Throw a Super Bowl party your neighbors will be talking about

Are you ready for some football? How about a Super Bowl party?



Mary Lou Wilson of Alton knows all the ins and outs of entertaining. In fact, she wrote the book on it: Party Like a Pro: Real People, Real Parties.

A former professional party planner, her unique and fun ideas on throwing memorable parties have been featured in Family Circle magazine, among others, and years ago her Super Bowl party planning tips were featured on the back of frozen pizza boxes.

Martha Stewart has “really raised the bar,” Wilson said, when it comes to entertaining, “and this intimidates a lot of people. But you don’t have to spend a lot of money and everything doesn’t have to be homemade to throw a great party.”

Super Bowl Sunday is one of the biggest party days of the year in the United States, according to Wilson, so finding themed decorations is a snap.

But you don’t have to buy out the party store: “Decorate from the center out, to put the focus on what you want to show off.”

The Super Bowl starts late, so instead of a meal, serve appetizers and at halftime serve a football-shaped cake or football ice cream cake for dessert. Of course peanuts and popcorn are easy and inexpensive.

Think about “little bites of things” that you can pick up in bulk at a discount superstore, or frozen pizza with toppings that people can add themselves. Cut the pizza in three-inch pieces, Wilson suggested.

“It’s easier for guests to handle and leaves room for other munchies on their plates.”

Use a large cooler or a new or clean trash container lined with a contractor-size plastic bag outside for drinks, cover with ice or snow to keep cold.

If you’re serving alcohol, don’t feel you have to put out a full bar. Have some red and white wine and beer. Be sure to have lots of soft drinks, including calorie-free seltzer or diet soda, or cider.

Having a lot of people or families with kids? Have a separate cooler or tub just for non-alcoholic beverages.

“Think about who’s coming, and how you can help them have a good time. If not everyone will know each other, it’s a good idea to have an ice breaker game to get everyone to participate and have fun.”

Families can make up cheers to perform (give them a few interesting words they have to use and provide pompoms) or give a prize for the best team spirit as indicated by game-day outfits. Set up a grid where people pick numbers and “bet” on the outcome. Or do a round of football trivia.

Since Mardi Gras is two days later, get pony beads and lanyard string from the craft store and let your guests string beads in the home team’s colors.

Of course people will want to watch the game, so set-up will be centered around the big TV. But if kids are along, plan some other activities for entertainment and to keep them happily and safely occupied.

If you have another TV in a rec room, basement or den, turn on Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl, show a video or set up a computer to stream a kids’ movie.

Have a “kids’ corner” with Legos or other games or toys, age-appropriate for your younger guests. Or let them play bingo with players’ numbers.

“You’ll need a kid-friendly alternative so they’re not demanding attention from their parents,” Wilson said. “Plan a minimum of three things for them to do.”

If you know there will be lots of kids coming, consider hiring a babysitter to keep them entertained.

“If kids get hungry they get fussy, and hungry and tired is a really bad combination,” Wilson noted, so be sure to have a menu just for them.

“Finger food like pigs in a blanket are best. Whatever you decide, make it easy to put together, easy to eat without a fork and knife: pizza, chicken fingers or nuggets, carrots and celery sticks with peanut butter or hummus, something solid.”

Staying for the late show?

“I wish it wasn’t so late,” said Wilson, but Super Bowl Sunday is always a late night for grown-ups on the East Coast, never mind the kids.

“As a parent, decide how late you’re going to stay before you go to a Super Bowl party. Have a plan and stick with it, based on the age of your children and when you have to be at work on Monday.”

You can leave at halftime and record the game to see later, if your kids are into it, Wilson said.

“Just make sure they’re fed and busy, and leave at 9 or at halftime when you said you would.”

Get your pre-game on!

“Have a pre-game party at 4 in the afternoon, and feed everyone at 6:30,” Wilson suggested, as a more reasonable alternative for young children. Have a football cake or cupcakes, play games like tabletop football, dress like the players. Then your guests can go home and watch the game in their jammies.

But the most important thing is to plan ahead. Once you’ve taken care of all of the details on your list, you can relax and enjoy your own party and guests. Go team! 

Mary Ellen Hettinger, APR is an award-winning reporter, editor and writer, and accredited public relations professional.

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