By Sally Voth - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER - Glitter and giggles marked Elise Smith's 10th birthday.
The Winchester girl had her first friend party Sunday at You're A Star! & You're A Star, Too! in Apple Blossom Mall.
At her rock-diva-themed party, Elise and her friends had their hair and makeup done, got manicures, dressed up, sang along to a karaoke machine and made lip gloss.
They got dolled up while sitting in a chair that was in the shape of a zebra-print high-heeled shoe. They wore an array of sparkly clothes, with one dress looking like it was made for a prom and another for a figure-skating competition. Feather boas, sequined shoes and hats were available to wear.
The venue opened in July, manager Debi Reed said. The store carries games, toys and attire related to Thomas and Friends, John Deere, and Melissa and Doug, as well as items tied to cheerleading, dance, gymnastics and sports.
"We also have a make-your-own station where the girls can make a lip gloss or a shimmer lotion, or a sugar scrub sundae, shampoo and conditioner," Reed said. "Our big service is doing the birthday parties."
The parties are most appropriate for children from 2 to the tween years, she said.
"They're themed and they're all-inclusive," Reed said.
Right now, they're just set up for girls, but boys' parties will be coming soon, she said. For younger girls, there are princess tea parties and fairy parties, and for older girls, there's the rock diva party or the girls' day out spa party, Reed said. For all ages, there is the pampered pet party, where girls can stuff a plush animal.
Party packages range from $204 to $245, Reed said, and You're A Star! provides invitations, setup and cleanup.
"It's really very easy for the parents to just enjoy," she said.
Kaye Smith was doing just that on Sunday.
"This is the first time [her daughter] has ever had a friend party," she said. "They seem to be having a good time."
Cathy Brink's daughter, Julia, was at Elise's party. Brink's younger daughter, Maria, had a tea party at You're A Star! in September.
"They had a great time," Brink said. "She even had some boys. They kind of spiked their hair up and dyed [it] green. They had capes for them like princes."
John Pennington, whose daughter Carley attended Elise's party, thought the venue was a great idea.
"I think it's awesome," he said. "We're thinking about doing it. Nobody likes to have a party at home because you clean the house [and] it gets destroyed. Really, what can you do at home? This here, they take care of it."
Carley said the best part about the party was getting her makeup done and picking out an outfit, which consisted of pink leopard-print pants with a coordinating shirt that said, "Star." She said she told her mother she wants to have her next birthday party there.
Besides You're A Star!, the Northern Shenandoah Valley offers a myriad of birthday party destinations. One of these is The Polka Dot Pot, at 3035 Valley Ave. No. 102, in Winchester.
Owner Emily Rhodes said the paint-your-own-pottery facility offers parties for children and adults. Children come in, pick which bisque piece they want to paint, spend time decorating it, and get the finished piece a week later.
Depending on the party's price -- they start at $13.50 per child -- party-goers will paint a figurine, a bank or a trinket box, Rhodes said. Dozens of figurines are offered to appeal to both boys and girls, she said.
"It lets them be creative," Rhodes said. "They get to pick out their piece, pick out their colors, do their own thing, express themselves. We encourage them to be creative and paint the way they want to.
"No matter how it's painted, they all come out bright and shiny and it looks great, so they're all successful at it."
In Shenandoah County, Stoney Creek Roller Rink and Fun Center, 113 Indian Spring Road, Woodstock, offers a variety of packages.
"We do birthday parties from ages 1 usually through 11 or 12," owner Debbie Warner said. "By the time they get to teens they are, I think, too big to do little kid stuff."
Varying numbers of attraction tickets accompany the party packages, which range from $89.95 to $199.95. The tickets can be used for skate rental, bumper cars, laser tag and miniature golf, Warner said. Playing in the tubes and tunnels playland is free for all the parties.
"It's kind of a little bit for everybody's budget," Warner said. "With the economy, people still want to celebrate their kid's birthday, but they want to make sure they can do it in a way that's affordable. ... Our big thing is we have fun for all ages."
Parties are based on 16 children in attendance, but if there are only eight, that means more birthday attraction tickets for each child, she said. Some packages include pizza, and the largest one includes cake, according to Stoney Creek's Web site.
Tokens for the arcade games come with the parties.
There is also a party package that just includes skating for $58, according to the Web site. The site generates about 70 percent of all the birthday parties, Warner said.
Another party option is Kidz Play, which features four inflatables for children to bounce in, a mesh maze and a big wooden pirate ship. It's at 308 Hope Drive, Winchester.
Kelsey Ambrose, whose family owns Kidz Play, said the venue prides itself on being safe and clean. Party packages start at $165 and go up to $285, she said.
But, you don't necessarily have to leave the house to have a fun-filled party.
For Winchester mom Aimee Nuwer and her husband, Chris, hosting parties at home for their children Emma, 6, and Casey, 5, has worked well.
"I've had all of their parties here in our home," she said. "For Emma's first birthday, the only thing she would eat was fruit and she liked [children's entertainers] The Wiggles. So, we had a fruit salad party."
For her son's birthday party in November, Nuwer worked with his favorite theme, the Mario brothers.
"Instead of doing goody bags, I made each child a Mario or Luigi hat," she said.
Nuwer served cupcakes that looked like mushrooms, and the children played Mario-themed games, including bingo with characters from the video game. Similar games were played at Casey's party the previous year, but using a Transformers theme, and she usually includes a craft for the youngsters to work on.
"I find it so much more economical to do it at home, and the kids seem to enjoy it and those are memories I think they will have forever," Nuwer said. "We end every party with a piñata. Sometimes we make our own piñata, or we buy one."
She does online research for her children's parties.
"I have to say that Google is my friend," Nuwer said. "It's not that hard to find information online, to find games that people have done at their own at-home parties."
To contact You're A Star! & You're A Star, Too!, call 665-0030. The Polka Dot Pot can be reached at 772-4422, or its Web site, polkadotpot.com.
Stoney Creek Roller Rink's number is 459-7277, and its Web site address is www.stoneycreekrollerrink.com. For more information about Kidz Play, call 667-7529, or visit www.kidzplay.biz.