Labor Day Picnic

Although you might be tempted to spend Labor Day doing anything but labor, a picnic is a nice way to gather with friends without breaking (much of) a sweat. Instead of planning another barbecue or beach party, head for the park, where you can relax with your friends and take in a little nature.
    You'll Need
  • Ingredients for each of the recipes and any serving tools, including metal skewers for the marshmallow toasting
  • Tools to clean picnic site (before and after picnic): paper towels, all-purpose cleaner, trash bags, metal dustpan for ashes, whisk broom
  • Tools to prepare grill: oven cleaner (really good for getting dried-on gunk off frequently used grills), wire brush, charcoal, lighter fluid, matches or lighter
  • Materials for favors: tumblers, craft/paint pens
  • Lawn and/or board games
  • Balloons
  • Large cooler, drink cooler for punch, ice
Date, Theme, Budget, and Venue
Labor Day—Traditionally observed the first Monday in September; check your calendar for this year's date. Arrive at your picnic site at about noon, and plan to eat at about 2:00 p.m.

All play and no work theme—Labor Day is a celebration of the workers and their families, so this year, honor your hard-working guests with a day filled with leisure. Plan a simple menu; take care of all the arrangements; purchase, borrow, or rent a few lawn games; and try to enjoy yourself.

Low budget—This simple party should only run you about $8 a person, if that.

The park venue—Do a little Internet research to find a park near you that allows you to reserve picnic sites. As many other people are likely to spend the day in the park, you'll want to ensure you have a great spot. Look for a park that has roomy sites with picnic tables, grills, and trashcans, as well as a public restroom nearby. You might have to make a few calls to find the right park with all your desired amenities.

Be sure to reserve your site as far ahead of time as possible because the really good spots are sure to fill up fast. Rental permits are usually inexpensive—less than $20—and you might even be able to make the arrangements online or over the phone.

Guest List and Invitations
Your guest list should include about 20 people. Invite friends, co-workers, and family; if you want to invite children, make sure your party is appropriate for all ages. You might also find out if dogs are permitted at your park of choice and, if so, invite guests to bring their pets.

For this casual party, Internet invitations are perfect. You can keep track of your guests and what they choose to bring, which will save you time and money.

Plan a potluck menu. Although you'll provide the basics, ask each guest to bring one item to contribute to the picnic, such as condiments, garnishes, buns, chips, cookies, ice, soda, paper plates, plastic utensils, cups, side dishes, and bottled water. For your part, plan this menu:

  • Appetizers—Deviled eggs, onion dip and potato chips, cheese and crackers
  • Side dishes—Terry Wilksen's Summer Salad, grilled corn on the cob, watermelon
  • Main course—Grilled sausages, hamburgers, and veggie burgers (garnishes: onion, lettuce, tomato, and cheese)
  • Dessert—Toasted marshmallows
  • Beverages—Cranberry Cocktail Punch Cooler (bring a bottle of vodka to spike the cooler if alcohol is permitted at your picnic site), soda, bottled water
If you have enough guests attending, ask them to bring menu items, such as cheese and crackers, onion dip and potato chips, or marshmallows. You can also ask them to supplement the menu with their own salads, desserts, or items to grill. Most web-based invitation systems enable you to keep track of what your guests are bringing, so check a few days before the party to ensure that you have the basics covered.

To add a touch of merriment to your party, spike the watermelon with vodka. A week before the party, cut a 1"-diameter hole in the watermelon and empty in the contents of a 750ml bottle of vodka (the cheap stuff is fine). Refrigerate until the day of the party.

If you have a tight budget, eliminate the hamburgers and switch the sausages to hot dogs. Your guests won't mind at all because park picnics are typically low-tech.

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More on: Holidays


Reproduced from Plan a Fabulous Party In No Time, by Tamar Love, by permission of Pearson Education. Copyright © 2005 by Que Publishing.

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