Bonfires and backyard parties are an American tradition; they are events known for evoking new memories and lasting bonds with our friends and family members.
As frequent fireside gatherers, we know how important it is to cultivate a sense of community in the backyard, and we have 10 tips for making your bonfire party simple and fun for all involved.
1. Check the weather... And the time of sunset.
This is a no-brainer. There are few things more miserable than sitting outside in cold, rainy weather. Likewise, when it's too hot, no one wants to sit next to the fire. But these aren't the only factors to consider. Keep in mind that a windy night will make it difficult to keep a fire lit, so try to find a mild night to plan your backyard party.
If you really want to go the extra mile, check to see what time the sun is supposed to set, and get the fire lit just before it begins to enhance the ambiance of the evening.
2. Make food prep a group activity.
Preparing food for a party can be both time consuming and expensive. If done alone, it can eat up precious time you could be spending on other important party prep. Instead of taking on the task alone, make cooking part of the event, and invite your guests to arrive in the afternoon or early evening. Turn on the tunes, pour some beverages and designate tasks of chopping, mixing and grilling. It'll make the food prep go quick, and get everyone engaged.
3. Have enough seating.
Make sure you have enough seating for your guests. Whether that means comfortable chairs, wooden benches or lots of blankets that you can put out to host picnic-style, you'll want to make sure no one is left standing. This way, your guests are more likely to spend time together, and stay.
It is also not a bad idea to have a few extra blankets around in case it gets chilly as the sun goes down. If you don't own ample seating, we recommend asking your guests to feel free to bring a seat. While it may feel informal, that's how backyard gatherings are meant to be, and it will ensure no one has to play musical chairs.
4. Don't struggle to start the fire.
The last thing you need is trouble getting the fire to light, and stay lit. After all, the fire is the main event. But before someone tries to pull out the gasoline, stop, and make things simple and safe. By properly stacking your firewood, and using a fire starter, you can get a healthy fire built in no time.
Start by stacking your logs in a log cabin or crosshatch format. Place a fire starter inside your structure and light it so that the flames are touching the raw side (the side without bark) of the logs. In just a few minutes the logs should catch, and vuoi la- you've made fire.
If you're looking for the best easy fire starters to get your fire raging, the Walden Backyards Sure-Fire™ Starter is a great choice. Non-toxic, and with a burn time of 10-15 minutes, they are wind-resistant, and can even get damp wood started.
5. Lighting is key.
The lighting you choose for your backyard event is multipurpose. It is a huge contributing factor to the ambiance of the party, but also a safety feature when guests are walking around the yard at night. If you have ample tree coverage in your backyard, bulb string lights are a nice touch.
Another option is to place tiki torch lights in the ground. You can also create more budget-friendly ambiance by putting tea light candles in mason jars. Use whichever method of lighting you choose to line the walking pathway up to the house or gate.
6. More s'mores please.
What's a bonfire party without s'mores? S'mores are guaranteed to bring out the kid in anyone, and are one of the best parts of owning a large wood burning fire pit. Set up your ingredients in a s'mores bar fashion, allowing your guests to construct their dessert however they please.
You can get creative and add unique ingredients in addition to the marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolates if you really want to wow the crowd.
Just set out the supplies, and the rest is up to your guests. With a s'mores bar, the night is sure to be a hit.
7. Hot dog bar.
On the same note, a rustic, nostalgia-filled, budget friendly approach to feeding people with minimal effort is a hot dog “bar”- provide the dogs, buns, and toppings, and people can roast their own hot dogs over the fire and dress them just the way they like.
Not only are you providing food, but it becomes an activity all can participate in as they sit around the bonfire ring. If you would like to grill a bunch of dogs at once, consider using a fire pit grill grate that will rest nicely on top of your stonework.
8. Potlucks are a crowd-pleaser.
Anytime you host an event with food, you inevitably face the tricky hurdle of satisfying the picky eater. We all know one, and we love them anyway. Instead of stressing about the seemingly impossible task of accommodating everyone, consider asking your guests to bring a side dish, dessert, or drink to share.
Potluck style gatherings not only ensure everyone has something they like, but they also take some of the financial burden, as well as the workload of preparing food, off of you. This way, no one goes hungry!
You can even make it a competition with categories for appetizers, drinks, and desserts to see how creative everyone can get (and to try some amazing food you'd only have on special occasions).
9. Invite guests to bring activities.
Even beyond asking guests to bring a dish to contribute, you can also ask them to bring something to entertain! Maybe someone has a corn hole set that they could bring along, or you have a resident music lover on your guest list that would be excited to provide a playlist for the event.
You might even ask everyone to come ready with a campfire story to tell around the fire. This gets everyone to be involved in the entertaining side of your outdoor party, and will hopefully be something that people are excited to share with each other.
10. Spark more than flames around the fire pit.
Everyone is full, the sun has set, and it's time to settle in around the fire. This is where your entertainment contribution comes into play. One of the very best parts about fire-side gatherings are the things you learn about the people around you during meaningful conversations.
The easiest way to spark these conversations are Walden Backyard’s Fire-side Chats™ Conversation Cards. With both hilarious and interesting questions, and multiple ways to play, these cards are a great way to get everyone chatting comfortably and freely. If you enjoy the concept of Cards Against Humanity, but want something much more family friendly, you can’t go wrong with Fire-side Chats™.
There you have it. We hope that these tips help you to create amazing fireside memories for years to come!