There are many wonderful aspects of spring besides milder weather, with one major event being graduation.  Many people in our community will join in recognizing and celebrating the achievements of numerous high school and college graduates, and this milestone not only is deserving of a great party but it also requires planning for the future.

The Party Venue

You already have the answer for the “when,” but one of the first things to nail down when planning for a graduation party is the “where.”

Jennifer Davis-Korn of 48 Bowl advises that if you’re looking for a unique but inclusive setting for your graduation party, Parkway Lanes and Hollywood Bowl are it. She states, “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 per lane per hour and includes all 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 guests needs. Our catering menu 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 60oz pitcher (water is provided at no extra 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 in your rental space or lane area. Your guests may come and go as they please and the only clean-up you are required to take care of 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 anytime Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and ask to speak with a manager about booking your event–Parkway Lanes at (402) 483-7763 or Hollywood Bowl at (402) 466-1911.”

As we all know, graduation parties can take place just about anywhere you want to gather your friends and family to celebrate.  Some of the best venues might be outdoors, such as at a park or even in your own backyard.  If you need to make the most out of the space you have available, utilizing a tent is a great way to do so.  When picking out the options that will work best for your unique event, Julie Miller of Lincoln Tent Inc. advises, “For graduation parties we have a few styles of tents that work really well.  Many customers choose a frame tent as you can set these over your driveway.  This allows you to use your garage and extend the space easily.  If you choose to have your event in your backyard, the festival tent works well.  Depending upon your yard size you can accommodate a small group or a large number of guests.  These tents are very economical and do have center poles and guy ropes.  The other option is a larger clear span tent.  These can be small or very large depending upon the space you have and the number of guests you will be hosting.  If you will be using rectangular tables, you would need to allow about 10 square feet per person.  If you are using round tables, you would need about 15 square feet per person.  Our tents are available in either in solid white or striped versions, and often for a graduation party the school colors are chosen. So for instance if you went to Southeast High School you may choose yellow and white for your color.”  Regarding scheduling, Miller advises, “Typically we recommend you schedule your tent by April.  Usually we can accommodate you if you call later but you will have access to the best selection by calling early.  Before you call in it is helpful if you have some idea of how large of an area you have to put your tent, the date you would like, the color you prefer, and how many people you would like to have at one time.”  She adds, “Having a graduation party in a tent is a great way to celebrate the special day without having everyone trekking in and out of your home.  Having a large number of people in your home can be very overwhelming, but in a tent, people can spread out and relax.  Furthermore, in Nebraska our weather changes quickly so by having a tent you can relax knowing you will have a place for people to come in out of the weather or to find some shade on a sunny day.”

Entertaining Guests

The main responsibility of a good host is to make sure the guests are enjoying themselves.  While entertaining guests and having a good time means different things to different people, there are so many different options available that finding the right entertainment and provisions for you and your guests doesn’t have to be difficult or stressful at all–and neither does your event!

Choosing a Caterer

kit sam shen cafe lincoln nebraskaCatering is a wonderful option for graduation parties, as you will want to focus all of your attention on spending time with your guests and simply enjoying the moment.
Shen Café specializes in Chinese food made with fresh ingredients that are locally sourced when possible.  Kit Sam, owner of Shen Café, says, “We have two ways to order catering for graduation parties.  The first option is to order from our party tray menu, which is ala carte, meaning you just order individual trays of food from our catering menu.  Each tray feeds 7-9 people.  We also have large appetizer orders at a discounted price.  Our second option would be a customized catering package.  You tell us how many people you would like to feed and you can choose from our two-entrée, rice and appetizer package or choose from our three-entrée, rice, and appetizer package.  Each option has its own benefits, but we feel it is important to make things as effortless as possible for our customers.  For graduation parties, I always recommend keeping it simple and cost effective while having great food.  People really come out to see the graduate and socialize; the good food is a bonus.  Furthermore, if you don’t go overboard on your spending for the party you can do a number of other things with the money you save such as putting it towards decorating a new dorm room or taking an awesome post-graduation vacation with the family.  My advice to those hosting graduation parties is to think about doing something different from everyone else if possible.  People will likely be going from party to party and won’t want to eat the same type of food everywhere they go.  Mixing things up a bit will allow you to avoid this without going to any great lengths.  Aside from being friendly to your wallet while maintaining our high standards of taste and freshness, another benefit we provide to our customers is that you don’t have to order your food very far in advance.  We can usually handle any size of order within a few days or even the same day with ample time, depending on how busy we are that week. While I recommend giving us at least a week’s notice, if you are in a pinch we can certainly help you out.”

