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Something magical happens when all of the right elements come together, and Aria’s 2nd Birthday Circus was just such an occasion.

The venue we found for the party was the next best thing to being in an actual circus tent…it was a Bear Cage-turned-picnic shelter at Fabyan Park in Batavia/Geneva, Illinois. A bear cage–with bars on the windows and even spikes on the indoor walls! How crazy is that? I mean, I feel like there are very few people on earth that can say they held their kid’s vintage circus birthday in a former bear cage-turned-picnic shelter. It was pretty perfect.

circus party

I had just the one daughter at that time, so I managed to make an outfit for this birthday just as I had for her first birthday. This time, however, I had to come up with my own pattern since there is a shortage of patterns with blazers/suit jackets for 2 year-olds and I wanted to make a Ringmaster’s costume. It ended up looking awesome, but was a total labor of love (aka it took forever, tears were shed and I might have had to start over more than once in its design!). My friend Ariela of RBK Creations made a matching circus hat to go with it.

My husband was feeling left out of the planning process and asked if he could do something for the party…I thought hard about it for a while and then decided DRUMS would be an awesome addition to the decor. Maybe a big bass drum as the centerpiece of the main table display with signage on it and a couple of drums to use as props/elevations for food displays would do the trick. Matt loved the idea and bought new drumheads and worked on finding the perfect drums in his collection for this endeavor. The end result is the most perfect drum birthday sign ever!

circus vintage party

I also took on some DIY’s myself–one of which was a wooden marquee letter “A” since a vintage circus calls for a vintage-looking marquee letter. Matt helped a little with the hole-drilling of that project, but I did the rest. Whenever I can let him use his tools he is happy to help. I used xmas bulbs to be the round part of the light and xmas lights put in the holes from behind. It functions awesome and actually still decorates her bedroom to this day!

I currently (and have for the past 5 years) teach art lessons to my student Cassie and I usually make her do some party-related-projects in the weeks leading up to my parties. That year we did paper mache circus animals. She made an awesome giraffe (that I let her take home and did not steal from her!) and I made a circus bear which became part of the table display at the circus birthday. It can be seen next to the blue marquee letter on the left side of the main tablescape.

circus party

I also made the cookies for this party.  I bought some vintage circus motif edible paper from ETSY and followed a sugar cookie recipe and how-to-instructions of putting the edible paper decals onto icing. They turned out really nice but it was a long, arduous process.

The paper items were paramount for getting the theme to flow. Lots of bunting banners (some paper, some plastic, some fabric) hung from all over the picnic shelter inside and out. Plastic circus-y tablecloths decorated the tables as well as tons of signage that I designed.

circus birthday

Games and activities included a bunch of fun things that I talk more about on Kara’s Party Ideas blog where this event was featured. Please check out even more details there and enjoy some of the party highlights below in photos by Jennifer Kaye Photography.

circus party details

“Clowns are the pegs on which the circus is hung” ~ P. T. Barnum

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