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Throw a theme party

For most of us, summertime means entertaining. And Buffalo loves a party in the summer, which begins for many sun-starved Western New Yorkers when the thermometer crosses 60 degrees. While meeting friends out at a local establishment is always fun, it can get expensive — and there’s something special about getting friends together at your home.

Instead of throwing the same old cocktail party this summer, consider a theme party. Picking a theme takes the guesswork out of the menu — whether you’re having a backyard picnic (fried chicken and potato salad), Mexican fiesta (taco bars are fun) or a kitchen clam bake (if you have a big pot or two, you don’t need a beach). Stumped for ideas? Here are a few quick and easy themes to get you started — happy summer!

Backyard Drive-In

Drive-ins are few and far between these days, so host a drive-in in your own backyard. With a sheet, laptop, speakers and projector, you can host a family-friendly party that will take advantage of those warm summer nights.

What to serve: Keeping with the party theme, set up your own “concession stand” with treats like popcorn with fun mix-ins (M&M’s, mini marshmallows and chocolate chips), movie theater-style candy and nachos. Buckets with water, pop and adult beverages on ice fit the beverage bill.

What to do: Comfy seating is a must, so arrange plenty of blankets and pillows on the lawn, along with some patio furniture and lawn chairs in the back of your seating area. Tack up a large white sheet to a fence or use clothespins to hang from a clothesline, doubled, with some bricks or rocks to keep it anchored to the ground. Run a strand or two of lights around the sheet’s border to bump the viewing experience up a notch. Set up your laptop, projector and speakers (or you can rent from many local AV businesses) and definitely do a run-through ahead of time to work out the kinks before your guests arrive. Remember lighting, because once the movie ends it’s dark out! Twinkling lights, candles or tiki torches are in order both for ambiance and safety.

Mexican Fiesta

Elevate Taco Tuesday and gather your friends around for a Mexican fiesta. Who doesn’t love tacos and margaritas?

What to serve: A taco bar is festive, inexpensive and sure to please. Grill some marinated steaks and chicken, slice thinly and serve buffet-style with all the fixings — shredded cheese, rice, black beans, chopped lettuce, onions, guacamole, salsa, etc. You can’t go wrong with pitchers of margaritas (an easy shortcut is beer margaritas — combine one can of thawed limeade, one can of tequila and two beers — mix in a pitcher and serve) and icy buckets of Coronas.

What to do: Pick up a piñata, fill with adult treats (coffee gift cards, bottle openers, mini bottles of liquor, candy and gum are sure to cause a frenzy), grab a blindfold and bat and let the games begin.

Throwback Kids’ Party

Do you ever feel like all the fun is wasted on the young? Camp. Play dates. College. Birthday parties. Take back your childhood and host an old-fashioned kids’ party with some adult twists.

What to serve: Keep it easy and fun. Pizza, sliders and pigs in a blanket are sure to please. Pull out the fire pit (or turn on the grill) and cap off the night with some s’mores — they’re not just for kids! As for drinks, spiked milkshakes or lemonade are a nice twist on typical beer and wine. You can really go old school and serve Jell-O shots and wine coolers. Not to worry — Uber is here!

What to do: This is where the theme shines — grab a red bouncy ball, pick teams (with captains like it’s the ‘70s, no participation trophies allowed) and play good, old-fashioned backyard games. Kickball, dodgeball, wiffle ball and Red Rover are fun to revisit. Not into games? Rent or borrow a karaoke machine or set up a craft station with boondoggle, God’s Eye supplies (with instructions printed out!) and tattoos (temporary, of course).

Pig Roast Pot Luck

If you want to throw a party to remember, a pig roast is a surefire way. Not for amateurs, there are a number of local caterers in the area who specialize in pig roasts — try Flying Pig Roast or Colby’s. They will deliver the beast on a spit, completely cooked and ready to serve.

What to serve: If you are springing for the pig, this is a perfect party to do pot luck sides and desserts. Ask your guests what they’d like to bring with some helpful suggestions, and keep track of the dishes to avoid five trays of mac and cheese. Classic barbecue sides complement the main attraction — corn bread, baked beans, cole slaw and macaroni salad can fill out the menu. Stick to simple drinks like lemonade, sangria and beer.

What to do: Eat! A pig roast is definitely a low key, outdoor affair so have plenty of places to sit, and set up outdoor games like bocce, croquet and badminton. And don’t forget the wet naps.

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