Before I get started, I thought I’d make a quick confession. Somewhere in Grandma Mary’s stack of family photos, there is a photo of 6 year old me, a gap where my front teeth should be, perched on a banana-seat bike with streamers hanging from the handlebars. I am wearing a Western shirt and green corduroy trousers. My cowboy hat is hanging from my neck, slung over on my back. All of the adults walking past in the photo are wearing Lee jeans and cowboy boots and western shirts.
No, it wasn’t a themed day out… we sort of just dressed like that.
Come to think of it, my dad still dresses like that.
Don’t laugh – that’s what happens when you actually LIVE in the Wild West, in a dusty town in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Where the men look like Bradley Cooper and have broken bones from bucking broncos rather than from a game of football. Where people place bets on how long a small child can ride a sheep (really…it’s called Mutton Bustin’). Where tumbleweeds actually do tumble by on a windy day.
So while I still can’t quite master a lasso, I’ve seen my fair share of Rodeo style Wild West parties (although funnily enough they were just called parties) and have 5 great little tips to get you started.
1. Dress the part
If you and your kids don’t happen to have Western outfits to hand, some of the best ones I’ve come across were on FancyDress.com – they have a Cowgirl Sweetie outfit which really is quite sweet, sheriff’s badges, false moustaches, bullet belts, gunslinger outfits, and a rather fabulous Wild West sheriff dress. The latter will probably ignite some gossip among the School Run Mums so you may want to save this one to liven up Date Night instead. For the kids, if you want to make use of that Amazon Prime account, there are also some cute Woody and Jessie fancy dress outfits on Amazon.
2. Pop some popcorn
I don’t know why, but everyone out West eats a lot of popcorn. We eat it plain, with salt, with butter, salt and butter, powdered cheese, chilli flakes, powdered sour cream and chives, caramel, toffee with peanuts, white chocolate… whatever we happen to have to hand.
I use an Andrew James popcorn maker (only about £20 on Amazon) which, as the name suggests, uses hot air to pop the kernels so you don’t need to use any oil or butter. In other words, a genuinely healthy snack the kids will looooove. Word of warning – this popcorn maker makes some seriously delicious popcorn but where it fails is actually shooting all of the popcorn in the same direction. The result is that about three quarters goes in the bowl and the rest goes shooting all over the kitchen in a rather hilarious way. In our house this is part of the fun, as is running around shouting “5 second rule!!” and eating as many of the escapees as possible.
The most mess-free way to serve it is to make some little paper cones… in fact, check out this wonderful Pinterest board with lots of inspired popcorn cones you and the kids can make at home.
3. Play Rattlesnake Tag
Everyone lines up single file, holding on to the person in front of them – like a conga line. The person at the front (the rattlesnake’s head) has to try to catch the last person on the end (the tail). It’s absolutely pure silliness and a real laugh. And not nearly as scary as playing tag with real rattlesnakes.
4. Have a game of Horseshoes
Unless you trust a gang of cake-fuelled children flinging steel horse shoes around, you’re going to want to get yourself a foam version of the game. There’s a nice one on Amazon for just under £9.
5. Settle down and enjoy watching Woody and Jessie on DVD
Toy Story is of our favourite films of all time, and one that always leaves the dads misty-eyed… just be aware that some younger children find the nasty little boy from Toy Story 1 and the evil toys from Toy Story 3 really scary. If you don’t have your own copy, you can always download Toy Story from LoveFilm or similar – otherwise eBay is a great first place to look for an affordable Toy Story box set.
Forget the goody bags!
Instead, I’d recommend setting some time aside to make some themed cake pops for the guests to take away with them… they’re surprisingly easy to make, and you can buy packs of lollipop sticks with mini cellophane bags and twist ties, as well as Candy Melts in various colours from Hobby Craft. I came across these superb little cowboy cake pops on the Kumquat Blog:
Well that’s it from me… what else would you add to your Wild West party?
Many thanks to Ladbrokes for getting us started with a Wild West hamper!