aaron young chefauchef lincoln nebraskaChefauChef is a food service business, so their main area of expertise is providing catering services and unique menu options for all types of events and therefore, the possibilities for your graduation party are endless!  ChefauChef owner Aaron Young states, “ChefauChef enjoys catering graduation parties!  If you are planning to have catering for your upcoming event, I recommend scheduling your caterer as soon as possible in order to create an agenda for the day accordingly and to plan out the menu well ahead of time.  I also recommend that when ordering from ChefauChef for your graduation party, make sure to give us ideas about what kind of food you would like to have, or let us know what kind of food the graduate enjoys, and we can plan your menu around those particular food items.  Also, have an idea of how much responsibility you want to take on the day of the party and let us take care of the rest!  In fact, my best advice is to make sure you don’t overwhelm yourself with hosting every aspect of the party, but to do your best to enjoy the day and the moment with as little stress and worry as possible.  This is a great achievement in your graduate’s life, so enjoy the moment with them and let us help you with the food.”

jennifer jones raising canes lincoln nebraskaWhether you’re hosting only a few people or the entire block, Raising Cane’s has you covered.  Jennifer Jones, owner of the Lincoln Raising Cane’s locations, highly recommends serving up fresh, never frozen chicken fingers along with their famous Cane’s Sauce, Texas Toast, coleslaw, fresh squeezed lemonade and freshly brewed tea that are guaranteed crowd pleasers.  Here are a few tips to get you started:

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

• 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 crewmembers, and all of your food will be cooked hot and fresh as needed throughout your event.

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

Having Raising Cane’s at your party can be done in three easy steps:

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

2. Call (402) 875-5754 (Option 6) to speak with one of the friendly managers at a store near you.

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

Jones adds, “For tailgate orders, giving us a heads-up and scheduling your event a week in advance is ideal, or two weeks prior if you’d like to have the mobile food trailer present at your event.  However, if you’re in a pinch, feel free to 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”

Unique Ways to Entertain

Here are some surefire ways to set your graduation party apart from all of the others that will be happening in the next few months:

*Group Therapy Bike Tours will come to you!

Have you ever 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 who 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.  Drew Phillippi, owner of Group Therapy Bike Tours, states, “Simply put, with Group Therapy Bike Tours, we strive to make people happy, one session at a time. With so many graduation parties going on, entertainment for your guests can often be difficult to book if you haven’t done so way ahead of time or might require a lot of effort to plan or set up.  We take out all of the hard work, as we simply show up to the party and responsibly chauffer your guests around while they enjoy a relaxing, carefree adventure.  People can hop on and hop off at any time, and in our experience it is a big hit with everyone, young or old.  So for your graduation party, we invite you to cruise the streets with your loved ones and guests in our modern day therapeutic chariot built to bring you the thrills of free smiles, good people and the wind in your hair!”

*Set up a photo booth

sunny dwyer shane and sunny photography lincoln nebraskaWhat is more fun than taking photos and “selfies” with your friends and family with fun props in a photo booth?  The best part is that not only do your guests get really great souvenirs, but you also get copies of all the photos to memorialize your celebration.  Shane & Sunny Photography can bring their signature PhotoBooth to just about any type of event, and graduation parties are one of the best times to utilize this feature which offers your guests the opportunity to be silly and have tons of fun together.  Sunny Dwyer of Shane & Sunny Photography adds, “People ask me all the time how to keep the guests entertained at a graduation party and if we photograph that type of event.  I always tell them that our PhotoBooth is perfect for graduation parties.  The guests love it and the host will get a copy of all the images.  We even offer special discounts for graduation parties!”

