Entertainment & Life

Halloween parties don’t have to cost an arm and a leg – but you can decorate with them

So, you want to throw a Halloween party?

You’re not alone. Halloween, with all of its attendant decorations, costumes and parties, has become increasingly popular in recent years. In 2016, Americans were expected to spend an all-time high of $8.4 billion on Halloween, according to the National Retail Federation.

But you don’t have to spend that much to have a great Halloween party, said Ray Pogue, who owns Party Guys in Modesto and Stockton. The holiday has gotten so big that each year Pogue opens a seasonal specialty store in the former site of a Ross department store in Modesto.

“I’ve had people come in here and drop $1,500 on decorations,” he said.

That’s easy to do, in a store that carries seven types of spiderwebs alone. So how do you throw a bash without turning your credit card bill into a horror movie of its own?

Pogue has several suggestions.

“Know your budget,” he said. First, start with what you already have. And it doesn’t need to be inherently spooky to be part of an impressive display. Pogue has a scene set up in his store that includes an old tent and a boat. Throw some fake bones and skulls in them, cover with some spiderwebs and you’d be surprised how good it looks.

Pogue’s secret weapon? An old television set. He took it from his daughter’s room and it doesn’t work. He just plugs it in and has the static run. “It creates a great ambiance,” he said. You can do the same with a TV in your house – unplug the cable or satellite and you have immediate spooky lighting.

You can even use decor intended for another holiday – a snowman in the store becomes scary when he is paired with Jason, of the “Friday the 13th” movies.

Also, Pogue recommends, don’t try to decorate your entire house. You can easily go overboard setting up scenes in rooms that won’t even be seen during a party.

“Pick a couple of areas and focus on those,” he said. That could mean an entryway festooned with witches and goblins, and maybe a kitchen with some fake bones hung from the ceiling.

And take advantage of the dark.

One of the great things about living in our area, Pogue said, is the weather. For the most part, we can be outside even into October.

“A firepit makes great light and ambience,” he said. “We also like to put some floating candles in the pool.”

Take a few scary figures – Halloween Guys has them for $6.99 – hang them in the trees and you have a party-ready yard.

A decal can turn your refrigerator into what looks like a storage bin for skulls and body parts. If you really want to freak out your guests, Pogue said, you can use a decal that makes it look like a vampire is emerging from your toilet.

As far as what to serve at your party, it can go from simple to complicated.

Try a board of cheeses, meats and olives is popular – and cut out some white cheese into ghost shapes if you’re ambitious. For parties with kids – or adults who act like kids – mummies are a simple fix with refrigerated crescent rolls wrapped around meatballs. Mandarin oranges are in season – a pen quickly turns those into jack-o’-lanterns. Good Housekeeping offers a variety of ideas ranging from Rice Krispies treat brains to worm sandwiches – essentially, hot dogs cut into strips and served on a hamburger bun.

For fun drinks, you can add gummy worms to an ice cube tray, fill with water and use these to chill whatever adult or kid-friendly beverages you’re serving.

People like a challenge – invite your guests to bring spooky-themed food and you don’t have to come up with everything.

The main thing, Pogue said, is not to get overwhelmed.

“What I love about Halloween is people are fun,” he said. “They really enjoy it. It’s a break from everyday life.”