With summer comes outdoor birthday parties, graduation celebrations and barbecues. If the economy is keeping your festivities in the backyard this year, local party rental stores have lots of inflatable rides, water slides and games that will keep the fun going for hours.
The choices range from carnival amusements and live animals to interactive games and assorted "fun food" machines (cotton candy, snow cones).
Whether you're having a party for kids, teens or adults, here are some ideas sure to make any party more memorable and have everyone on the cul-de-sac talking.
For little kids
INFLATABLES : Kids as young as 2 love to slide and bounce, says Gina Musto of Affordable Inflatables & Entertainment in Oceanside. One of the company's most popular rentals is "The Combo," a 20-by-20-footer that stands 17 feet tall and has areas for bouncing, obstacles and a 16-foot slide ($450 for two hours with two attendants, 516-889-5007, affordableinflatables.com ).
ANIMALS: For children who love animals, you can arrange for a pony to make a cameo (starting at $175 for an hour) or have an entire petting zoo - llamas, goats, sheep, bunnies, chickens, ducks - set up in your backyard (starting at $275 for an hour), says Theresa Hansen of Lollipop Pony Parties in Islip Terrace. Attendants bring food for the animals and clean up after them (631-277-9616, lollipopponyparties.com ).
Owner Diego Santander of Shetland Pony Party Farm Amusement and Entertainment says he has everything from carnival games to rides to inflatables at his private farm in Wheatley Heights, but ponies are a party favorite. He brings two Shetland ponies - one with a saddle, one with a wagon, plus a petting zoo with farm animals ($350 first hour, 631-491-5867, sendintheponies.com ).
Tweens and teens
The 10-and-older set like the thrills that come with giant slides and competitive games, party rental business owners say.
ROCK WALL & SLIDE: At teen parties, the 30-foot-tall Tiki Island Rock Wall is a big hit, says Frank Biondi of TGIF Rentals in Lake Grove ($695 for two hours with attendant). They also go for his inflatable tropical water slide ($695), especially when it's coupled with a tropical slip-and-slide to create 56 feet of wet fun (on its own, $375 for two hours and attendant; $1,070 for both, 631-648-8675, tgifrentals.com ).
BUNGEE RUN: Preteens 11 and older and teens like the action of the Racing Double-lane Bungee Run, says Joyce Bruno of Awesome Bouncers in East Setauket. "They race to the end, and when they get to the end, the bungee will pull them back." ($400 for all-day home party, $20 an hour for attendant; 631-737-1616, awesomebouncers.com ).
MECHANICAL BULL: If it's competition they want, nothing says "Ride 'em, cowboy" like a mechanical bull. Joe Ciminna of 888 Lets-Jump/ New York Party Zone in Farmingdale bought one in October and says it's been a party hit ever since. Riders must be at least 36 inches tall to mount the foam and fiberglass beast, which has settings to accommodate various ages. ($850 for three hours including attendants, 516-694-0079, 888letsjump.com ).
CASINO: Grown-ups just want to have fun, too. Lately, casino games have been a big hit for adult birthday and surprise parties, says Billy Hill of Rainbow Party Rentals in Bay Shore (631-206-1747, rainbowpartyrentals.com ). The most popular are blackjack ($150), craps ($250) and roulette ($200), he says. Dealers can be arranged for $125 for four hours. "If you really want to play, you have to go to Atlantic City, to Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun. It's nice to have it right in your own house or your own backyard."