*Provide your guests some sweet treats

jeff white colby ridge lincoln nebraskaWhen providing treats for your guests, Colby Ridge offers a wide variety of products and options to fit any theme or color palette.  Popcorn is one of their traditional specialties, and they can incorporate your school colors and assemble personalized, individual bags to hand out to your guests which can feature your senior picture.  You can also buy the popcorn in bulk and use it for a popcorn bar.  Jeff White of Colby Ridge says that the personalized popcorn bags are really popular and particularly simple yet delicious gifts for graduation events of any size.  They will not only look nice and get your special message across to your guests, but they are also easy to handle and fun for all ages.  If popcorn isn’t your thing, Colby Ridge owns and operates a candy store with over 200 bins of colorful candy–which is perfect for a candy bar at your graduation party!  White adds that when you place an order with Colby Ridge, you will always receive a quality product at an affordable price.

sharon hansen nothing bundt cakes lincoln nebraskaSharon Hansen, co-owner of Nothing Bundt Cakes, offers several unique ways to treat your guests during a graduation party.  “We offer the Bundtini, which is our smallest cake that is sold by the dozen and can be decorated with several different graduation designs.  These are perfect for graduation parties because they are a convenient size, are easy to serve and eat and look great. We also offer rental of several different sizes of decorative stands that hold anywhere from three dozen Bundtinis all the way up to twenty dozen.  You can choose one flavor or an assortment of any of the ten flavors available.  For our larger cakes, the “Oh Yeah” design is very popular for both high school and college graduations and can be customized to be decorated with school colors.  Our 8” cake serves 8-10 people, our 10” cake serves 18-20, and our tiered cake serves 26-30 people.  We offer delivery and set-up to the location of your event, which is definitely a time saver when there are so many other things that will demand your attention during that time.  We are happy to take orders in advance once you know your celebration needs or we can be of assistance right up to the date of your party too!

Looking Ahead: Preparing for Graduation

Senior Photos

shane dwyer shane and sunny photography lincoln nebraskaWhile some are graduating this year, many others will be preparing to graduate next year and now is the time to book your senior photo sessions!  According to Shane Dwyer of Shane & Sunny Photography, “Most of our seniors get their sessions done over the summer.  Generally, the earlier the session the more specials most photographers offer.  Moreover, it’s always nice to get your session done before the craziness of the summer kicks in and the longer you wait the warmer it gets outside.  My favorite session of the day is the early morning session.  It’s the coolest time of the day and everyone is fresh.  By the end of the afternoon it’s hot and most people are tired.  When choosing a photographer you want to decide what is important to you.  Everyone has a budget.  What you need to decide is just how important these photos are.  For most people this is the only time they will be photographed until their wedding and you don’t want to trust the responsibility of capturing your child to just anyone.  Before you make the decision as to who will photograph your senior, you should definitely ask around.  Find out whom others have used in the past and how they liked the experience.  Once you get a short list of photographers, stop into their studios and check them out.  Once you do those two things you will have a good idea of who you want and what you like.  And at the end of the day, what the majority of people really want is to capture the senior’s personality.  There will always be new styles, trends and techniques for senior photos, but the goal of capturing the unique personality of the senior at this significant, defining moment in their life will never go out of style.”

amanda_heskett_amanda_marie_photographyAmanda Heskett of Amanda Marie Photography agrees that the next few months present the best time to have senior pictures taken because the temperatures are mild, and she adds that it is the time of year that offers the best color. She says, “In the morning or towards the evening, the sun is not as harsh, which is optimal unless you are looking for full sun photos. Also, the temperatures are milder so you are less likely to have shiny skin.  Scheduling your senior shoot in advance is very important as finding an appointment may be troublesome if you wait until late summer or fall. At this time a lot of kids are involved with camps, school activities, sports practices, etc.  For those who want fall photos, keep in mind the weather is more unpredictable.  If your heart is set on it, I recommended doing a full session early and a mini session later just in case. Finally, make sure you know when yearbook deadline will be and plan your session accordingly.

