Friday, July 30, 2010

Parties, Parades and Fairs OH MY!

Tis the season...for spending your life away at all the wonderful summer festivals and parties!!! I looooove summertime in our city. SO MANY fabulous things to do. But there are a few things you can do to keep costs down and still have a great time!

Oh those wonderful small town kids love them because they still throw candy off the floats! They don't at the Ex parade (Aug 10th, don't miss it!) but we attend several fair days in the surrounding area and let me tell you, bring a shopping bag. They can be a little... generous, shall we say? And I have never been one to ply my children with candy so, what to do? This tip goes back to my Easter post...remember C-O-N-F-I-S-C-A-T-E? I let them carry the bag around all day, chomping on taffy, sucking on suckers and trying to figure out how to blow bubbles. Then when they crash later on at home I take the bags and separate all the candy. There is the bag that goes in the lunch cabinet (parades never have anything suitable for this, just Grandma's Easter's baskets and stockings do), the {small} bag of acceptable treats that are suitable for after supper, rainy afternoons, etc and then there is the mother load bag. The bag where the majority of the candy goes, hidden away on the very top shelf of my cold storage room and I use it for Halloween. I am a huge Halloween nut. I love the treat bags we make for the nieces and nephews, I love the costumes, I love driving all over to see the Aunties, Uncles and Grandparents and eating ourselves sick with those evil but delicious mini chocolate bars. It's just a fun family night! So of course I also used to strive to have the best candy on the block because when we were kids it was a big deal. There was the pic-a-pop house, the full size chocolate bar house, the house that gave away the coupons for the small fries at McDonald's. You knew which houses rocked and which ones gave out the stale Halloween molasses candies from 12 years ago. So in the first few years of our married life I spent a lot on Halloween. The house was decorated to the nines {I still do that} and the candy was outrageous. And we would get on average...6 kids. Are you kidding me??? But really, less and less kids are trick-or-treating these days and if there are more, they sure haven't been at the last 4 houses I have lived in. So I thought to myself, "Self, what is the most important thing to you on Halloween?" And the answer to that is of course to give my own children the best time ever. So I focus more on decorating our house, carving pumpkins {the boys did their own last year!}, roasting seeds, baking monster cookies, doing the costumes and visiting friends and family. We make a point to not even be home on Halloween now and I put out a HUGE bowl of candy on our front step with a friendly sign wishing everyone a Happy Halloween and to please leave some candy for the next kids to come along. But I have always wanted to set up a video camera to see if it's the first, second or third kid who dumps the entire bowl into their bag. LOL

Long story short, over the course of the year I collect an insane amount of candy for my Halloween stash. It saves us on average around $50 to $100 per year depending on what candy you buy. One year I gave out full size chips and chocolate bars. Together. And I was finding we had over half left over, even when I was super super generous. So instead of wasting money buying stuff I will just eat later anyway, I avoid the extra calories and give out what we already have. It's a win-win situation!

Another money sucker...the exhibition itself. Oh my but that can be a trying day. One year I tried to be super frugal about things to one treat per person, 2 rides, 3 games, one prize, etc. I said "NO!" 857 times and when we left everyone was crying. And I still spent $125. For a day where nobody had fun. Nobody appreciated the time together. It was hot, miserable and nobody got to do what they wanted. So I pose this question to you: Who is the exhibition for anyway?

I have come to the conclusion that the Ex is for us adults to get out for an evening and feel like kids again. I have plans to attend this year sans children. Did I put that bold enough? LOL There is a concert I want to see at the bandstand, some major disgusting calories I want to consume, I looooove the "infomercial building" as I call it and one night during the week I am going to be a "Creative Superviser" for the showcase of arts. Which really just means Corinne and I are going to sit and chat with each other while doing a few little projects while people browse around at the art exhibits. And maybe they will ask us what we are doing. :0) I got a free pass for the day for my volunteer work {volunteering=free stuff!} and I fully intend to take advantage of it. Walk around holding hands with the Hubs feeling like we are dating again. We will spend far less than what we would spend if we brought the boys...unless Hubs let's me buy stuff in the informercial building. LOL But, long story short you need to analyze if your children are really at an age to enjoy something like this. I know, I know, I am a Mum too. I like to give my children all kinds of cool experiences and spoil them with my time and effort. However {and this is a big however} is what you are doing actually for them or is it for you? Some kids just can't handle the overstimulation of the fair so why would you force them to participate in the face painting just so you can get photos for the scrapbook?

Before you make the Ex a family excursion, ask yourself these questions:

*Can afford it?

*Are the kids old enough?

*Are you going for them or for you?

If you answered yes all the way around and are headed out {with sunscreen and hat of course} here are a few tips to save some dollars:

*Pack a backpack with your own drinks. On average a small drink is $4. Times 4 people. $16 for drinks that last 8 seconds. And if you are there for several hourse you can bet you will be doing that at least 3 times. And that's if you say NO 12 times. That's almost $50 just in drinks. Bring your own!

*If you like to do the rides, plan ahead and buy the superpass. As soon as you do...what...more than 5 are riding for free. I am not up to date on how many tickets rides are these days...but a pass is $38 in advance and in my previous experience it cost around $7 for one midway ride.

*Pick the meal you want to eat at the fair. It's a very pricey day if you go right at lunch when everyone is starving and stay until supper. Plan ahead.

*Take in the free stuff! There is all kinds of free entertainment to be had! Seek out the reptile show, the sharks, the wandering clowns. Walk through the art exhibits. You are there...see it all!

*Choose the day that is best for you. They have special rates on different days that can save you a few dollars.

*Save yourself the frustration of parking and take public transit. It's free with a superpass and pretty cheap without one. And if you have the kids with you trust me, they will love riding the bus. If that is not an option, carpool. If you have more than 5 people in the vehicle, parking is free. Take advantage!

*Come heavily armed if you are bringing the children. Pack that bag like you have never packed it before...wet ones, washclothes, changes of clothes, waterbottles, bug spray, sun screen, camera, extra batteries, sunglasses, small first aid me, if you are all comfortable and well prepared it makes for a fabulous day! And don't forget the double stroller. Even my 5 year old can't walk a whole afternoon at the fair.

Do you have any tips for having a fun day at one of these huge festivals? Share them! And have a fabulous rest of the summer!


Jerri-Lea said...

Great post!! I'd be interested in what other small town parades you found!! I love them!!! See you at the EX parade and I totally agree, we are not going to the Ex. We've been once with CJ when she was little b/c we had free passes (for volunteering at the photography exhibit) and took in the DoodleBops concert!

sassy said...

I am not an ex fan myself-the prices floor me- and the rides make me queasy I much prefer to spend $10 in gas and head out of town to hike, rent a canoe or play in the sand. I totally agree about spoiling kids with time and effort-It seems the less $ I spend the MORE fun we have. Love your posts!

Wiebe Family said...

We go almost every year to the Ex, but we never take the kids. We go, have supper at the Ex (we do this every year), and walk around and look at the info-mercial stuff (my fave part), walk around the rides but never go on them, take in the free concert usually, share an elephant ear and call it quits. Its only once a year and we have only taken kids once. However we aren't sure if we are going this year. But we are still on for parade though right!

sassy said...

I have another free party idea-check out my blog and come if you can!