Every season of the year offers opportunities for folks to gather and have fun. Whether you're hosting a reunion or raising money for a local charity, using the calendar as inspiration is, well, inspired. Some activities only come around once a year, and when they do, everyone wants to join in. Let's take a look at a few popular activities from a seasonal point of view. You'll get some good ideas and develop a new appreciation for what Mother Nature has to offer.
Spring is all about rebirth and renewal. Deciduous trees are leafing out, and you can take advantage of the longer days and warmer weather with these events:
- Guided nature walk -- You may walk past that big old tree every day and not know much about it. Is it an oak, a maple or something else? A nature walk hosted by a trained guide can answer that question and lots of others. If you've ever contemplated the pedigree of all those weeds growing in your lawn, you'll understand how a nature walk can be enlightening and entertaining. The only other thing you need beyond the educated guide is a picturesque route. Check with your local park service or cooperative extension office for publications and information about the flora and fauna in your area.
- Easter egg hunt -- Easter egg hunts are fun and festive any time from the middle of March up until Easter. Hosting one at a local park will be easy if the weather cooperates. Contact the park service in your area to obtain the proper permissions, and scope out the best area in which to hide eggs. You can use colored eggs or other objects in the hunt. You can even designate special colored or numbered eggs as prize winners for gift giveaways and increase the excitement level of the whole affair. Make a day of it by holding a picnic and decorating your site with streamers and balloons.
- Neighborhood garage sale -- Everyone knows about spring cleaning. It's the time you dust the tops of the kitchen cabinets and start worrying about the dust bunnies under the couch. If one of your spring cleaning tasks is to get rid of the clutter in your garage, you're not alone. Make the most of your gently used discards by holding a garage sale, and ask your neighbors to join in. There's power in numbers. The bigger the sale, the more people are likely to strap on their walking shoes and attend.
Once summer is in full swing, folks are ready for potato salad, grilled chicken and outdoor activities. These summer events are always crowd pleasers:
- Fireworks show -- The big cities have their huge fireworks extravaganzas, but that doesn't mean you can't have a family get-together or block party with fireworks as the evening's entertainment. In July, fireworks are easy to find. Designate a couple of adults to conduct the show, and have a fire extinguisher in reserve just in case. Wait until dark and watch the fun. Kids love fireworks, and the impending aerial presentation will keep people around for any other activities you care to host.
- Grilling competition -- If you know a few good natured grillers who are willing to wield a spatula, tap them to be the entertainment at a grilling competition. Dueling grillers can be entertaining, and in the end, everyone leaves the field of battle with a full plate and a smile.
- Chili cook-off -- If the price of chicken and ribs is keeping you from going all out, try a chili cook-off. We aren't just talking red beans, either. White bean chili, black bean chili, vegetarian chili and turkey chili all have devoted followings. Grab a ladle, put on a checkered apron and start stirring. Chili can feed a crowd for pennies, and it's a fun food with lots of fans.
- Luau -- You may not be ready to roast a whole pig in a pit in your backyard, but adding some exotic fruit to a few tables and serving roasted pork can make for a delicious themed party. To decorate, employ lots of Tiki torches and have ukulele music playing in the background. Put grass skirts around the tables, too. You can find these accessories and more through party supply outlets.
Autumn has lots of potential. The leaves are turning, crisp apples are in season and people are preparing for the colder weather ahead. When there's a chill in the air, consider hosting one of these events.
- Costume party -- Halloween is a great time to wear a disguise, but don't let the kids have all the fun. Costume parties give grownups the chance to try on different personas for an evening. They make great office events because they give coworkers an opportunity to see one another in a new light. That cute guy in accounting may seem bashful, but under that conservative sweater he's great pirate material.
- Neighborhood carnival -- If you're hosting a school function with lots of disparate elements like sign-ups, raffles and baked goods for sale, grouping everything under one theme is an efficient way to go. A carnival theme can be all inclusive, so it's always a winner. Bright colors in banners and tablecloths will give folks the idea. Just add some lively carnival music and the smell of hot popcorn.