She further advises, “Choose a professional for your senior photos because they have the experience and know how to create variety so that you have more than one look to choose from.  A professional can also deliver under multiple lighting situations and provide enhancements such as touch ups, color enhancement and corrections, and so forth. If you have any questions, they are there to provide guidance, whether it is regarding outfit suggestions, prop suggestions or anything else you might have questions about. Above all, find the photographer whose personality and creativity fit you best. My goal with any of my clients is to make them feel comfortable and to just have fun; a session should never feel like a chore and I want my clients to be happy with the end results.”

steve petersen hangups gallery lincoln nebraskaIn addition to senior pictures, there are many other items commemorating one’s high school career that are a source of pride and are worthy of being displayed.  Some examples of these include diplomas, tassels, sports letters, medals, music awards, academic honor documents, and jerseys or uniforms.   Having these items professionally framed enables you to preserve and showcase your accomplishments and cherished memories for years to come.  Steve Petersen, owner of Hangups Gallery, says, “Creative framing is our specialty, and we welcome the opportunity to assist you with displaying and preserving your treasured memories.  As a member of PPFA (Professional Picture Framers Association), the international trade association for the art and framing industry, we employ fine quality craftsmanship and guarantee framing practices to professional world-class standards.  Our framing consultants all have art degrees and collectively offer over 50 years of experience and a full spectrum of design expertise. To find some direction on this type of creative endeavor, we welcome you to stop into our store for a consultation or visit our website at for more ideas.”

Going Off to College

For those who will be graduating from high school in the next few years, making the decisions on whether to attend a post-secondary institution and which is the best fit for you is both exciting and scary, and requires careful planning and consideration.  Stu Osterthun of Southeast Community College says, “Many graduating high school seniors have selected a college. Typically, campus visits are conducted during their junior year or first semester of their senior year. But regardless of when students get serious about college, they should do their homework when it comes to choosing a school. Does it offer an area of study I’m interested in? Where is it located? Is there on-campus housing or is it a commuter campus? What financial aid package do I qualify for? How much does it cost? What are the graduate employment rates? Answers to these questions and others will give students, and their parents, the ability to make an informed decision. A school’s website should be able to answer most questions, but there is no substitute for a personal visit to campus.”  Regarding a few of the benefits of attending Southeast Community College to earn your degree or prior to transitioning to UNL or another institution, he says, “The majority of students who graduate from Southeast Community College immediately enter the workforce. We offer the Associate of Applied Science degree, Diploma and Certificate in numerous programs. In our transfer area, we offer the Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees. Students who obtain those degrees typically transfer to a four-year institution to pursue a baccalaureate degree. An A.A.S. degree from SCC tells employers that you have a particular skill set that is right for the job. An A.A.S. degree, when pursued full-time, takes a relatively short time to complete, and that’s attractive to a lot of students. It also is a credential that tells employers that you can commit to completing a certain task. Students who go to SCC and plan to transfer their credits to a four-year school benefit in many ways. SCC offers smaller classes that provide a more comfortable learning environment. The cost savings alone is a big reason why students attend a two-year school first before transferring to a four-year institution. Students who transfer from SCC to four-year schools tend to do as well or better academically than the native four-year students.”

For all the parents out there who will be sending their children off to college soon, Osterthun advises, “Most parents dread the day when their son or daughter goes off to college. It can be a major adjustment for everyone. Aside from making sure your son or daughter has enough toothpaste, shampoo and deodorant, parents need to understand that they no longer have access to certain information that they enjoyed while their student was in high school. College students are considered adults, and they are the only ones who can give parents access to information such as grades and class schedules. Colleges are, by law, prohibited from releasing records and other information to parents. This is often difficult for parents to understand since they were used to having total access to their child’s records throughout high school.”  And for the students who are still considering what their plans for the future will be, he advises, “Sometimes students graduate high school knowing exactly what they want to study. Other times they have no idea. That’s OK. It’s common for college students to change their mind. It’s important to sit down with an advisor to discuss options when you’re not quite sure what you want to do. There are a lot of career exploration programs and interest inventories available that can assist students in making a choice. Inquire about these services at SCC if you are undecided on what to study.”

