“It’s tough getting older,” says Andrea Stieff, “but you don’t have to be depressed just because your AARP card comes in the mail!”

So says the events designer and florist, who relied on her contacts in the business and her “be young, be foolish, be happy” attitude to organize a carnival-themed, joint birthday bash for her and her husband, Jimmy.

More than 200 friends, family, colleagues and neighbors, ranging from 2 to 82 years old, celebrated Jimmy’s 50th and Andrea’s 45th with a night of “dancing under the big top.” “People don’t have fun parties anymore. Everything is all grown up and catered with wine glasses and gowns and tuxes,” says Stieff. “I wanted to go against the grain a little bit.”

The two Baltimore natives met nearly 27 years ago at a club called Fools in Ocean City. Now after two children, Emily (21) and Lizzie (18), and 24 years of marriage, Jimmy and Andrea felt it was time to throw a big bash. “We hadn’t really had a big party in the last 12 years, since we’d moved into the house,” says Stieff. 

After a year of planning, on party night the couple’s Roland Park home resembled Ringling Bros. Circus, with a giant striped tent erected on the front lawn and pink plastic flamingos (a surprise gift from former neighbors) greeting guests on their way in.

Every aspect of the evening, from the lime green-and-orange invitations decorated with rhinestones and glitter to look like sugar-rimmed margarita glasses (one line reading, “Time: 7:30… ’til the cops come!”), to the individually decorated foam can-koozies, was meticulously planned. “I swear I have a sickness for details,” admits Stieff.

Under the tent, guests indulged their inner child with everything from circus-style hot dogs and hamburgers to cotton candy and Popsicles. Motown, disco and old beach tunes flooded the dance floor. “I wish people had danced more,” says Stieff. “I was a dancing fool that night!”

Inflatable kiddie-wading pools filled with ice, bottled beer, wine and champagne acted as easy-access bars— each equipped with lacrosse sticks to scoop out drinks of choice. “Several Baltimore socialites took a little dive into the ice-filled pools around midnight,” says Stieff. “Too bad we don’t have that on film!”

Two “little people” dispensed Jell-O shots and glow-in-the-dark necklaces to guests, and a cocktail waitress (whose costume was an actual semi-circular bar) served up shots. “I briefly thought about having monkeys too, but thought better of it,” says Stieff. “I was afraid they’d get too excited or scared around that many people.

“I almost enjoyed planning it even more than having it,” she adds. “The best part was seeing it all come together. It was all over too soon— it always is.”

Although the party was a huge success, it barely avoided a potential disaster. A week before the event, BG&E crews began working on the power grids in the neighborhood, explaining to residents that power would be shut off the day before the big bash. “I thought it was a friend playing a practical joke,” says Stieff. “If the power hadn’t been restored that morning, we would’ve been sunk!”

Stieff’s advice on throwing a bash to remember? “Hire me!” she says with a laugh. “Other than that, don’t be afraid to go over the top.”

Big top, that is.


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