It's time for the Footnotes annual summer party guide. We all know July and August in the San Fernando Valley can be more than a little toasty, so it's not surprising that Rob Dickey, owner of All Valley Party Rentals in Granada Hills, says canopies are his hottest item this time of year.
"When you get this heat, you have to have some shade," Dickey says.
Canopies come in many sizes. Rental prices start at $45. Dickey says the biggest canopy he has is 40 by 100 feet; it goes for $1,400. Your average backyard barbecue party, however, should be able to get by with a 20-by-20-foot model that rents for about $165. For those really hot days, Dickey can throw in a water-misting system or electric fans (for an additional charge) to keep your guests comfortable. (818) 360-2246.
* If you want to prepare the food yourself, David Rosengarten of the Food Network show "Taste" offers several tips via http://www.ehow.com: 1) Limit entrees that have to be cooked at the last minute. 2) Keep your dishes simple. 3) Have guests help themselves. 4) Base one course on a quality item you can purchase--he recommends oysters or prosciutto.
* If you don't want to think about cooking, you could call a caterer. Doug Noland, owner of Outback Catering (no connection to the steakhouse chain) in Van Nuys, says he can feed your party of 50 a barbecue dinner for about $10-$15 a head. Besides barbecue, Outback offers several themed menus, including Hawaiian and Mexican. (818) 909-4949 or check out http://www.outbackcatering.com.
* If you're giving a party for children, one option is to hire a costumed cartoon character to entertain. All Showtime Entertainment offers a wide variety of party fun. Its most popular characters this year are the Teletubbies, the Power Puff Girls and any of the Pokemon personalities. One character costs $150 to $200, and a two-character package will run $250 to $300. (818) 597-9951.