Celebrating Graduations in Lincoln, Nebraska

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Graduation season is upon us!  This means that many of us will be attending graduation parties to join in celebrating this major accomplishment and life milestone, and on the flip side it also means that many of us are planning these upcoming events.

Photo_Jim_Ballard_James_Arthur_Vineyards_Lincoln_NebraskaJames Arthur Vineyards is a particularly wonderful destination for a graduation party (especially a college graduation so most attendees are of age) as guests can enjoy the natural beauty of the estate, as well as a host delicious JAV signature wines, and the facilities on-site offer a warm and relaxed atmosphere ideal for gatherings of all sizes.  James Arthur Vineyards is the largest winery in Nebraska, and is located near Raymond about 10 miles from downtown Lincoln, which makes it a close enough trip for guests to be able to get out of the city and back in time for any other graduation parties that they might be attending that day.  With several private party spaces complete with comfortable furnishings, rich décor and spectacular views, it’s sure to be an enjoyable event for all.  One of the winery’s latest additions, The St. Croix Room, is a beautiful, sunny room features a stone fireplace, wine-tasting bar, catering kitchen, and French doors leading to a private deck. James Arthur Vineyards can provide a personalized menu of food options, and works with clients to offer custom-catered meals paired with the extensive award-winning selection of fine wines.  “Aside from a spread of hors d’oeuvres or a sit down meal paired with our signature wines, a popular option for this type of event is to set up tasting stations,” advises James Ballard, owner of James Arthur Vineyards.  “These tasting stations allow guests to travel from station to station where a wine has been paired with a specific appetizer.  In addition to hosting graduation parties, if you’re attending upcoming graduation parties and looking for the perfect gift, we have plenty of gift baskets available, we can customize one for you, and gift certificates are always a great option for a future tasting, special event, or just to enjoy a few hours at James Arthur Vineyards.  We also offer personalized labels, which are a great special touch for graduation parties—we can use the graduates photo or related motif for the perfect keepsake.  Above all, you can’t beat spending time with family and friends over plenty of great food, wine and a healthy dose of fresh air in a picturesque setting that gets everyone away from it all to celebrate such a special occasion together.”

If you’re more inclined to keep your party in Lincoln, it probably comes as no surprise that there are plenty of great venues to choose from!  Based upon the size of your party and the atmosphere you wish to create, finding the right fit really depends on knowing what your best options are first.

“If you’re looking for a unique but inclusive setting for your graduation party, Parkway Lanes and Hollywood Bowl are it,” says Jennifer Davis-Korn of 48 Bowl.  “There are several ways you could host a party in our centers, but the easiest way might be to rent 2-4 lanes for a couple of hours  with pitchers of soft drinks (or provide drink tickets to guests) and appetizer platters. If you are looking to host a party without bowling, our lounge areas are available for rental. Prices will vary by day and time, but in May, our best rates of the year will begin.

We host several graduation parties each year, so the sooner you book your party, the better. When you call to book your event, it’s helpful to know the number of guests you are expecting, if you want to include bowling, and if you have a budget in mind. If bowling is on the list of your party priorities, our weekend rates are inexpensive and we’d recommend renting 2-4 lanes, for ‘open house’ style parties. Lane rental is $30.00 per lane per hour and includes all of the bowling your guests can do in that time. For four or more lane rentals, shoe rental is included in that price and will save you $3.00 per person.

We do not allow outside food or drinks in our centers, but if you have a budget, we can discuss catering and beverage options that meet you and your guest’s needs. Our catering offers everything from appetizers to sandwich trays, taco bars, pizza, or buffet-style meals like pulled pork, beans and chips. Our catering prices range from $3.50 per person to $9.00 per person, depending on the food you wish to provide. Many events provide guests with coffee or tea, lemonade and water, or soft drinks, which cost $5.00 per 60 oz. pitcher. (Water is no cost.) You can also run a tab for your guests or provide drink tickets at $3.50 per ticket so that guests may choose a drink they want.

You are welcome to set up any decorations or signage that you wish in your rental space or lane area. Your guests may come and go as they please and the only mess you are responsible for is removing any decorations at the end of your party. Depending on other center guests who may be in the building at the time of your party, we’ll do our best to make your party festive with music and/or music video options at your request. Don’t forget that Parkway also offers Glo-Zone bowling at specified times, and party bookings for Glo-Zone hours are an option.

You can call either center Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and ask to speak with a manager about booking your event — Parkway Lanes can be reached at (402) 483-7763 or Hollywood Bowl at (402) 466-1911.

And, congratulations to all of the graduates!”

When it comes to entertainment, it’s safe to say that with all of the options in Lincoln you can get pretty creative if that’s the direction you want to head.  One of the best ways to get out on the town together to celebrate with your friends and family is a Group Therapy Bike Tour!

