Cambrian: Opinion

5 lessons from nearly 3 decades of summer parties

Many people show up at the columnist’s annual Woodstock Party.
Many people show up at the columnist’s annual Woodstock Party.

You might say I’ve been throwing parties since I was 7 years old. I’d attended a slumber party and thought, “Hey, I’d like to do this!” So, I chose a date and who I’d like to attend and then asked my older sister to individually draw up (she was the artistic one) six invitations, which she did, in pastels. Lovely. I handed them out the next day.

Problem was, I hadn’t asked my parents. Specifically, my dad, who was the one home at night (my mom worked overnight). And had a temper. However, when I told him the plan … he laughed. Phew! Mom baked something for the event, I’m sure, and Daddy was as charming as he often could be around company. It was a success.

Lesson 1: Just go for it.

Eleven years later, when I’d moved out of the house and in with my boyfriend and roommates — two other fellows … well, yeah. Parties. Like every other week. But, they were a way of life. Always had an open-door policy. We lived in a small, unattended county stretch, so it was a little lawless, it seemed. And there were many empty homes, likely to be leveled for new monstrosities, so nobody to bother.

I decided to make it more interesting for myself and challenging for “the boys” by adding a theme to the gatherings. Did I get creative! It got to the point were there were “Red Parties” (everyone had to wear red), all the other colors as well, a balloon party where we filled the living room and dining room with balloons (this may have been more to keep the guys occupied and out of trouble for a while, blowing them up) and, probably my favorite, a paper bag party. Yes, everyone had to wear a paper bag in some way. Very clever stuff. Considerably more interesting.

Lesson 2: Keep it fun.

When my boyfriend and I got married and moved out, the tradition slowed but we had a couple of humdinger Halloween parties. My mom was one of our favorite guests then. Truly, our guest list (there never really was one) grew to cover the gamut of ages and backgrounds. It got to be fun introducing new people to each other. Sometimes the younger bucks would make fun of the older ones and the seasoned citizens would comment on the audacity of the others, but everyone always seemed to have fun in the end. The happy vibe was too strong not to.

Lesson 3: Invite everyone, and it will sort itself out.

Now, I just had my 29th Annual Woodstock Party. Granted, there was one year where this household was going through its biggest ever upheaval and we merely invited our closest friends over and I called it a Woodstock Party, but it has been a constant. I’ve got it down by now. It’s very organic. It’s always at the same time, there’s a band, a keg, potluck, a clothing exchange and an art project. Everyone knows the scene and what to expect. The guests make it happen themselves, so to speak.

Lesson 4: Keep it simple — no expectations.

The absolute best part of this party is the people which, I suppose, is how it is supposed to be. Anymore, I don’t know a good fourth of them. Friends of friends, relatives of past guests, prospective real estate purchasers, family, kids, babies, canes. … Some people don’t see each other any other time but at the party. There are not nearly so many kids anymore. The joke is, we’d better put up not only a food tent but a medic tent. Awesome. A grown-up extension of my old parties in L.A.

In all these years of live music, imbibing, strangers meeting strangers, kids running under foot (there used to be dogs, but it’s gotten too crowded for them now), crazy shenanigans and all (like the time my roommates down south threw a match into the broken swimming pool they’d been emptying old car oil in, rain water, plant matter … ), there has never been a fight, only two visits from law enforcement to turn down the music and one visit by paramedics recently. Not bad. I never know how many people will be there. I meet new people, get to dance, make crafts and share that fun with everyone … yeah, it’s good.

Lesson 5: Trust the universe.

In closing, with the upcoming Woodstock Party being my 30th, I am already putting the word out for photos, old fliers, anything from past parties to put together in an album or slide show or something commemorative. It would be a lovely thing.

You know where to find me. At the party house.

Dianne Brooke’s column appears weekly and is special to The Cambrian. Visit her website at Email her at