When it comes to plans, graduates call all the shots

June is graduation month, which means parties, parties and more parties.

Cindy Skinner’s graduation present is painting her house and her kitchen.

Cindy is not a 2008 high school graduate.

But she will be throwing a graduation party at her home for her son, Will Skinner, who is graduating from Poland Seminary High School, and Alex Herzog, the German exchange student who has lived with them since last August.

“I’ve painted the outside of the house and painted the kitchen. Every time I look somewhere else something needs done,” Cindy said.

Hosting the graduation party at home means renting tents, chairs, tables and preparing enough food for 250 guests.

“The boys set the menu,” Cindy said. Barbecue ribs, chicken and macaroni and cheese are just a few select items the boys requested. Cindy is relying on family for culinary assistance, as well as some catering businesses.

As for decoration, Cindy said they will keep it simple. Balloons on the tables held down by trophies and poster boards with pictures.

A trip to Florida for spring break was a graduation gift for both Will and Alex.

Even though the Skinners are sticking to a traditional party with cornhole and ladder golf in the backyard, the party is something new for Alex. Alex is from Hohenstein-Ernstthal, Germany.

“This party is way more than they do in Germany,” Cindy said.

The University of Central Florida in Orlando is where Will is headed in the fall, and Alex will go back to Germany for two more years of secondary education.

“All we can do is hope for a nice day,” said Cindy.

The All-Inclusive Indoor Event

Evan Volpe said his biggest concern for his graduation party is the cookies.

“Food was the main thing I thought of for my party. I want every kind of cookie on the cookie table,” said Evan, a soon-to-be graduate of Neshannock High School in New Castle, Pa.

Cookies are a large part of the Volpe graduation celebration, and guests will receive cookies with Evan’s picture on them as a party favor.

The Villa in New Castle is the location for Evan’s open house shindig.

“For me, planning was easy. If I was having it at home, it would have been bad,” said Evan’s mom, Donna Volpe.

She has seen friends rent tables and chairs, plus find caterers for parties at their houses. “You are pretty much on your own when you do a party at home,” she said.

Donna booked the venue a year in advance to assure her June date.

When all is said and done, the party will cost close to $3,000, Donna said.

“Evan’s party is his graduation gift from us, and it is something he’ll remember for the rest of his life,” she added.

The gifts of choice, according to Evan, would be a laptop computer and a Tiffany and Co. bracelet.

“I think the best from-the-heart graduation gift I heard of was my friend’s mom who made a commemorative DVD with pictures and music of my friend’s whole life to play at the party,” Evan said.

Sandy Smith of Austintown also booked her hall a year in advance.

Her daughter, Brandie Groves, is graduating from Austintown Fitch High School and is having her 250-guest party at the Regency House on Mahoning Avenue.

“If you don’t get your reservation in real quick, you don’t get a hall,” Sandy said.

Brandie, who is attending Youngstown State University in the fall, said, “I just want money, lots of money.”

The ballpark figure for the party is way over $3,000, Sandy said.

“She is our only child.”

The Party Scoop

Theme parties are in.

“What we are finding this year are more theme parties. When the grad comes in, they have personal input as well as the parents and grandparents,” said Debbie Simon, co-owner of Party On in Niles.

Luaus, college theme and personal-interest theme parties are the trend this graduation season. Simon and her co-owner, brother Jeff Lyda, help customers establish their party needs and make recommendations for each specific party.

“We try to direct people to the appropriate items for their party,” Lyda said.

For example, Lyda recommends those having parties outdoors think about using nitrogen-filled balloons rather than helium-filled balloons. He said nitrogen-filled balloons will stay put despite the weather conditions because nitrogen is heavier than helium.

Party On will have close to 120 balloon orders in the next week and Jeff said, “It’s either our labor or your labor.”

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