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Twists of fete

Kids and parents recall past parties, from the good to the bad to the barfy.

Shrimps and a Barbie
In doll form, Barbie’s absurd proportions and tiny outfits seem fairly harmless, but some parents got a bit of a shock when a real-life version was hired to appear at a seven-year-old girl’s birthday party. “[It] was at a Gymboree-type place, so all the parents were sitting around when this tall, well-endowed, blond woman dressed in hot pants and high heels walked in,” recalls dad Eric B. Whispers circulated that perhaps the agency had accidentally sent over an adult entertainer intended for a bachelor party. “Of course, all the dads were like, ‘Whose mom is that?!’” As it turned out, the hired hand was just dressed true to “Barbie form.” The kids loved it and—according to Eric—the husbands did, too.

The opposite of a bad time
Ten-year-old Maggie S. had a backward-themed party that went over so well, her younger sister Molly, 8, opted to have one, too. “Everybody came dressed with their clothes on backwards, and some girls had their ponytails on their foreheads,” recalls Molly. Food was served in reverse, too: The kids ate breakfast food for dinner, and the cake was served upside down, with the frosting on the bottom. The coolest part, according to Maggie, was the reverse-written invitation. “You had to hold it up to the mirror to read it.”

When your party’s a drag
Bonnie T. had her own memorable moment at a birthday block party for her son, Sam. A few doors down, a drag queen outfitted as Evita Perón serenaded guests with “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” from a neighbor’s porch. “I wouldn’t call it a bad thing, but it certainly surprised some of the parents,” Bonnie says. “I remember someone saying, ‘Only in Andersonville!’”

Party till you, or someone else, pukes
Molly M. almost had her ninth birthday ruined by someone who couldn’t hold his lunch. It was a hot summer day, so Mom planned to have the kids play basketball at the local Park District court before cooling off in the adjacent pool. Just as the sweaty group approached the crystalline waters, a kid vomited, bringing the party to a messy halt. “The pool shut down; the kids were frantic,” recalls Mom. But some quick thinking in the form of an ice and water fight saved the day. “At the end, the kids said it was one of the most fun parties they’d been to.” (Probably not the pukey kid, though.)

This party’s dead
Chiri G., 13, recalls a great party that combined the glamour of prom with the gore of Halloween. For her friend’s birthday, which happened to fall on Friday the 13th, kids gathered at a Park District field house where they picked out zombie gear and did each other’s makeup to resemble the undead at Homecoming. “We teased our hair and I wore a torn old pink dress from an antique store,” Chiri recalls. Just like a real school dance, a professional photographer was on hand to capture the moment.

Dancing in the streets Sam G. of Roscoe Village remembers his best birthday ever, when he turned seven. Mom wanted to keep the revelry outdoors so she hosted a block party for him. “[The best part was] getting to run in the street and ending the party in the dark with my neighbor friends doing sparklers," Sam says. Another highlight involved getting to wear a live snake around his neck “like a cool necklace.” The reptile came courtesy of Chicago Herpetological Society, which mom hired with the money she otherwise would’ve spent on a venue.

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