- Pumpkin painting contest -- Pumpkin carving events are classic, but the use of sharp implements (and the strength to wield them), leaves little kids on the sidelines. Try a pumpkin painting contest instead. Stencil designs on pumpkins and let the kids fill them in with acrylic paint. It's like creating a three dimensional coloring page. This one avoids most of the pumpkin related mess, too.
- Fall color tour -- Conduct a scenic tour of the changing leaves. They can be spectacular, and you may not have to travel far to see the show.
- Haunted house tour -- Most medium-sized cities have at least a few buildings reputed to be haunted. Take a drive through your haunted neighborhoods and treat your guests to some bloodcurdling tales of ghostly terror. Oh, and don't forget to drive past the oldest cemetery after dark. It's spooktacular fun.
Indoor activities are the order of the day when the temperatures plummet. You can still hold some great events indoors, though. Here are a few:
- Board game competition -- Chess, checkers, dominoes, Monopoly and other board games may not have the flash of video games, but they can still be engrossing, especially as competitive group activities. Get the kids involved in some face-to-face games by hosting a board game competition. Round up some prizes and offer one-bite snacks that won't be too distracting or messy to eat. If this promises to be a large event, break participants into age-based groups.
- Book fair -- Most folks have books they want to swap or share, so it's usually easy to get donations. Whether it's your book club or a fundraiser for the local animal shelter, holding a book fair is a straightforward event even a novice can pull off. Invite your favorite book lovers, and make sure you have plenty of room to display all the books in good reading light.
- Recipe swap -- Aunt Matilda's secret venison recipe may be the family's best-kept secret, but isn't it time to share the wealth? Every family has a few recipe favorites. Copy unique recipes into a booklet (or PDF) for everyone and enjoy.
- Craft classes -- Craft shows and classes are big business these days. Scrapbooking, jewelry making, knitting, crochet and other crafts are so popular it won't be hard to find people at work or at church with plenty of tips to share. Ask them to teach brief classes about their favorite hobbies. You'll be surprised at how generous people are with their time and expertise if there's a worthy cause involved.
People are busy during the holidays, but not too busy to share and give to the less fortunate. These events will get people into the holiday spirit and help others:
- Christmas card or ornament fundraiser -- Selling holiday related cards and decorations to raise money for your school or charity is a natural. Ornaments are multipurpose. They can be purchased as décor items or as gifts, so there's a big potential market for them. Selling cards or wrapping paper door-to-door or through work or school saves customers a special trip to shop for them, too. If you plan your fundraiser far enough in advance, you can also find good deals on merchandise (or solicit donations).
- Take a photo with Santa -- While you're selling those holiday cards and ornaments, consider setting up a Santa station. A couple of jolly volunteers, a Santa suit and a decent camera are just about all you need.
- Gift wrap station -- If you've ever seen a guy trying to wrap a present on Christmas Eve, you know how profitable a gift wrapping station can be, especially in the last few days before the holiday. This will require a good location and some support from local merchants. Offering gift wrap services to weary shoppers can actually attract customers to local strip malls.
Hosting a trivia night can spice up a slow bar night or be a great fundraiser. Learn how to host a trivia night to get started.
- Amos, Janell Shride. "Fundraising Ideas." McFarland. 1995.
- Fundraiser Insight. "Fundraising Ideas." (3/6/12). http://www.fundraiserinsight.org/ideas/
- Richardson, Jesse. "10 Green Community Activity Ideas: Get More Engaged." 6/2/11. (3/6/12). http://www.organicsoul.com/10-green-community-activity-ideas-get-more-engaged/
- Step by Step Fundraising. "Top 10 Fundraisers." (3/6/12). http://www.stepbystepfundraising.com/top-fundraisers/