50 is the new…50?

Birthday week concludes…

Phew.  Between extended hours birthday activities and a revisit from the chest cold thingy, I missed posting yesterday; that leads to a rare Sunday post.

I’ve noticed that each succeeding birthday post has gotten longer and today’s is no exception.  I’m thinking it might have to be split into two posts.  This might be acceptable, since I still have some birthday lunches planned for next week as well.

With that settled, let’s dive in…

Regular readers (both of you) will remember me mentioning more than once my plans to retire from my last company on my 50th birthday, creating a nice symmetry with my 15th anniversary with them and an opportunity for a big party.  Circumstances led to a situation offering a choice to “get out” a year earlier, which I elected to do.  The only drawback I could possibly see in the whole affair was that my planned big party was no longer likely.

Being a big fan of birthdays (you think?), I found this to be an unsatisfying result, so I began to wrack my brains for some idea that could capture both the magnitude of the “roundie” birthday and allow me to invite the widest number of guests.

I hit upon the thought that someone else shouldn’t have to be responsible for throwing me a 50th birthday party, especially when I now had more time on my hands than anyone else.  Remembering the party that was thrown for me five years earlier, I decided a full-scale barbecue celebration was the perfect solution.  By this time, my barbecue and hosting skills had matured significantly, so I was certain I could pull this off.

There was a lot of pre-work and planning needed.  Getting the permit for the pavilion, choosing the decorating theme, deciding on the food choices, scouting the pavilion area for size and logistics (it was five years ago, after all) and emailing all the invites to everyone.

I started early with the invites, as I wanted to create the most convenient weekend day to allow the most guests to be able to attend.  Several days were offered and thrown out before the ultimate date was set.  Kids were not only welcome, but encouraged (who doesn’t love kids at a picnic pavilion?) and the confirmations trickled in.  My friends are not always the most punctual when it comes to RSVP’s, even when given a month or two advance warning.  I just factor that into the mix when planning (per Mom, if 15 are coming, cook for 30).

A substantial amount of people had already said yes, so I felt I had a clear enough picture of how much food and supplies to pick up.  Of course, though admonished otherwise, I knew some people would also bring food, beverages and gifts.  I factor that into my plans as well.  Experience is a big plus when hosting parties.

As anyone who has done big outdoor parties can attest, it’s more than just the obvious things like food and tableware.  With that many people, you need places for the food, places for the condiments, places for the drinks, enough spacing of the seating, easy trash can access and that’s just for the guests.  For me to get everything ready, I would also need to bring my BBQ grill from home and start cooking early in the day (I planned the party for the afternoon, which both allowed everyone time to do normal weekend stuff and me time to cook).  Cooking at the park meant I would need to bring all my seasonings with me and need additional coolers to store the pre-cooked food on ice.

My scouting trip allowed me to draw up a “site map” which showed where I would set up folding tables on one edge of the pavilion to hold serving trays (heated by those little sterno cans); where I would place the drink coolers, which tables could be the “plates, plastic ware & napkin” station and which corner to best situate the grill.

Mixing my shopping between a variety of stores (Wal-Mart, Western Beef, Party City, Target, and more); I assembled a whopping amount of stuff.  Add in transporting tables and the grill and I had to rent a truck to drive everything to the park.  As these things always turn out, they didn’t have one of those nice small trucks, so there I was driving a humongous rental truck, probably 3 sizes too large.

It was late May in Florida, so even loading the truck in the early morning was perspiration central.  My indispensable and heroic next-door neighbors provided me party-saving help that morning and later that evening.  I sing out their praises to all around me!

Finally, with guests confirmed, supplies and food purchased and the truck loaded, I carted off to the pavilion that early Sunday morning to make real the massive and incredibly crazy idea of hosting a 50th birthday party for myself and my friends.

With all that planning and forethought, the party was surely an amazing and stunning success, right?  Maybe, but you’ll have to come back tomorrow to find out for sure.

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