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My Parks and Recreation Themed Birthday Party – With Free Printables

It’s a little bit of a vulnerable thing to throw yourself a birthday party, let alone a big Parks and Recreation themed birthday party. I turned 36 this year, and with my birthday arriving at the end of a year that held both significant loss and much growth, I was ready to celebrate big. Most years, insecurity has kept my celebrations small, but this year I felt ready to have a big party and when a good friend with a passion for event prep offered to come along for the ride, I decided to go all-in!

Parks and recreation has been off the air for a few years, but still lives on as a pop-culture icon. Parks and Recreation is still one of my favorite shows and I have not stopped loving it at all since it went off the air. Having a Parks and Rec themed party was surprisingly perfect for adults, it was a playful way to theme an adult party.

parks and recreation party planning

My friend group shares an affinity for Parks and Rec, and we are constantly making references to the show, so it seemed like a fun theme for a party. I recently decided that costume parties are a great way to do a party when your friends are mostly introverts but prone to commit heartily when they agree to something.

My invite to my Parks and Recreation themed party included the invitation to come in costume and in character. Everyone had a lot of fun playing the part of their chosen role- especially since Parks and Rec has such great characters that personify the alter-egos of many of people!

My Parks and Recreation themed birthday party included themed-menu snacks, amazing decorations, and even a parks and rec game/activity for my grown-up guests. I thought I’d share a little bit about our decorations, menu, signs, and props in case anyone out there is still a diehard fan of parks and rec trying to host their own themed event.

Parks and Recreation Themed Menu

creating a menu for my Parks and Recreation themed birthday party

MENU & SIGNS

food signs were displayed on the buffet table using vintage clipboards (for a truly parks-department vibe) and the transparent sleeve on the front of a binder (binders being, of course, classic parks and rec reference)

My Parks and Recreation themed birthday party

“If there were more food and fewer people this would be the perfect party” – Ron Swanson

 

Andy’s mouth surprise“it’s nice because the flavor of the starbursts to really bring out a similar flavor of the skittles” – Andy Dwyer. For a sweet addition to our buffet, we added Andy Dwyer’s classic combo of starbursts and skittles.

My Parks and Recreation themed birthday party

Calzones (aka Pizza Rolls)– Ben Wyatt’s favorite food, calzones, were a natural choice for this themed party, but who’s got time to make calzones!? In a burst of inspiration, my party planning friends suggested we sub pizza rolls for calzones and it was a perfect party pairing.

Food was a fun part of my Parks and Recreation themed birthday party

Also on the menu: BACON, Chicken Strips, Waffles, and Veggies.

Eggos and Frozen Chicken Strips made a “chicken and waffles” option easy.

With many food-themes in the show, the menu was easy for my My Parks and Rec party

We used office supplies as decorations for my party

clipboard and binder sign holders labeling bacon and maple-bacon.

Themed Party Decor

Racoons

The racoons were some of the most popular guests at my Parks and Rec birthday party

Unlike pawnee’s racoons, ours were friendly and happy to hold balloons

Pawnee Indiana is overrun by raccoons. In keeping with this theme, we filled the venue with raccoons. An artist friends came over the night before and drew 2 foot tall raccoons on posterboard which we then pasted around the building, but you could do the same thing with pictures or even stuffed animals – just make sure the raccoons don’t run you out of your party like they ran Leslie Knope’s mother out of the Pawnee hospital when she was going into labor with Leslie.

Lil Sebastian

This Lil Sebastian was the star of the party

We found this FurReal pony for $13 at Goodwill and he was the star of the party- as any good  Lil Sebatian should be!

it just isn’t Pawnee without little Sebastian, and during our party planning sessions we dreamed of lots of different ways to have a version of Lil’ Sebastian present- even checking into getting a live miniature horse to show up! But a few days before the party when we went to a thrift store to try and score some party supplies, we found the perfect little Sebastian: A FurReal animatronic horse.

Initially, at the store, where the giant stuffed horse was priced only $12, it appeared to just be a large stuffed horse- it wasn’t until later that we realized all it needed was a package of new batteries to come back to life. It was the perfect Pawnee Indiana party decor, and it spent the entire party flicking its tail, tossing his head, whinnying, and following conversations with its head and ears. This used giant fake horse was maybe more popular than me, the birthday girl, at the party.

Frisbees

Ben: “I’m sorry, are you eating turkey chili off of a frisbee?”
Andy: “Yeah. We’re cute, right?”
Ben: “No. Do you know what cute means?”
April: “What have you got against turkey chili for breakfast?”
Ben: “What have you guys got against washing dishes?”
April: “We don’t have any dishes, okay.

As a nod to April and Andy’s plate-less kitchen, we subbed frisbees for party plates. Frisbees were more expensive than I expected online, but at a nearby thiftstore we were able to score a dozen for under $10. After a trip through the dishwasher and paired with cheap paper plates, these made fun themed plates for the party.

