No matter your party affiliation, a presidential election is a great reason to party.
So, on Tuesday night, gather all your friends -- donkeys and elephants alike -- and throw a bash that celebrates, well, if not an ideal outcome for everybody (after all, the polls are neck-and-neck), at least the recognition of the American tradition of a peaceful transition of power.
(Oh, who are we kidding? Given how contentious the election has been, most Americans probably won't truly celebrate unless their candidate wins. Come to think of it, keep the tissues handy, and hide any small objects that might be thrown across the room.)
The No. 1 rule of an election-night party? Make sure it's bipartisan -- unless you know for sure everyone on your guest list votes the same way. (And even then, it's risky to swing one way or the other. You don't want to divide; you want to unite!)
Here are some ideas for a fun and mutiny-free election-night gathering that'll bring together voters of red state and blue state persuasions, and those caught somewhere in between.
Fox News vs. MSNBC
CNN vs. ABC/NBC/CBS
Everyone has a favorite network -- and feelings that all the others are biased against their own leanings.
Best thing to do? Have a few TVs tuned to different stations. If you're going with CNN in the living room, tune a bedroom screen to a noncable broadcast and a kitchen TV to Fox News. Keep remotes handy; flip around on commercials. Not only will this satisfy fans of different stations, it will help you keep tabs on the network coverage.
If the presidential race is as close as everyone thinks, it could be fun to turn the coverage into a game. Let partygoers earn prizes for correctly guessing which network will "call" which swing states first, or which will be first to declare a winner. Have them place wagers on what time the loser will make his concession speech; the one with the closest to the actual time wins a prize. Have them guess which color tie the next president will be wearing -- or better yet, what color the next first lady will be wearing.
Those who actually voted in the election get an extra point.
If watching the results roll in is too, well, sobering for your 21-and-up party, turn the commentary into a drinking game. Take a sip each time a commentator says "exit polls" or "next four years." Finish your drink if they're forced to take back an already-declared state.
Silly and fun, yes, but remember, we're talking about a party here, not a poly-sci class.
Red. White. Blue. Got it? Dig out your Fourth of July decorations and get a second use out of the flags, stars and stripes this year. Sarabeth Quattlebaum, owner of Keller-based Sarabeth Events, suggests searching local party stores for red and blue plates, cups, and napkins.
We dropped by a Fort Worth card and party supply store early last week, and election-themed party supplies were already half-off. They included donkey and elephant yard signs; hanging "curtains" of red, white and silver stars; and American flag plates, cups, napkins and more.
Consider handing out Mardi Gras-style beads featuring donkey and elephant medallions to each guest, giving them red or blue plastic "clapper" hands, and letting them wave small American flags as they cheer throughout the night.
Set up a cupcake display (red velvet with blue sprinkles) on top of donkey- and elephant-themed hats. Fill small bowls with packaged buttercream mints that say "Voters Rule."
One party store even had $15 piñatas appropriate for the occasion -- red, white and blue stars with streamers. Go ahead, let partygoers take a few whacks in the back yard. Fill the piñata with American candies -- and don't forget the sours for those feeling sour at the end of the night.
Another display idea? Quattlebaum likes to decorate tables with the brightly colored Jones Soda bottles: Strawberry Lime and Blue Bubblegum flavors are perfect for a flag-themed event.
Signature sips (celebratory or sorrow-drowning) are a must for this event. Rim glasses with red and blue sugars to make them festive, or garnish each one with an American flag toothpick speared through a blueberry and cherry, raspberry or strawberry.
Sylvia Cosmopoulos, corporate mixologist for Republic National Distributing Co., offered recipes for two patriotic-colored cocktails, the red state and the blue state.
Anyone remember the 2000 election, when it was too close to (correctly) call all night long? We hear there's a risk of that this year, too. Raise a glass to potential confusion with a flashback cocktail, the hanging chad, from the makers of Hornitos Tequila.
