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Bringing the Party to Life

August 13, 1992|ERIN McGONIGLE

Among the most vivid childhood memories many adults have are of birthday parties in their own back yard.

The at-home party remains a favorite way to celebrate a child's growing up, but today there are more ways available to entertain kids than bobbing for apples and pinning tails on donkeys.

Whether you decide to entertain youngsters with an elaborate re-creation of a traveling circus or invite a few of your child's friends over for a pizza party and cake, an at-home birthday party has the memorable advantage of taking place in comfortable and familiar surroundings.

You can ease the burden of responsibility for party planning--and also have a lot of fun--by working with your child to develop the best theme and activities and the number of guests you'll both feel comfortable with, and by sharing the selection of the invitations, paper goods, decorations and menu.

There are a number of businesses in North County geared to helping stage at-home children's birthday parties. Here is a sampling of what's offered:

Nicky Kaufmann, who, with her volunteer-fireman husband, Roy, offers a "Fire Engine Birthday Party," says keeping parties age-appropriate is important.

"Whenever a mom calls me about a party for her 2-year-old, I tell her to call me back next year," she said.

Their party package is appropriate for children ages 3 and up, and provides more than an hour's worth of entertainment. The fire engine, a 23-foot refurbished and restored 1955 MACK originally stationed in an Ocean Beach fire station, arrives at the birthday child's house with music playing and "Happy Birthday" banners.

"First we have a fire safety talk where we talk about the 'stop, drop and roll' technique," Kaufmann said. The fire engine holds up to 14 kids at a time, in individual upholstered seats with belts. Each guest is taken for a 15- to 20-minute ride, after which the birthday child is given firefighter's gear to wear and parents have a chance to take pictures. Following that is an optional birthday cake--available in the shape of a Dalmatian or firetruck.

"Fire Engine Birthday Party," Roy & Nicky Kaufmann, Poway, 487-6464. Party package $115 plus mileage charge, if any. Theme birthday cake additional $35.

Magic Innovations of Vista, owned and operated by magician Terry Runyon and his wife, Amy, provides a host of activities, including magic and animal shows. If magic is your child's favorite pastime, Terry Runyon is prepared to perform a show best suited for children ages 4 and up.

For 45 minutes, he can keep them entertained with a little help from his "assistants": a macaw and either a bunny or a snake. If clowns are more your child's style, Jeepers the Clown and Company will make balloon animals, do face painting and simple magic tricks during a one-hour show best suited for 2- to 7-year-olds.

Toddlers and preschoolers can ride on a mini merry-go-round, set up, delivered and operated by Magic Innovations. The carousel can hold up to seven kids at a time.

For school-age children, the live animal show is an up-close way to learn about the creatures. Two programs are available: one with six animals and a trainer and intended for a group of 10 or less; one with 12 animals and two trainers and more suitable for 10 to 20 children.

Some of the animals featured include a 3-foot snake, 4-foot iguana (on a leash), turtle, gecko, rare yellow-billed horn bird and a tame parrot that plays basketball and rings a bell.

"We try to place an emphasis on education as well as entertainment," Amy Runyon said.

Magic Innovations, Terry and Amy Runyon, Vista, 630-3991. 45-minute magic show with animals, $90; one-hour Jeepers the Clown and Company, $75; six-animal show, $75; 12-animal show, $125; mini merry-go-round, $100 first hour, $50 each additional hour. Additional mileage charge outside of North County; 10% discount for weekday parties.

Slush puppy and cotton candy machines are a guaranteed hit with kids, according to Brent Nielson of Pacific Refreshments Unlimited of Escondido.

"Originally, we were just providing the machines to business operations," Nielson said. "But then we started getting calls from parents wanting to use them at private functions."

The slush puppies are made in either a mini or large machines that come equipped with 1 or 2 gallons of concentrate, cups and straws. Delivery, setup and pickup are included, and the machines are chosen based on the size of the party and the electrical capabilities of the location.

As for the cotton candy machines, half the time the kids take over and have fun making the wisps of spun sugar themselves, Nielson said. "The sugar content per serving is comparable to one 12-ounce serving of soda," he said. "It's mostly air." The cotton candy machine can whip up a cone in about 30 seconds. The sugar and paper cones are included with the rental.

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