Party Planning at its Best

by Lisa Porterfield Thompson

Kelli Phillips enjoys putting her masterful skills to work while hosting elaborate themed parties

“I like celebrating people,” Kelli Phillips said about her party planning skills. She has been known to orchestrate elaborate parties for a variety of occasions for loved ones, and when asked about this knack, she admitted it was fun for her and the guests. “Unique parties give everyone a memorable event to enjoy,” Kelli said. “I like the saying by Dr. Seuss: ‘Why blend in when we were born to stand out?’ So, I always try to go with a unique twist and avoid generic themes.”

Kelli has thrown parties that cover the spectrum of genres. Some of her favorites include a fiesta fly by gender reveal, Poppy the Troll birthday, Big Chief Indian Turns 2, and an Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini birthday.

Kelli’s inspiration comes from lots of places. “I choose themes based on what my child or the person I’m hosting for likes at the current time,” she said. “I can get ideas from anywhere at any time. I planned my son’s first birthday solely based on him liking the song ‘Deep in the Heart of Texas.’”

Kelli’s son, Roman, and daughter, Molly, are now ages six and four, and have been the focus of many of her most brilliant party ideas. “I loved Roman’s Bigfoot birthday bash, complete with a Bigfoot scavenger hunt through the woods,” Kelli said. She normally hosts the parties at her family’s home in Wamba, a community just north of Texarkana.

While a birthday party for most people might include a small gathering of family and friends, Kelli’s idea of a family and friends party is anything but small.  “I’m famous for having max capacity parties in a small home,” she said. “I usually invite more than 50 people. I think it’s easier to host smaller events but my outgoing personality gets me every time, so I end up inviting more people than I should.”

Kelli only throws parties for loved ones, rather than being a professional event planner because she wants to stay flexible and creative. “Besides,” she said, “no one can get mad about what I spend if I’m the one paying for it.”

Kelli admits that the over-the-top parties can be an expensive endeavor.  “Sometimes I spend around $1,000, sometimes less, but it seems like by my seventh trip to Hobby Lobby for just ‘one more thing’ it adds up,” she said. “When I was little, my daddy was frugal, so I didn’t necessarily have huge, extravagant parties as a child. My birthday is in June, so my mother always had a backyard party, or my daddy would pull us around on rubber sleds behind the four-wheeler. I can remember, one time, she took a tall Styrofoam cone and stuffed Dum-Dums all over it. It is a vivid memory, and I sure felt fancy as an eight-year-old picking my sucker off that tree. I grew up in the country, so as a child I didn’t have a neighborhood to play in. I had to get creative and would dream up my own make-believe parties. I think that’s where all my creative ideas started. Entertainment at its finest!”

Kelli wants to make sure her loved ones have similar experiences. “I always liked my brother, Klark, and sister-in-law, Alex’s, gender reveal party when a crop duster flew down and dropped blue on the pasture of anxious onlookers,” she said. “The crop duster was my brother’s idea, but that is something we will always remember.”

A well-planned and executed party can take a significant amount of time to plan. Kelli says she sometimes starts planning months in advance for a shindig. “My mother is my go-to-girl to help me craft,” she said. “It’s kind of therapy for us. We have lots of fun in the shop with our jigsaws going and trying to get the projector lined up just right.”

Kelli admits she has to have help to pull off the celebrations her family and friends have come to enjoy.  “I like to use Graham Slam Bakery for all my cookies,” Kelli said. “She is so creative and always nails whatever wild hair scheme I have going on.”

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Kelli admits that throwing a party of this caliber is exhausting. “By the time an event is over I’m tired, but I always feel accomplished,” she said. “I like to create special memories for others, and I feel like at the end of our lives we will look back and remember those old ghost story hayrides at my annual Halloween party, or the crop duster flying by dropping the blue stream. The sparkle in my children’s eyes and their friends’ reactions are priceless. Once Roman’s friend asked me, ‘Mrs. Kelli, are you going to make those stuffed candy hands again for the Halloween party?’ Comments like that make it all worth it to me, because I know when that little boy grows up, he will remember the Halloween hayride with the stuffed candy hands on the hayride trailer.”

Kelli is definitely creating memories for a lot of little people. “My kids probably think this is all normal,” Kelli laughs. “Bless it if they had to invite three or four friends over with a plain-Jane cake. I believe in celebrating birthdays!”

Kelli adds that she thinks the “less is more” mentality is acceptable, too. “In fact, iJump Trampoline Park has made my life much easier as far as birthdays this year!” she said.

Kelli advises that party planning should start with a few simple decisions. “Always choose a color scheme first,” she said. “I think that’s where you should start.”

Kelli Phillips is no doubt a masterful party planner, but there is a reason she takes care to throw such extravagant parties. “Parties are hard work, but in the end, I think people truly appreciate the effort and the memories that were made.”

“Someone once told me, you never know how many birthdays you are going to get. It stuck with me.” 

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