From piñatas to full-blown balloon sculptures, there’s no end to the party props on offer these days. Joanne Cocks follows the trends to add the finishing party touch... without necessarily having to resort to internet shopping.
Whoever thought the Maltese did not know how to throw parties might have been right up to some time ago. However, during the past decade and aided by the mushrooming of party shops, the popularity of themed parties has grown.
Organisers are going to town with the element of fun and surprise customised party props can add, and even have a wider choice of specialised outlets to choose from.
When he opened shop just under 20 years ago, Stephen Cassar, owner of Party Time in Rabat, says he struggled since the Maltese did not venture into parties much. At the time, they were traditionally children’s birthdays, communions and confirmations, weddings and the odd anniversary.
“I found it difficult to change the concept and introduce themed parties, especially for adults. It started off among a small group of friends organising a party at home, but it is now gradually becoming more popular,” he says.
Among the most popular themes for parties are 1920s razzle-dazzle, super heroes and fairy tales, Western, boogie nights and pimps and whores.
Cassar has also started stocking adult costumes and accessories. “We try to go the whole hog and bring in as many accessories as possible. If you plan on having a pimp and prostitute theme, for example, we have gold teeth caps, dollar signs on chains for the men, hats, etc...”
Ever popular are the hen and bachelor parties, for which toys and accessories are never lacking. Similarly, on the popularity list is Halloween, which has seen a surge in popularity over the past few years, although it appears to be more popular among residents in Sliema and St Julian’s, Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq, Attard and Mellieħa, where children in costume are seen knocking at doors, trick-or-treating.
Meanwhile, according to Cassar, residents in the south and harbour regions tend to concentrate more on their kids’ communion and confirmation parties. “They too go to town and tend to organise mini weddings,” he said.
Parents nowadays do not lack choice: available on the market are a vast array of character-themed invitations, plates, napkins and hats. The list is never-ending.
The latest trends for boys’ parties are Fireman Sam, Moshi Monsters, Hungry Birds and a pirate theme, while girls’ most popular characters remain Minnie Mouse and fairy princesses.
Another item that is gradually finding its place at local parties is the piñata, traditionally a South American animal stuffed with sweets, which the children ‘flog’. This now comes in different shapes and sizes, characters and colours.
One staple and very popular accessory at any party is the humble balloon, which by today’s standards can be considered humble no more.
Balloons can be included at any occasion and event – not just for kids, says Carmel Galea, managing director of PartyGoods Malta, which specialises in balloons and balloon sculptures. Valentine’s remains the most popular event, followed by Christmas and New Year, graduations, birthdays, births, while Halloween is still growing locally, he says.
Originally an importer of toys, who had been bringing over some balloons, Galea became hooked after seeing a Qualatex representative create an arch out of them some years ago.
“Balloons are my passion and when I see a balloon, any balloon, I have to stop and check it out,” he says.
Among the most popular sculptures and designs at parties, weddings and corporate events are arches and columns. After all, a balloon is elastic and it’s there to be shaped, Galea explains.
Another trend is to have smaller balloons in a larger one, especially at weddings. The bride and groom together pierce the large ballon on exiting the church, thus releasing other smaller ones into the air.
“Balloons can create harmony and change the atmosphere,” Galea maintains. “I was never an artist, or very creative. But I’ve become one now.”
Galea has been involved in creating atmosphere and ambiance through balloons at a number of corporate events, including the 5,000-strong Oriflame conference held in Malta a couple of years ago. At the end, large inflatable carpets were broken, ‘freeing’ at least 8,500 balloons on to the participants. Similarly, balloons were also dropped onto all those who attended Rockestra recently.
Galea, who is backed by his wife Sharon, has also created dresses out of balloons, his first attempt being used at the chocolate festival in Ħamrun last year.
If you thought balloons were run-of-the-mill decorations, think again. And beyond the creativity, it’s also quite a technical thing: for example, there are three kinds, the most common in latex, followed by foil balloons and plastic ones, which are considered the most hardy.
The weather also has a bearing on how long a balloon remains inflated, since a change in temperature and altitude affects it directly, while humidity is one of the worst conditions.
“Anybody’s budget can be targeted as some designs and balloons can be quite cheap. Only the sky is the limit,” and in Galea’s case it is literally.