Birthday Parties, Hilo Style

Monday Musings from Melinda by LHS Contributor Melinda M.


No Chuck E. Cheese. No laser tag (when this post was written in 2016). No more bowling or pool rental or dollar movie theater. No magician or clown (Yummy is now 90 and performing on America’s Got Talent!). No traveling petting zoo or ponies. Birthday parties for children in Hilo are, by necessity, basic. There are no commercial venues you think families on Oahu or Maui or the mainland have to throw their child a birthday extravaganza. There are rarely even goodie bags. What we do have is the most important thing – getting together.

When the kids were younger, we’d just admit it: this party is as much for us as it is for you – we want to see and celebrate our friends who are helping us through this madness called parenting! There were one or two years when we tried the “just drop off your kid” version and organized a few games but our house, like most in Hilo, is too modest (ie, small) to contain all that energy!

We once set up food and drink at the zoo, which is a county park with no admission, to coincide with the one hour petting zoo on Saturdays. We’ve done a few get togethers at the beach, which is anxiety-producing since you can’t be sure how badly it will rain (notice I didn’t say “if”).

One year we went all out and rented the cabins at Kalopa State Park for an overnight camping trip. That just about swore us off to birthday parties forever!

Mostly, though, it’s been sleepovers at the house with an endless stream of movies and junk food and little parental intervention. That seems to be the biggest gift of all to our girls and their friends, all of whom have highly scheduled, organized, and helicoptered lives.

Recently my daughter turned 15 and you know what she wanted to do? Play “Chopped.” This is a game she and her friends have taken to lately and it does require some parental involvement and cost. You put out three ingredients and they must use all three, in combination with the contents of your fridge and pantry, to create an appetizer, a main dish and a dessert within a set time. You can put out different triumvirates of ingredients for each course or use the same for all. Just be prepared to taste it all – parents, of course, must judge each dish, critique them and declare a winner!

What relatively easy and inexpensive fun – the girls were giggling the whole time, problem solving and using creativity I didn’t even know they possessed, for example: when did my daughter learn what “coulis” was and how to make it?! Oh my goodness.

Hilo may not have a ton of options for structured, formal parties but when you realize how little your kids need to form fantastic memories, everyone is richer for it.



  1. I love it!! Birthday parties that actually celebrate how happy we are to enjoy the presence and the lives of the people we love! Great point about how restorative a non-structured evening must be for our busy kids!!

    I am really going to encourage this Chopped birthday party idea! Brilliant!

    P.S. Triumvirate? I had to go back up to look at your post to spell it correctly!
    Impressive 25-cent word! : )


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