You'd be safe grilling or serving favorite comfort foods like mac and cheese, or all-American foods like apple pie or root beer floats. But if you want to theme the party a little more specifically for the candidates, here are some ideas:
Romney-themed snack: Peanut butter and honey sandwiches. This Mitt Romney favorite is an easy, mess-free snack for party attendees. Supposedly a staple on the campaign trail, these sandwiches can be assembled in advance and quartered into bite-size triangles. No time for that? Reports say he enjoys food from The Cheesecake Factory, too (Arlington: 817- 465-2211; Southlake: 817-310-0050).
Obama-themed snack: Chili. Reportedly one of the president's favorite dishes, chili is a perfect party food. Make your family's favorite recipe, or skip the mess and order by the gallon from your favorite restaurant.
Biden-themed snack: Delaware peach pie. Honor Vice President Joe Biden by serving his home state's official dessert. The fruit is slightly past season here, yes, but you'll still be able to find pies in the bakery section of many grocery stores.
Ryan-themed snack: Wisconsin cream puff. Celebrate Paul Ryan with the delicious state dessert of Wisconsin. Find them frozen at your favorite grocery store, or order them from Fort Worth's Blue Bonnet Bakery (817-731-4233), where the puffs have an oozy center and a flaky crust.
"Straw poll": Serve cheese straws out of a vase or tall, skinny glass. Find these in the snack aisle of most grocery stores, or bake your own (they're not much more than cheese, flour and butter).
Be democratic: Set up a taco bar and let guests choose their own fillings, or put out a pizza bar and let them choose the toppings. Ditto with a soup, salad or sundae bar.
Get kids involved: Let them cut sugar cookies into stars using cookie cutters, then bake the cookies and let the kids ice them with red and blue frosting. Another idea: Let them dip pretzels or pretzel sticks into white chocolate, then roll the snacks in red and blue sprinkles.
Flag cake: Top a white sheet cake with candies arranged in the shape of stars and stripes -- blue M&M's, red M&M's and white Jordan almonds or white chocolate-covered raisins. Red, white and blue jelly beans are perfect, too.
Melting pot: Melt cheese in a communal fondue pot and have plenty of dippers on a platter nearby -- bread cubes and veggies work well.
Updated classic: Pin the tail on the donkey -- and the trunk on the elephant. Make this classic party game bipartisan by adding an elephant to the mix. Guests can pick either animal, cover their eyes and pin away.
Bet red or blue: Greet guests at the door with a list of states or a blank map and have them guess which states will go red and which will go blue. Each time a state is announced, those who get it wrong have to put a dollar in the pot. The guest with the most correct wins the cash.
Photo booth party favors: Get life-size stand-up cut-outs of Obama and Romney -- or offer their faces as Halloween masks (get them on sale now) -- and have guests take their picture with the next president (and the runner-up, too) on their way out. Text or e-mail them their photos. Create an online photo album of all your guests with the president and it will look like an official state dinner.
Set the mood with this list of tunes that are sure to have your guests feeling patriotic. Have the music playing as guests arrive, and if they need a break from TV-watching, designate an outside "coverage-free" zone and pipe it in the back yard, too.
R.O.C.K in the U.S.A., John Mellencamp
Sweet Home Alabama, Lynyrd Skynyrd
Made in America, Toby Keith
Living in the Promiseland, Willie Nelson
America, Neil Diamond
Ragged Old Flag, Johnny Cash
Born in the U.S.A., Bruce Springsteen
Pink Houses, John Mellencamp
America Will Survive, Hank Williams Jr.
Coming to America, Neil Diamond
America the Beautiful, Ray Charles
A Horse With No Name , America
Peaches, the Presidents of the United States of America
Danger Zone, Kenny Loggins
The Star Spangled Banner, Jimi Hendrix
Living in America, James Brown
American Woman, the Guess Who
American Pie, Don McLean
Party in the U.S.A., Miley Cyrus