By now you’ve probably seen the Group Therapy Bike Tours pedal-powered trolley, full of people having a great time, pass you by in the downtown Lincoln area.  The fantastic news is that they also can be booked for private parties, as a way to extend the festivities from your house or yard into the streets of your neighborhood, or on location wherever you choose to host your event.  The trolley can be decorated in any way you see fit and can play any music you like, effectively making a graduation announcement to everyone that sees you cruising past.  This is great fun for all guests; there is no age restriction, those that are pedaling simply have to be tall enough for their feet to reach the pedals, and if not, they can ride along on the bench seat which does not require any pedaling at all. This way, no one misses out on enjoying each other’s company and some fresh air too.

Photo_Drew_Philippi_Group_Therapy_Bike_Tours_Lincoln_Nebraska“Graduation is one of the most pivotal milestones in early adulthood, which is why it comes as no surprise that parents and students alike spend months preparing for their big celebration,” says Drew Phillippi, owner of Group Therapy Bike Tours. “Group Therapy Bike Tours is unmatched in our ability to deliver the most unique social celebration available.  As such, planning and preparation are key–to get the date and time that you want, booking ahead of time is crucial. Simply book your reservation online and let Group Therapy Bike Tours handle the rest. We deliver a social experience that will have everyone smiling ear to ear and reminiscing about your event for years to come!”

Whether you all go together or take turns getting picked up for a ride, there’s plenty of ways to incorporate Group Therapy and it will certainly make for a memorable experience that your guests will love.

So once you’ve decided where you’ll be hosting your graduation party, you can then start getting all of the other items together. One major thing that the choice of venue for your celebration will determine is your options for catering.  There are a number of excellent choices for catering available in Lincoln, so it really depends on the location or venue you choose in addition to the type of fare you prefer and how far in advance you are able to plan your event.

Photo_Kyle_Rein_Gretas_Gourmet_Catering_Lincoln_Nebraska“Graduation, like so many of life’s great moments, is a rite of passage that is cause for celebration,” adds Kyle Rein, Catering Manager for Greta’s Gourmet.  “It is occasions such as these where we at Greta’s can truly add to the celebrating. We offer many options from delicious dips and hors d’oeuvres to more unique specialties like a hog roast, and everything in between.

The best advice when booking any event is to plan ahead of time. It is the best way to ensure that you will get exactly the venue you want. If you are on a budget, most churches of which you are a member will let you use their event spaces and banquet halls at no charge. There are also many fun new places in Lincoln that you may not have considered like The Pilgrimer in the newly renovated Spaghetti Works building just off the P Street district downtown, or Rule G in the Railyard. Be prepared by having a budget in mind, an estimated guest count, and whatever ideas you would like to bring to the table as far as theme and décor. Again, the more time you give yourself to prepare the more stress free your planning will be.

My best advice is simply to make it yours. This is a celebration of your accomplishments and it should reflect you. We specialize in creating from scratch menus that represent the people who created them and that your guests will be sure to love.

Hors d’oeuvres style spreads are increasingly popular and offer a wide variety of options for your guests to enjoy. Another popular idea is a graduation tailgate party. What better way to celebrate your accomplishments and your school pride than to throw a tailgate? This way you can theme your party around your school colors and offer wings, ribs, and all things barbeque.

There are many occasions in life that grant us the opportunity to call together friends and family for a fun celebration. Take time to relish those moments, and leave the cooking to us.”

By far the best perk of hiring someone to cater your upcoming graduation is that you are able to delegate a major part of the overall entertaining to the talented culinary professionals who are well prepared to help and have the experience to know what works best and on the other hand, will lead you away from what really doesn’t.

Photo_Cherie_Anderson_Venue_Restaurant_and_Lounge_Lincoln_Nebraska“Venue offers many varieties of catering options that can be conveniently picked up or delivered with ample notice,” explains Cherie Anderson of Venue Restaurant & Lounge.  “Venue also has three private dining rooms that can be booked for your gatherings. Outside of weddings, graduation tends to be one of the busiest, stressful times in one’s life and having the convenience of not spending hours in the kitchen is priceless!

Our variety of heavy appetizers will give your guests many options to choose from and accommodates for those with certain dietary restrictions.  I recommend offering a selection of 7-8 items which allows you to ‘run out’ of one or two options at ease as you have five or more other options to choose from.  This way no one will leave hungry.  Our BLT Bites are certain to be a topic of conversation as they are so tasty and hold nicely on the spread along with our designer bite size desserts–Chef Linda’s attention to detail on each piece makes this a guest favorite.

Our catering team will assist in calculating how much food is needed and which selections would be the best fit based on several factors such as time of day, number of guests, how long food is being displayed, and whether the style is open house or an intimate family gathering.  Food tends to be the focal point of any gathering so why not enjoy your times with family and friends and let Venue take the stress out of this planning process.”

