Friday, August 12, 2011


This past Sunday we had a pool party for about 35 friends. Summer vacation is coming to an end, and we wanted to get another fun pool party in before school starts up again and it’s “back to the old grind.” Of course, here northern Texas we've had 40-plus days in a row of 100 degree weather. The pool water’s warmed up to the point that some afternoons it feels like bath water, and with the air temperature as hot as it’s been, it was a bit of a challenge to create a refreshing pool party experience. Still, I think we managed.

Here are my suggestions for planning a “really cool” pool party for even during the hottest days of summer:

These days, I’m partial to Evite when it comes to sending out invitations for parties. They create have a great selection of electronic invitations for pool parties and cookouts. If you’d like to mail out printed invitations, has some really cute pool party invitations that you can order online for very reasonable costs. You just type in the particulars for your party (when, where, etc.) and they’ll mail the customized invitations to you.

On your invitations, remind your guests to come dressed prepared to swim, sunbathe, and enjoy outdoor activities. Along with clothing, ask them to also bring their own sun block and beach towels (unless you have a lot of extra beach towels and don’t mind doing a lot of laundry after the party!).

--Decorate serving tables and eating tables with shells, driftwood or pieces of coral.
--Make centerpieces out of silk or dried flowers set into a piece of floral foam that has been inserted into a large conch shell.
--Set up both indoor and outdoor tables for your guests to eat it. Parents in particular may not want to eat their meal out in the hot sun, although their kids probably will want to.
--For a practical outdoor table centerpiece, place spritzer bottles of water placed in ice buckets on each table so that your guests can periodically spray themselves to cool off.
--Hang a garden hose on a wall up high a few feet from the pool, put it on a fine mist setting, and let that spray a fine mist of water on guests where they can sun or rest at the side of the pool.
--At dusk, place floating pool candles or waterproof floating lanterns in the pool. String outdoor pool lights around the roof of your patio and on shrubs near the pool. Put tiki torches outside by the pool to add to the ambiance and provide extra lighting. Remember, during the hot end-of-summer days, the relatively “cool” evenings may very well be the best time to be in the pool, so the extra lighting can be both functional and aesthetically appealing.

--Water balloon toss
--Water balloon volleyball
--Belly flop contest
--Pool volleyball and basketball
--Boogie board relay
--Water Frisbee
--Cannonball competition—see who can make the biggest splash into the pool.
--Coin toss—put some pennies, dimes, nickels and quarters into the pool. Divide guests into two teams and start them diving. See who can collect the most money diving for coins.

--Hot dogs
--BBQ chicken
--Baked beans
--Cold side salads (pasta salads, potato salads, tossed green salads, coleslaw, etc.)
--Raw vegetables and dip platters
--Fresh fruit trays (melons, strawberries, kiwi, pineapple, etc.)

At our pool party, we provided stuffed hamburgers, hot dogs, chips and dips, and beverages (both alcoholic and nonalcoholic), and asked our guests to bring cold side salad, veggie and fruit platters, and desserts. For nonalcoholic beverages, I filled Igloo beverage coolers with lemonade and iced tea, and had 10 liters of soda and disposable plastic beverage cups (along with a black Sharpie marker that I set out by the cups, so guests could write their names on their cups). I filled beverage tubs with beers and alcoholic drinks, and another tub with just individual sized water bottles in it, which were all iced down. I recommend having all the beverages sitting out on one long table or countertop if you can, rather than keeping them in the fridge (that way you don’t have to keep opening and closing your fridge all day to get out drinks).


Have extra sunscreen and beach towels on hand for guests who may forget to bring their own. Buy extra floats, foam noodles, water rings, beach balls, diving toys, water Frisbee and underwater rocket-type toys to set outside by the pool for your guests to enjoy at the party. Sometimes the water “toys” are just as much fun as the pool itself.

Create areas of shade with umbrellas if your pool area doesn't have shady trees. This is especially important if you have parents coming who won’t be going in the pool, but still want to be outside where they can watch their kids in the pool.

Make sure you have enough chaise lounges and chairs out on your deck for your guests to use. If you think you’re short, buy a few fold-up cloth camp chairs to set out; you can usually get those for around $10 each.

Designate a room in your home for guests to change into their bathing suits and leave their “regular” clothes. We have a “pool bathroom” with a door to the pool area that works fine for this. Or, you may have an outdoor pool house which your guests can use for this purpose. If you don’t have a special “changing area,” a spare bedroom works fine for this, or you may want to designate one of your kid’s bedrooms for a changing room during the party.

Have lots of ice cubes on hand. If you don’t have a lot of extra space in your freezer (I never do), ask a couple guest to each bring a bag with them when you come. You'll want to have lots of ice at your party to fill glasses, beverage tubs, etc.

If it’s been a really hot summer and the pool water is warm, if you have fountains, jets and/or waterfall features, run those 24-hours a day a couple days before your pool party to get the water circulating. This will cool down the water at least a few degrees—and a few degrees makes a difference in this heat. This past weekend, we did this for our pool party and the pool water temperature got down to 88 to 90 degrees…which in 110 degree Dallas heat…made for a relatively cool swim.

Happy pool partying!

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