Whether you plan to buy your graduate a new car as a graduation present, or just want to make sure your child’s care will get them around safely as they head off to college, you are in good company with many other parents right now.

dr. andrew bateman clear vision eye care lincoln nebraskaWith graduation quickly approaching, it’s a great time to see an optometrist for a comprehensive eye exam. Dr. Andrew Bateman of Clear Vision Eye Care states, “As graduates move on to further schooling or the job market, most will spend hours in front of a computer. Using a computer for long periods is one of the most common causes of eye strain, and uncorrected vision can cause or worsen computer strain. My best advice is to make sure that you are seeing your best and taking care of your eyes, they are a valuable commodity! Another issue related to the heavy use of electronic devices such as smart phones, computers and tablets is the damage that ‘blue light’ can cause. There is research emerging that links the overabundance of screen time with damage to your macula, which over time leads to macular degeneration. There are new anti-reflective coatings that filter out this light, further protecting your eyes from damage.”  He adds, “Furthermore, as far as graduation gifts go, sunglasses are a fantastic choice! Looking for a fashion forward graduate who would like a Marc Jacobs or Kate Spade pair? Or maybe a runner, golfer, or biker? We offer sport specific sunglasses in our Rudy Project and Nike lines with many different tints that are perfect for a wide variety of activities.”

tim richter miracle mile motors lincoln nebraskaA new car is the pinnacle of exciting gifts for any graduate, and even though it may seem frivolous, there are many real benefits.  These benefits are contingent upon using the purchase as a tool for teaching life lessons.  A new car can contribute to their sense of accomplishment that will translate into future successes, a sense of security that comes with a reliable vehicle, especially if the graduate is going out of state for college or work, and can serve as a stepping-stone for financial responsibility as well as establishing good credit.  Tim Richter of Miracle Mile Motors offers several recommendations, stating, “Although buying a new vehicle as a surprise gift is fun and exciting, the process can also provide invaluable lessons for young adults.  If you are financing a new car, consider including your child on the loan to build their credit.   This way, when they get out of school they will have established some credit–a tool that will allow them to become more financially independent.  Furthermore, the graduate should put something of their own into the car to signify their investment, such as a part of the payment or paying the taxes.  This involvement will encourage them to take better care and display greater responsibility when it comes to their vehicle.  I also recommend doing research prior to car shopping so that you come prepared to discuss your wants and needs, as well as any questions that have already come up, with your Sales Representative so that they can help you get into a car that is the right fit for you.  This research should include warranty options and buying a service contract with the vehicle that supplements the warranty so that if any problems arise in an unfamiliar setting, those issues can be taken care of easily and with minimal out-of-pocket costs that a college student or young professional may not be able to afford on their own.  This not only helps with budgeting, but will also give everyone a good idea of the process and what to expect should any major mechanical issues occur.”

sherri stock inmotion auto care lincoln nebraskaIn order to avoid any major break-downs, following a regularly scheduled maintenance plan for your current or new vehicle is crucial. Moreover, choosing a business that you trust to care for your vehicle and keep it in great condition is an important decision to be made.  Sherri Stock of InMOTION Auto Care advises, “Having oil changes done according to the manufacturer’s guidelines on a regular basis is an easy way to ensure the longevity and proper functioning of your vehicle.  During this service we not only change your oil, but also perform an inspection of all filters, fluids, brakes, belts, hoses, tires and suspension parts among many other safety aspects.  I also highly recommend having a basic knowledge of your vehicle, such as where and how to check the fluid levels and tire pressure, so that you can perform your own inspection periodically.  Your owner’s manual is an excellent resource for general maintenance information, intervals and guidelines.  Having a basic understanding of your vehicle will come in handy many times down the road, as well as having access to a professional who you can trust with the care of your vehicle whether for general maintenance or when problems arise.”

We wish all the best to the Class of 2014 graduates, and looking past all of the fun and lasting memories that we anticipate you will experience during your graduation festivities; we hope to see all that you have to offer the world in your future endeavors!