i wanted to report back on this information in case others are seeking information for an outdoor graduation party (or similar event).
we hosted the party this past weekend, reserving the fews ford picnic shelter at eno river state park
(durham) & catering it with barbecue from clyde cooper's barbecue
(in downton raleigh). here are some of my observations & experiences:
01 . for graduation party locations, start looking early!
with all of the universities & colleges in the area, competition was fierce for picnic shelters in decent parks. this time of year is when everybody begins craving that spring-almost-summer outdoor contact. after searching for months, i had a very hard time finding a shelter that was large enough & available.
we eventually booked the fews ford shelter at eno river state park for $98 for the day. all went smoothly for the location once i found it. the shelter was clean & ready for our party with a sign marking it as a reserved. we had trails at our disposal along with the river, along with close parking & trash/recycling. we hosted a 3-9PM event that would allow people to drop in before/after dinner at 6PM. there were plenty of trails & the river to keep people busy when not visiting with others. given that my DH (who will graduate later this year with his PhD in Biology/Zoology/Ecology) is the outdoorsy sort of guy, this location was perfect. the only drawback was that there were no lights in the shelter & no electrical hook-up (we had planned a hilarious slideshow of his childhood photos showing his love of all things science/animal related from a very early age but had to abandon it with no hook-ups for such things). otherwise, the shelter worked well & fit perfectly.
N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation: Eno River State Park - Facilities and Fees
02 . select your caterer early!
we originally planned to retain clyde cooper's bbq for on-site catering. $7.95/person was VERY reasonable considering it came with chopped barbecue, choice of barbecued or fried chicken, choice of cracklin's or dinner rolls, potato salad, cole slaw, tea, lemonade, all the paper/plasticware/cup items, sauces, utensils, & service. we ended up amending that when clyde cooper's was so booked (3 parties, i think!) that we had to switch to plan b which was picking up the food. so, we got all of the above for $5.95/person (since no on-site catering was available). the drawback was that they were so busy that the food was not ready to go when it was promised (although they did work on it immediately upon my parents arrival to pick it up). we would use them again.
Welcome | Cooper's BBQ & Catering
(http://www.clydecoopersbbq.com/prosite/ - broken link)
overall, it was good & a great celebration time. i'd recommend both eno river state park & clyde cooper's to others.