Living in the West, and especially in Wyoming, it’s easy to find everything you need to decorate, entertain and cook in authentic Western style. As a courtesy to my big city friends and family, though, I’ve done some thorough research on how they (and you) can achieve the same party atmosphere with more limited local supplies. Here are some ideas on decorations, favors, food and drinks for your Western New Year’s Eve bash.
Borrow as much as possible here for an authentic western feel. If you have true cowboy or cowgirl friends see if they will loan you a pair of boots to set in the corner, or spurs or holsters to hang on the wall. A coiled lasso also makes a great wall decoration. If you can get a pair of boots in good shape, clean them and use them on tables to put a small glass bowl of salsa nestled just inside the top. Turn a cowboy hat upside down and line it generously with paper towels and wax paper to put chips inside. But whatever you do, please get your friends’ permission before doing any of this. There are no guarantees the hat or boots will be returned in usable condition.
Even the most urban of cities will usually have some sort of a local feed and tack store. Browse their shelves for decorating ideas, and be sure to grab a bale or two of hay to set on the front porch or just inside your entry. They may also have some toy cap guns in western-revolver style to use in place of noise makers for your countdown celebration.
There are plenty of online resources for Western and cowboy party supplies for your New Year’s celebration. My favorites are linked to this article, but a quick list includes cowboypartysupplies.com, party411.com, and partyamerica.party. The first website has ideas for games and make-at-home decor, and the last has room rolls to give your house the feel of either an old-time saloon or a very clean and animal-free barn stall. I also recommend using your favorite search engine to search for mail-order tumbleweeds. Nothing, and I mean nothing, says authentic old-west like a tumbleweed or two shoved in the corners.
A last few ideas include making wanted posters with the guests’ pictures on them, and making table cloths with bandannas for edging or accents.
Serve food on tin plates or in cast-iron skillets and dutch ovens for a real home-on-the-range experience. The menu should include at least a few cowboy standards such as barbecue beans and wieners, beef jerky, chips and salsa, and a big bowl of “cactus juice” which can be whipped up from some bottles of lemon-lime soda and a tub of lime sherbet.
A fabulous non-alcoholic cowboy drink option is glass bottles of sarsaparilla (root beer is an acceptable substitute). The book “Cowboy Cocktails” by Grady Spears and Brigit L. Binns will give you plenty of drink names and recipes for serving to your other, legal-age guests. It is available on most of the commercial book sites, and even in some local bookstores. Since the book is full of western stories and anecdotes, it would make good coffee table reading as well.
Entertainment is maybe the trickiest area to navigate. What games and entertainments you provide depends wholly upon the scale and demographics of your New Year’s Eve party. If you have a media room, you can put on a country CD or two, or stick some old westerns in the DVD player for the less social guests. I once saw an idea for doing your own “panning for gold” by filling up plastic tubs, sandboxes or children’s swimming pools with child-safe sand and then hiding gifts and trinkets inside. Hand out a bunch of kitchen sieves and let your guests go to town. I’m wary of the possible mess involved in this one, but it sounds tempting. Stick pony races with old brooms sound like fun too, especially as it gets later into the evening and your guests are feeling a little less inhibited.
Whatever you do, be true to your own taste and the preferences of your guests and you are sure to host a New Year’s Eve to remember. A little internet shopping and creative recycling can go a long way to transforming your home into a scene worthy of a spot on HGTV, or at least a few pages in this year’s scrapbook.