Photo_Jennifer_Jones_Raising_Canes_Lincoln_NebraskaYou could also choose to start the party with Raising Cane’s!  “Whether you’re hosting only a few people or the entire block, Raising Cane’s has you covered,” says Jennifer Jones, owner of the Lincoln Raising Cane’s franchise.  “Serve up fresh, never frozen chicken fingers, our famous Cane’s Sauce, Texas Toast, cole slaw, fresh squeezed lemonade and freshly brewed tea at your next party in three easy steps:

1. Nail down the date, time and number of guests you’ll be feeding.

2. Call (402) 875-5754 to speak with one of the friendly managers at a store near you

3. Discuss what menu items you’d like to serve and if you want to pick it up at one of our restaurants or if you’d like us to bring our kitchen to you in our mobile food trailer.

The menu:
• For smaller parties we recommend ordering the Tailgates with 25, 50, 75 or 100 chicken fingers and Cane’s Sauce. From there you can add on additional items such as our lightly buttered Texas Toast and creamy cole slaw.

• For larger parties—think 1,800 fingers or more—our mobile food trailer will be a hit. It’s equipped with a full kitchen and crew members and all of your food will be cooked hot and fresh as needed throughout your event.

• Quench their thirst. Jugs of our freshly squeezed lemonade and freshly brewed tea are also available.

For tailgate orders, a one week heads-up is ideal and two weeks if you’d like to have the mobile food trailer, but if you’re in a pinch, give us a shout and let’s see what we can work out. Start planning your event today by calling (402) 875-5754 or emailing us at community@shv-inc.com.”

As you can see, planning for graduation parties is all about the details.  Your unique vision for the event and your guest list are the two things that will dictate everything from the venue to the food and drinks and even entertainment.

Photo_Anthony_Bonelli_MoMo_Pizzeria_and_Ristorante_Lincoln_Nebraska“At MoMo, we offer a private dining area and a special menu for parties with items that are not featured on our regular menu,” advises Anthony Bonelli of MoMo Pizzeria and Ristorante.  “This space allows for 28 people seated, and more for a reception where guests are welcome to move around freely and visit.

For those who are planning a graduation party, we invite them to schedule a time where we can visit and go over all of the details.  At this time you’ll be able to go over the menu options—our most popular dishes are easier finger foods such as cocktail meatballs, caprese skewers and of course, pizza!  We have found that people prefer to mingle over cotorno, antipasto and hors d’oeuvres style dishes that are fresh and flavorful yet still very easy to manage.  We have a great option to enjoy wine by the glass in addition to purchasing by the bottle, and we also serve carafes of sangria which are very popular during the spring and summer months.

We take pride in offering a casual yet chic environment where our guests feel like they are visiting someone’s home for a party, and we ensure that entertaining is a breeze with exceptional service and our high quality fare.”

Photo_Regina_Henson_Cupcakes_and_More_Lincoln_NebraskaAlong with offering food or snacks for guests depending on the timing and scale of the party, you definitely can’t forget about dessert!  “Graduation is a time to celebrate accomplishments!” says Regina Henson, owner of Cupcakes and more…  “What better way than offering ‘sweets’ to your guests who have come to help the graduates celebrate!  We offer half-sheet cakes, regular and mini cupcakes, cake balls/cake pops, and sugar cookies to name a few popular options!  All can be customized to match the school’s colors.

Our most popular baked sweets for graduation parties are the half sheet cakes and cupcakes. We have cupcake towers to showcase the delectable treats and make it easily accessible for the guests.  We offer a wide variety of stands too.   It is important to remember that we have over 300 different flavors to offer for your sweet baked treats.

Our latest addition this season is our homemade sugar cookies. We use an old family recipe and have found it’s a crowd pleaser with everyone.  These too can be customized to compliment your party theme or school colors.

As always, we offer free consultations and free samples. You can call (402) 261-6214 to set up your appointment.  Our best advice would be to plan three to four weeks ahead of time! Cupcakes & more…can be your biggest stress reliever!”

If you do choose to have the party in your home, which is particularly common in the case of graduation parties, another item you’ll want to consider delegating is the cleaning before and after the event.

photo-crystal-patzel-crystal-clean-housekeeping“When you are planning a large event there is already a long to-do list,” says Crystal Patzel, owner of Crystal Clean Housekeeping. “Making sure your home is tidy and ready for the guests just adds to the stress—and stress makes parties less exciting!

It is important to give a couple weeks’ notice to the cleaning company you choose. This helps because many times when it comes to events such as graduations there is a high demand for cleaning services and you want to be sure and get the date and time you prefer. When we schedule services for clients, we always ask how many rooms will need to be cleaned and the date and time preferred for scheduling purposes. One of our favorite things to do, especially with new clients, is to have them prepare a priority list. This way there is no confusion on what our clients expect from us during their specified time frame.

When you choose to hire a professional to clean before, after or both you are likely to focus more on the important tasks of planning and enjoying your time with family and friends.”

Whether you’re expecting ten guests or 200, planning a party can be stressful–but it doesn’t have to be with the help of local professionals who have plenty of experience and talent to offer.  Taking advantage of this support will ensure that your graduation celebration is one to remember.  Congratulations to all of the Class of 2015 graduates, we wish you well and hope you have a great time celebrating such a huge accomplishment!