Bonfires are perfect for providing the ideal ambiance for a backyard party. There is nothing like the warmth and fun of sitting around a fire to turn a summer or autumn evening into a memorable night with friends. Bonfires in your own backyard can make a casual get-together look like a fully planned party without much prep work.
Bonfire parties are one of the easiest to throw together. Since you will be hanging outdoors, this is one of the rare at-home events where you won’t need to frantically clean your home. With very little planning (I wrote a shopping list), two people, and one hour, we quickly pulled off a bonfire party that was a refreshing way to spend a Saturday night with friends.
Let the natural surroundings of your yard be your main decoration. Isn’t that part of what having a party outside is all about? String white round lights around the yard to give a little light. Set up plenty of chairs for your guests to pull up next to the fire. Want to take it a step further? Put candles or small lanterns on each table.
Choose the proper location for your bonfire that’s away from your house, wooded areas, and any other objects that could potentially catch on fire. For many backyards, the ideal location for a bonfire is in a fire pit. Or you can dig a hole in the dirt or sand. Either way, make sure to have an ample supply of wood. If your friends are anything like mine, your bonfire party will go late into the night and you’d hate to run out of wood before the party is over.
Prepare Your Food and Beverages
Apart from enjoying the warm glow of the bonfire, your party cannot be successful without some amazing party foods. When it comes to parties outdoors, I’m all about the dramatic — but easy on the cook — build-your-own bars. Prepare a delicious menu that will ensure that your guests have a great time putting together their own food and keeps them talking about it throughout the night.
Almost everyone loves to indulge in salty, crunchy foods that you can munch on while roaming about and socializing with others. A Frito Pie bar meets all of these requirements and more. If you aren’t from Texas or haven’t visited the Lone Star State, Frito Pie may be new to you. At my last bonfire party, not a single guest had ever had it. All were extremely excited to try it and every one of them went back for thirds.
In 1932, Daisy Dean Doolin, mother of the founder of Fritos, Elmer Doolin, cooked up Frito Pie for the first time in her kitchen with just a few simple ingredients: Fritos, chili (a main staple of Texas diets), and cheese layered on top of each other. Go the extra mile and also offer guests diced onions, pickled jalapeno rings, peperoncini rings, diced tomato, and sour cream to pile on top.
To accompany your Frito Pie, you will want a refreshing beverage with hints of the south. Think peach juice, blackberry syrup, fresh-squeezed key limes, and rum mixed together for a summery cocktail served in jars with paper straws. For the non-alcoholic drinkers, put out pitchers of water and a tub of ice filled with soda in glass bottles so that guests can help themselves. Or try a spiced iced tea.
Now a bonfire party wouldn’t be complete without s’mores. They are an absolute bonfire necessity! Graham crackers, chocolate, and toasted marshmallows are an absolute classic. Why not fancy up this treat a bit? You can spice up your s’mores by also providing chocolate graham crackers, ginger molasses cookies, a variety of different chocolates, and an assortment of marshmallow flavors. There are no right or wrong combinations, so go crazy on the s’mores experimentation.
Oh, for it to be summer all year long! There’s something special about illuminating the backyard with little lights, lighting a fire, and eating outdoors at night. The warmth and fun of sitting around the fire with good friends and sharing a cocktail is hard to beat! Especially while having a bonfire party.
All photos are courtesy of the author.