by Carrie Steinweg
LANSING, Ill. (May 14, 2020) – A lot of things have changed since mid-March. One of them is the way we celebrate occasions that would have involved large gatherings—weddings, anniversaries, graduations, baby showers, retirements. A lot of birthdays have passed without big parties, but birthday boys and girls aren’t being forgotten. Their loved ones are just finding creative ways to celebrate.
Some of the youngest Lansing residents have been a little disappointed at not being able to gather with family or have a party at an entertainment center with their favorite superheroes or princesses.
Rayann and Andrew Denlinger wanted to come up with something special and memorable for their daughter Evelyn, who turned 4 recently and had been looking forward to a Frozen-themed party.
“I had to do something else. Both my girls love balloons, and an idea just popped into my head,” said Rayann. “I started looking on Amazon to see how much it would cost for a big quantity of balloons.”
Rayann ended up buying more than 1,200 balloons, which she and her husband filled with a small air compressor. It took four nights sitting in the garage filling the balloons and then transferring them to the laundry room. “On the last day we ran out of room and had to tell the girls they couldn’t go downstairs,” said Rayann.
Some balloons were also filled with helium and lights and streamers were hung from the basement ceiling. Kids’ party music was queued up as Evelyn and her two-year-old sister, Olivia, descended down the stairs. “She was super shocked and surprised and grateful. She said, ‘You did this all for me?’”
Cindi Krusza tried planning for some birthday lawn decorations, but she found that vendors were booked or merchandise was unavailable or had a delivery date too far away. She arranged for a parade that her son, Mateo, who was turning 18, seemed to enjoy.
He got his dinner birthday wish of food from Bombers BBQ and a tres leche cake from Calumet Bakery, along with a couple friends stopping by to sing to him.
Maise Barnum was treated to a fun parade as she celebrated a milestone birthday—her 21st. Her mom, Julie, recruited friends and family to form a line of about 18 cars that circled around the neighborhood three times. “She was completely surprised,” her mom said.
Christine Moehlig also found herself trying to figure out a way to celebrate her daughter Amanda’s 21st birthday. Such birthdays often are celebrated in bars or pubs, but with none open during the pandemic, her mom did what she could to make it special.
“I ordered a banner for her and asked for my Facebook friends to send her cards. She received around 15 cards from people she didn’t even know. We also decorated our house with several booze-themed and rose gold #21 balloons,” said Moehlig. “One thing we will always remember is our midnight shot of whiskey. It’s something we could not have done if we had to go to school or work the next day. We may not have been able to throw her the party we planned, but we tried to make the best of it.”
Caitlyn DeGrauwe had a memorable 30th birthday thanks to family and friends who planned a surprise facial party for her. “We delivered baskets the day before or mailed the baskets to those out of town to everyone attending with everything needed for the party. There was champagne and orange juice for mimosas, a wine glass that we decorated, comfy socks, a headband, washcloth, and face, lip, and eye masks,” her mom, Tami DeGrauwe explained. “Caitlyn was sent the same basket along with a comfy robe, birthday tiara and birthday sash. It was a surprise for her. She had no idea when she signed on that 11 friends would be on with her. We had so much fun that they stayed on talking and laughing for 5 hours.”
Along with the Zoom party, DeGrauwe also had others send birthday video messages for her. “Some were silly, some serious, some were songs or recreations of her favorite movie,” said Caitlyn’s mom. “We put them all together, and that evening we got on Zoom and watched the whole video together with her. It was over 30 minutes and so fun to watch.”
The creative celebrations have continued throughout Lansing for young and old. One of Lansing’s oldest residents was able to see family via a social distancing party on her front lawn. Grandkids sat far apart, cupcakes were consumed, polka music played, and cars drove by and honked in honor of Lucille Biondi, who was turning 97.