SPONSORED EDITORIAL — Summer is here, so now is the time to start planning wonderful hot weather happenings. Grilling with friends and family while sipping on cool drinks is a time honored way to enjoy the season. Why not make preparing your own perfect summer barbeque one of your goals for reconnecting with loved ones? It’s easier than you think to serve up freshly-prepared foods in a festive outdoor atmosphere. You can even divide the work while increasing the pleasure by preparing your fete with friends. Now is the time to create memorable moments that deliciously nourish the soul. Whip up some hot fun in the summertime with our perfect summer barbeque checklist.

Location
You can host a exquisite barbeque in a wide variety of locations. A comfortable backyard can be as picturesque as a corner of a big park. If you are a city dweller, check to see if a common outdoor space around your building can be used, or even a friend’s balcony. Tailgating is also an option if you want to hold your barbeque before another event like a family reunion. It’s a must to have a back-up location in case of bad weather, so plan accordingly.

Invitations
Get your invitations out early! Give guests at least three weeks, preferably four, to plan on attending your appetizing soiree. Of course, the age of Facebook makes getting out those notices easy, but don’t forget to use phone calls and email to reach potential attendees who don’t use the social network. Paper invites can also be cute, and a great way to introduce your theme.

Decorations & Decor
For an added splash of style, decorate your barbeque blow out according to a theme. Choose a fun song you like, and use the words of the chorus to inspire the title, colors and visual features of your event. Or perhaps there is a funny phrase that your friends share as an inside joke that would make great inspiration. Pick napkins, table cloths, posters, balloons and even stream videos that portray the feeling of your affair.  Plan your music play list to match the various ages and interests of your guests, in addition to your theme – and don’t forget to add those summer anthems!

Tools & Tips
Barbeque grills come in a wide array of sizes and styles. Be sure you have one big enough grill, or more than one small one, to accommodate the number of guests you will be serving. You can borrow grills from friends, or look into renting a grill from a business in your area. Tools for managing meats over the flame are essential, so look into some attractive options that will look good as you cook. As you plan your dishes, figure out how many trays, bowls, and serving utensils you’ll need, and decide if you want to go with disposable or re-usable options. If you can, match your disposable serving dishes with the colors of your theme. Have plenty of heavy duty napkins and wet wipes, and a method of keep food hot.

Food
People have come to expect American fare like burgers, hot dogs, chicken, and seafood such as shrimp or scallops. Vegetarian options like tofu dogs are a must. If you want to get fancy, you can offer steak, bison, and even ostrich burgers, which are lower in fat. Deviled eggs, baked beans, and potato salad are de rigueur, but don’t forget the grilled vegetables and corn on the cob, always the highlight. Distinguish your perfect summer barbeque by offering unusual toppings for burgers and dogs, like special sauces and a variety of cheeses. If someone in your circle makes a beloved dish, ask them to bring it. You may also want to consider making your own barbeque sauce or rub, which is simple to do, and will leave your guests licking their fingertips.

Drinks & Hors d’oeuvres
Even with all the planning in the world, guests will arrive at various times, and they will have to wait while you whip up the main dishes. That’s why it’s important to prepare hors d’oeuvres and small dishes in advance, and have drinks ready to savor as folks wait. Tasty drinks like Country Time lemonade are essential for beating the heat. Coolers or large plastic tubs packed with ice are a handy way to make soothing summer drinks accessible to guests. Stocking up on extra bags of ice is recommended.

Dessert
Going back to your roots can provide creative stimulation for interesting sweets for the end of the meal. Homemade root beer floats are a self-serve option that inspires sweet old-school memories. Sweet potato pie, peach cobbler with ice cream, and shaved ice with flavored syrup are also cute confections. If guests ask if they can bring anything, their favorite dessert is perfect to recommend. Don’t forget the watermelon and fruit salad for those seeking healthier alternatives.

Activities
It’s great to just bond over eats, but it’s even better to have options. Board games, karaoke, volleyball, kickball, or cards for the older folks are all reliable forms of additional entertainment. You can even make up a game related to your theme, or hold a tournament based on a selected game. Giving away prizes to top winners will win you extra points.

Record Great Moments
Don’t forget to take lots of pictures, and even videos with your cell phone. Set up a hashtag on Twitter that your guests can send tweets to, and @ people who wanted to come but couldn’t be there. Ask attendees to share everything on Facebook, in addition to Flickr, and sites like Kodak Gallery so that people a little behind the social media curve can be included. Another way to make things memorable is to prepare a little keepsake guests can take away — if you really want to go the extra mile!

Perfect summer barbeques are unequaled for bringing people together in a spirit of loving harmony. Raise a banner of celebration for those you treasure most with these tips as you cook up an unforgettable cook out. Tasty flavors mixed with great people in an upbeat setting make the perfect recipe for summer fun.

For more ideas check out Country Time Lemonade @ www.countrytime.com

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