Back to School Picnic

The purpose of this get-together was for the children in my daughter’s first grade class to have some fun and get reacquainted prior to the first day of school.  As a former teacher I know how crazy things can be on the first day in the classroom.  As a parent I wanted to do something to help the back-to-school experience go well.  Several of the children, my daughter included, were quite anxious about the new school year so this event helped ease some of their nerves.  It was also an opportunity for families new to the school to meet returning families and the new students were able to make some friends.

My husband and I sponsored the event at a nearby military recreation spot.  Since we paid the reservation fee, I wanted to keep all of our other costs at a minimum, which allowed me to be creative with the decorations.

With a school year theme in mind and the school colors as my starting point, I rooted around in our garage, gathering up anything blue or yellow and school related.  I also collected things that could work as picnic/playground games.

Things I repurposed:  plastic water bottles, toilet paper tubes, stop signs, scrap wood, tin cans, alphabet magnets, alphabet flash cards, blue valences from our first apartment

Things I had on hand:  several white tablecloths and sheets, plastic cones, white & colored paper, river pebbles, paper napkins, small clear cellophane bags with twist ties, tissue paper, ribbon, mini clothespins and regular clothespins, paper bags, chenille stems, felt, wooden dowels, paint, paint chips (well, okay, I got to make a trip to Lowe’s and Home Depot for those, but they were free)

Things I bought:  bag of Navy beans, black chalkboard spray paint, white plastic IKEA picture frames, white IKEA vases, 3 white sheets from the IKEA As-Is bin (yes, I’m kinda obsessed with IKEA)

Things I made:  2 welcome banners that hung from trees around our picnic site, 3 chalkboard signs to direct people where to park, 12 centerpieces including pennant flags featuring the school uniform plaid and 5 dozen paper bag flowers, 48 tablecloth weights that turned out to be the most important items I brought, a whiffle ball toss game, 8 paint chip garlands and two “Happy School Year” paint chip banners.  (I shared a few pictures of the process in this post.)

Some confessions:  It was windy at the picnic site, so basically all of the decorations ended up being pointless.  I didn’t get to hang any banners or garlands except for the welcome ones.  The parking lot was extremely crowded because so many events were going on all around the park that day.  At one point, the lot was closed and people were turned away at the gate, so the chalkboard signs were essentially useless.  Despite my best intentions, I took only about six pictures at the event.  This must be why event organizers and event photographers are not one in the same person.  Most of the pictures featured here were taken at my home, after the fact.

On the up side, more than 60 people attended the event and everyone had a blast!

I don’t think I’ll be taking on another project like this anytime soon.  For the Fall, I’ll stick with decorating my own house where I have greater control over the elements.  Here’s a preview of what I’m working on:

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