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4th_of_julyRISMEDIA, July 1, 2009-(MCT)-Fourth of July entertaining doesn’t have to mean carting out the box of American flag decor and cutesy gadgets with red-white-and-blue everything.

Make your decor go farther by staying away from the flag accessories you can only use once a year. Instead, buy things in solid colors that you could use throughout the year. It’s a great excuse for buying that red vase you’ve been coveting. Or consider mixing it up by varying one of the colors. For instance, we used a light blue instead of a traditional royal blue. And other colors aren’t off-limits: think the yellow of daisies and lemonade.

Cathy Weldon, owner of the Porch in the Soulard neighborhood of St. Louis, says Fourth of July decor is more sophisticated this year. “People are going toward stuff that’s not so gimmicky. You can use it in different areas of the home throughout the year. In this economy, things have to do double-duty. Solid colors work really well for that.”

You can use these tips to decorate a quiet table on your front porch or several picnic tables at your local park.

Lighting. Don’t forget that at least part of your party will be under the stars (and fireworks!) outdoors. You’ll need outdoor lighting that makes sense. Consider paper lanterns or consider stringing up white or blue Christmas lights.

Centerpiece. A simple vase adorned with hypericum, blue delphinium and white hydrangeas sets the tone for this outdoor party. You could also try daisies or geraniums or a combination of carnations.

Place Settings. You probably have some white plates in your cabinets. Pull them out. Yes, even the fancy ones. We got a set from Home Goods for $6.99 each. Placed on top of a round red placemat ($1.99 each) at Bed, Bath & Beyond, they take on a more casual look. For the tablecloth, we used a couple of yards of light blue drapery fabric from Hancock Fabrics. For the napkins, we made cloth napkins from the same fabric and tied them with red striped ribbon.

Music. Here are some great ideas from
1. “Freedom” by George Michael
2. “I’m Free” by The Soup Dragons
3. “Pink Houses” by John Mellencamp
4. “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood
5. “American Girl” by Tom Petty
6. “America” by Neil Diamond
7. “Me and Bobby McGee” by Janis Joplin
8. “Rockin’ in the Free World” by Neil Young
9. “This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie
10. “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Jimi Hendrix

Food. Most people like a good barbecue – hot dogs, burgers, brats – for the Fourth. You could consider an old-fashioned New England-style clambake or simple finger foods instead. Add a little flair to sandwiches by taking various ribbons and wrapping them around toothpicks. Secure with a little hot glue.

For dessert, try a white sheet cake with raspberries and blueberries arranged to resemble an American flag or go light and serve fruit salad in a hollowed-out watermelon.

But remember, it’s hot outside, so be sure your food doesn’t spoil. Keep all perishable food in bowls over ice or in a cooler.

Statement makers:
For a standout piece on your table, try this cupcake combo. The kids will love the cupcakes baked in red and blue holders ($2.09 for a package of 75 red, blue and yellow) at a cake supply shop. Top with white icing and raspberries (or blueberries).

Next, arrange them on a cake plate and top with fondant stars ($9.99 for the fondant; $2.49 for the star cookie cutters) at Michael’s.

Arrange on top of two cake plates. On the large one ($16.99) at HomeGoods, we threaded a gingham ribbon. We stacked a smaller white cake plate on top ($7.99) at HomeGoods. You could also add a little zing with sparklers, which make dazzling decorations for any cakes or cupcakes.

But think safety first: Be sure to keep them out of children’s hands.

Games. The good thing about the Fourth of July is that the entertainment is often built-in with fireworks displays doing the heavy lifting. But while you are waiting for the sun to set, consider a game of water balloon toss with red, white and blue balloons.

©2009, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.