing was no tent (yes, I know there is a tent in the picture and we'll get to that), but I really did envision rows of carnival games, with lights strung around the backyard to illuminate them, and the warm glow of the campfire on a crisp fall night. A girl can dream. Next, I kept the food rather simple (well simple in my mind anyway). Third, I decided to make all of the games and props by myself, and when I say by myself I mean with the help of my mom, step-dad, dad, uncle and aunt, and probably even a few others I forgot to mention. Finally, I scavenged craigslist and friends for free supplies, sweet talked the guys at Home Depot for some freebies, and used every coupon I could find (thank God JoAnn's takes multiple & competitor coupons).
Once I had a plan, a new small (but workable) budget, some helpers and supplies we got to work on the props. This was a fun weekend filled with laughs, painting, sawing, measuring, drilling and drinking. Did I mention how crazy sore and exhausted we were after this little weekend adventure?!
For the game backdrops I got the guys over at Home Depot to give me all of these huge door boxes that we cut and painted. They even delivered them to my house for me FOC!! My parent's neighbor had a ton of left over lumber from a recent deck teardown that we had free access to and I just happen to have a few gallons of black & white paint on hand. From the boxes, lumber and paint we were able to make all 8 game backdrops. Free-standing too, remember my vision from above? We also made the ticket booth, spider swamp balance beam, the hungry ghost, all game signs, a directional sign, and all of the food & drink table backdrops. If you're keeping tabs on my budget up until this point, we're still at $0.00.
I bought a ton of Halloween trinkets for prizes from Dollar Tree, Meijer, Walmart, and Target. I scoured the $1.00 bins and didn't get toys or candy that cost more than $0.25 a piece. I wanted a bunch of prizes so the kids could feel like they were at a real carnival, winning prizes for playing the games!
True to my original plan, I made every single one of the games (except for the tattoos and bounce house). We had a spooky spider swamp, which I used the balance beam we made on our weekend adventure above and surrounded it with the filling from some old pillows friends were going to throw out and some giant paper mache spiders I made.
There was also a mystery bowls box, which we used noodles, jello, cauliflower and bags of warm soup to make the kiddie's imaginations squirm. We had pumpkin bowling, made out of empty 2 liter bottles that I painted to look like ghosts and a pumpkin that we rolled at them (be sure to remove the stem first). Witch hat ring toss was made by painting the paper witch hats I found at JoAnn's and tossing some embroidery circles I found at the thrift for almost free.
For hungry ghost I used felt scraps I had and I made candy corn bean bags to toss into the hungry ghost's mouth. We had a tattoo station and even a can knock down. For this I just simply taped Halloween scrapbook paper around some used cans and added some balls I already had from a previous party.
In addition to the carnival games we had a bounce house (this was a gift to the birthday boy from his grandparents so my budget and husband were still happy) and a campfire.
For food I stuck with hot dogs and chips... simple, inexpensive and easy. I did a sweets table with typical carnival and Halloween foods. And for the drinks we had water, pop, and apple cider.
So that covers it! You still wondering about the tent? Well, we do live in Michigan and October is a very unpredictable month. See the image below... we are the red dot! It was very wet and cold that day, but the show must go on right? We ordered the tent the night before and boy did we need it... it down poured all throughout set up and only stopped about 15 minutes before the party started. Miraculously the sun came out and it cleared up for the entire party and only started raining again as the last family was pulling out of our driveway.
We sure had fun despite all the work and the rain & cold. Check out my Facebook page for more pictures. And if you want to throw your own Halloween carnival be sure to check out the Halloween Carnival Collection available for Instant Download in my etsy shop!