Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Program success: Mardi Gras Party

I am very anti Anti-Valentine's Day parties. It's not that I'm against what the programs are, but I'm very against the terminology. Alternative Valentine's Day or other such titles? They're great. But anti makes Valentine's Day something to be against. Which is silly.

Rather than doing a party in that style this year, though, I decided to offer the teens a Mardi Gras party instead. It was a hit!

Here's what I did:

I set up the program station-style, offering the teens a few options for activities. I had a station for cupcake decorating. My co-worker ordered 3 dozen unfrosted cupcakes from a local bakery, then she purchased green, gold, and purple frosting (the squeeze kind for maximum decoration ability), gold spray frosting, and sprinkles. I provided napkins and plates.

One station was my bead station. I went to Mardi Gras a few years ago and had about 15 pounds of real deal beads. I let the kids have at them. I thought they'd want to take a lot more than they did, but the kids were conservative in their taking. Even if you had to buy the beads, they are quite cheap to acquire.

I also had a mask making station. Do not underestimate how much teenagers love unrestricted access to glitter, gems, and feathers. I provided card stock, colored paper, and markers, crayons, and pencils, as well as scissors, glue and popsicle sticks. The mask above is the one I made, but the teens were super creative. I printed out about 6 different templates in the event the teens wanted them. A few did, but not all. Some went to town on their own.

To show off the face masks, my coworker brought in an old frame and I took digital photos of the teens posing behind it (faces obscured for obvious reasons, but you can see the tips of their masks):

The teens loved this, and I think there could be an entire fun program in doing photos using various frames, costumes, and teen-designed creations. The opportunities then to play with those images digitally, too, could offer even more.

The final event I did for the teens was a scavenger hunt so I could name a King and Queen of Mardi Gras. I did it early in the program and wish I'd waited because it was such a hit. I hid 45 chocolate coins in the programming room, and I told the teens the person who found the most would be King and the second most would be Queen. When one of the girls had the most chocolate, I told her she could pick to be King OR Queen and she wanted to be Queen. So I let her.

I wanted to give the winners a baby (since that's what's traditionally hidden in King Cake) but we couldn't locate any babies. So instead, I gave the winners my big Troth Parade pendants. They totally loved it (the kid in the photo about on the left has one of them).

Of course, in the background of the event, I was playing some Preservation Hall Jazz Band. I asked if they wanted the music louder than it was, and did they ever.

I had the program at 4 pm, which was an ideal time to do this. The teen area was PACKED with kids at 4, so I wandered over there, told them there was a program with food, and they came. And they didn't just come for the cupcakes -- they stayed. We even had a visit from the local paper who took photos. I'm eager to see how those turn out.

The total cost of this program was minimal: cupcakes and decorations, as well as whatever supplies you may need for mask making. The music came from our collection, the frame from a coworker, and that is all. This was such a great opportunity for me to get to know our teens (since this was my first program at my new job) and I got to pick their brains for ideas for future programs. I talked to them about the books, movies, tv, and music they liked and didn't like. Not only did I get to pick their brains, I loved spending time talking with them while they were making masks and finding out what it is they love doing. The girl above? Duct tape fiend. Her brother ended up showing me one of her creations which was so impressive, I made him email me the photo so I could post it on the library's Facebook to her credit.

I would do this program again in a heartbeat. I might add another station or two, but really, the kids came to hang out and eat. I can't complain about that.

Next up for us? We're doing a Fan Art Night as part of Teen Tech Week. I already heard some of the kids talking about how excited they were to do it.

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