April 01, 1998
Meetings & Conventions: Short Cuts April 1998 Current Issue
April 1998

Burger Hot dogs, watermelon, sack races...what would a company picnic be without them? Perhaps a lot more memorable. Event planner Gary James, based in Anaheim, Calif., has a repertoire of more than a dozen themes for these corporate-sponsored family outings. Among his signature events that are easily adaptable for your own outdoor soirees:

Picnic Safari: Kids line up to ride an elephant or baby animals, a "village witch doctor" substitutes for a clown, and face-painting takes on the look of an African tribe's ceremonial war paint. Picnickers can make African bead jewelry, have their chicken bones read (a West African take on palm or tarot card reading) or play an African spear toss game (with rubber spears). Music is provided by a steel band, and the menu has a Dark Continent twist, with Tanganyika coconut chicken and Kilimanjaro cookies.

Prehistoric Picnic: Lots of Jurassic Park- inspired props and large, inflatable dinosaurs create the ambiance. Games include an excavation dig (with prizes buried in sand) for the little ones, a "pet rock"-decorating contest, dinosaur egg toss (with large brown water balloons) and a relay race featuring jumbo plastic bones. The traditional fare of chicken and burgers gets renamed barbecued raptor and brontosaurus beef.

Huckleberry Fun: This salute to Mark Twain's Mississippi River characters features wholesome fun like a frog jumping contest, a fishing contest (possibly in a stocked pond or lake) and a picket fence-painting contest. A jug-and-washboard band entertains as the crowd enjoys grilled catfish, candy apples, pickles and huckleberry pie. The most popular event is a candy-grabbing contest: Kids (of all ages) stick their hands into a Plexiglas box filled with pieces of penny candy. Participants get to keep what they grab, as long as their hands can squeeze back through the box's tiny opening. "They line up over and over for that one," says James.


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