Party without the stress

Your young one’s 6th birthday is coming up in a couple months and she’s already informed you she’s moved past backyard parties with Uncle Fred dressed as a clown.

The au courant tyke wants it to be cool and different. There has to be music — a DJ, if you please. And a “bar” stocked with retro candies — gummies be gone. And tattoos — henna will suffice. Balloons — mylar, to be considerate of the latex-intolerant guest. And did you hear her? She said cool.

It has to be a birthday party to set a benchmark for the first-grade set.

Is that agita you feel? Angst? An anxiety attack?

Where do you start?

Do not fear, Claire Gilvar is here.

Gilvar had a similar experience and “realized there was a need for a hyperlocal planning tool for children’s birthday parties.” The result was the Westchester County-based Booked Parties, which debuted in 2014 as a website that collected various venues and vendors “to streamline the planning process and help give parents new ideas.”

The site, which is expanding into Fairfield County, caters to parents of children up to the age of 16 and includes bar/bat mitzvahs, quinceañeras and Sweet 16s.

So what was her background that enabled her to attempt this feat?

“Over a decade of experience in the events, public relations and personal assistant roles working for the likes of Dan Rather at CBS News, and then at David Yurman, John Hardy and L’Oréal USA.”

The Chappaqua resident explains that Booked Parties is not a traditional party-planning business. “The platform provides parents with a centralized location to research, review customer testimonials, contact and book vendors and venues and helps parents create the perfect party for their child.”

Earlier this year, Meryl Lefkowitz — a PR veteran — joined Booked Parties as its director of marketing and development.

Together, Gilvar and Lefkowitz took time out to answer some questions for us:

What are the trends now (rock climbing, swimming, etc.)? Do they vary by age group?

“Sports-themed birthday parties continue to be popular across all age groups.

Food carts and trucks and party trucks are other popular options. Parents want the convenience of having the party at home minus the cleanup. For example, one of our newer partners, The Art Truck, which is Connecticut’s only mobile art studio, delivers fun, educational birthday parties and events to your home, school or office. Their inspiring menu of hands-on projects offers creative experiences for all ages.

“We also have a number of  ‘animal experience’ businesses on the Booked Parties website, including Two by Two Zoo and Curious Creatures. These parties are always popular with all age groups.”

Are there any Dos and Don’ts to putting together a successful birthday party?

“While every party is different, there are a few standard things to follow to ensure a successful birthday party all around.

“Do always know your audience, make sure that birthday activities are age-appropriate and be aware of any food allergies among the kids invited.

“Don’t try a new activity you are not sure your child is going to like. This day is about them and you want to make sure the happiest kid at the party is yours.

“Do communicate with your party venue and vendors so they are aware of your wants and needs in order to make the party special for your child and your family.

“Don’t go above your budget. Stay within what makes you comfortable. It will be a much more enjoyable day for all of you.

“Do always have fun. Birthdays are a day to celebrate, so once the party starts, sit back and enjoy the fun, smiles and laughter.”

Why did you choose to expand to Fairfield County? Why not New York City or farther north up the Hudson Valley?

“As we looked at our expansion plan for Booked Parties, we felt as though it was a natural next step to reach into our neighboring county of Fairfield. With many like-minded parents and businesses as well as lots of crossover between Westchester and Fairfield, we felt as though it would be the best as the next market we entered.

“Booked Parties has already begun plans for expansion into many more markets in the surrounding areas before the end of the year, including Rockland County, Long Island, northern New Jersey and, yes, New York City.”

How did you come to choose the Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation for a portion of your proceeds?

“Booked Parties is not only about birthday parties. We are committed to giving back to the community by supporting local child-focused, not-for-profit organizations. With that said, we felt as we extended our business into Fairfield, we wanted to support a cause and in turn an organization that has resonated so deeply with us as well as so many others.

The Newtown-Sandy Hook Foundation does such great work within their community to help to further and support the operations and activities which address the short-term and long-term unmet needs of individuals and the Newtown community since the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012.  The foundation oversees the Sandy Hook School Support Fund, which provides mental health and wellness resources to hundreds of traumatized and grief-stricken children and adults, as well as grants to support the long-term quality and sustainability of services and organizations serving the community.”

We see you’re branching out with Booked Camps. Tell us how that came about.

“Yes, we are planning the official launch of Booked Camps toward the end of 2016. In the meantime, we are constantly updating information about camp-related opportunities on our Booked Camps Facebook page.

“Booked Camps is an online resource for parents to connect with local businesses providing camp programs for children in Westchester, Fairfield and surrounding areas.

“Many of the venues we partner with for Booked Parties also run camp programming. Whether it be traditional summer camping or school-break camps, we felt as though centralizing this information for parents to research and connect with these camps with be another helpful tool.”

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