WAFFLES

My Parks and Recreation themed birthday party was graced with this 5ft inflatable waffle

When you think of Parks and Recreation waffles are a no-brainer. In a stroke of luck, my December birthday coincides with the exact time of year that retailers panic about keeping summer inflatables in stock. I was able to score this 5-foot wide inflatable waffle on clearance on eBay a few weeks before the party, and he made the perfect hiding spot for the cutest of Pawnee’s raccoons.

When temperatures drop, grab deeply discounted inflatables as party props like this one

Giant waffle party prop

Parks and Recreation Themed Birthday Party Signs & PDF’s

Additional decor was provided via balloons and some printable signs I made in advance. The signs were super easy to make and I’ve provided a couple of PDF versions of my posters as a free download below.

Free Parks and Rec Quote Signs

parks and rec birthday signs printable

Purchase

 

 

For frames, rather than purchasing new ones I just visited a large thrift store, where black thin-rimmed frames can easily be scored for about one dollar each – cheap when it comes to party decor!

We covered the bulletin board with signs for public health issues from the show(source: pawneeindiana.com)

Free Downloadable PDF Sign: Sometimes you gotta work a little so you can ball a lot – Tom Havorford

My themed birthday party

Free Printable PDF sign:  you poetic noble land mermaid

Parks and Recreation party

Club_Swanson (not my sign, and I’ve lost the source if it’s yours PLEASE let me know)

SIGN: there is nothing we can’t do if we work hard, never sleep, and shirk all other responsibilities in our lives. – Leslie Knope

The bst themed party I've ever had


My Parks and Rec decorations

DJ Roomba

DJ roomba and+ a Raccoon jamming at my My Parks and Recreation Themed Birthday Party

Frankly, once little Sebastian was in place I was convinced the party was perfect. But when a friend arrived a few minutes later bearing a homemade DJ Roomba the party was really complete. Paired with a Parks and Rec themed Spotify playlist, it was the perfect finishing touch.

 

 

Venue – An actual community room

Parks and Recreation part decorations

for the sake of authenticity w, actually looked into posting this party at one of Seattle’s community centers or a library, but it turns out any of these public spaces are free require that the events be open to the public. When my friend offered a room at her church I was initially skeptical, however the community room turned out to be the perfect venue. A bulletin board covered with signs posted on how to apply for a job if you’ve been convicted of a felony, and flyers about hepatitis A symptoms posted around the room actually made for an ironic and totally appropriate backdrop (I did add my own “Pawnee’s most wanted pests” sign to one of the bulletin boards)

more part decoration

Costumes

Picking my costume was hard, I definitely channel Leslie Knope opted in my excitement about projects and intensity about and for the people and things I care about, but it was also very important for me to be ME at my party. After a little bit of thought, I decided to be a “Pawnee goddess” the feminist Scout group headed by Leslie Knope on the show. With a purple vest from Amazon, a little bit of rick rack, and a few patches I sourced from the craft store (and one Pawnee goddess pouch I found online) I made a perfect version of the Pawnee goddess uniform.

Costumes were encouraged at My Parks and Recreation themed birthday party

 

Activities

For the most part, my Parks and Recreation party flowed like a typical adult get-together, with one special edition: contests and prizes! In true Leslie Knope fashion, I challenged my partygoers to form teams, and with their team to collage birthday card for me in five minutes or less. The winning team, I promised, would win prizes…

 

My Parks and Rec part was a hit

A Leslie Knope themed party had games, and these collage were the result

A “pit-themed” Parks and Rec inspired birthday card collaged at my birthday party, wishing “Happy Birthday from the pit of our heart”.

 

Ultimately (of course) I named no winner, however, conducting the contest was a delight! It also gave me an excuse to exercise one of my favorite ways that Leslie Knope and I are similar: giving presents.

Before the party I’d been collecting small gifts, and had enough to gift small tokens to everyone- but it was particularly fun to be able to give specific, thoughtful gifts to those who worked so hard to make my Parks and Recreation themed birthday party special.

If you’re looking for easy gifts (I suppose, technically, “adult party favors,” although that has entirely a different meaning, doesn’t it!?) check AliExpress for cheap Parks and Rec themed merch, like these Andy Dwyer Pinback Pins for $2.00, Parks and Rec Mugs for $5.00, and  Leslie Knope for City Council Bumper Stickers for $1.50.

My Pawnee Indiana themed birthday party

 


I hope this post has been helpful for planning your own Parks and Recreation themed birthday party. In the end, we brain stormed many ideas we weren’t able to implement at the party, so I’m including a list of even more ideas below:

  • 3 Ring Binder Party Favors, with clear inserts filled with goodies.
  • Making “Sponsored by Sweetums” signage
  • Giving Awards, like “Pawnee Woman of the Year” and “Best Chair”
  • Creating mock-ups of Tom Havorford’s many inventions, for props.
  • Making a simplified Cones of Dunshire game using chocolate and vanilla ice-cream-cones on an oversize checkers board.

 

 

 

parks and recreation party planning

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Courtney

Monday 27th of July 2020

This is the cutest thing I've ever seen. Throwing one for a friend of mine and stealing all of your ideas lol.