This year’s 4th of July celebration may go down in history as the most sedentary and “non-celebratory” Independence Day in decades—all due to COVID-19. Those of us who would typically welcome a houseful (or backyard full) of barbecue-eating cocktail-sipping guests are quickly rethinking our plans, because social distancing is just plain smart.
Clearly, staying home and enjoying food and beverages with your immediate family is the best and safest option. But if you’re determined to have a safe and socially distanced gathering, what are the best options? Here are a few tips to consider in order to keep it classy, while keeping it safe.
- Limit your guest list. First and foremost, acknowledge that this year’s celebration must be different than those of years past. Cut your guest list in half, then divide by 3, and subtract pi. Okay, enough of the math. What we’re saying is keep the list small. Ideally, you’ll only invite one other (small) family, which will limit the cross-exposure to others.
- Observe safety practices. Wearing face masks and observing social distancing may sound like a buzzkill. However, your guests will surely find it comforting (and it’s the right thing to do). So have some fun with it. Offer prizes for the best decorated masks. Arrange chairs in pairs with a small table, placed several feet away from the next pair of chairs. Consider decorating each pair of chairs with a different theme to make social distancing part of your overall game plan.
- Serve food safely, and separately. You know how guests typically crowd around the grill to get the next burger or stand together waiting for their shot at grandma’s potato salad? Not this year. Instead of serving the entire menu from the same table, place three or four tables at least 15 feet apart with different menu items on each table. A table for salads, another table for sides, a different table for meat/buns, and another for desserts. Serve beverages directly from coolers—one for beers/bottled cocktails and another for water/soda.
- Choose entertainment wisely. One way to compensate for the deliberate distance is to include entertainment all your guests can enjoy, from a distance. An obvious choice is fireworks, which everyone can enjoy while maintaining social distancing. Other options may include live performances or karaoke (with a quick wipe of the mic between acts), charades or organized lawn games (bean bag toss, horseshoes, etc.) You can even watch homemade videos or your favorite TV show.
- Keep your menu classy, and simple. This year’s event will be a bit different, so guests won’t be hanging in the kitchen or near the grill as you cook. This makes it even more important to keep your menu simple so you aren’t separated (even more) from your guests as you prepare and serve the food. Plan dishes that have high impact but required minimal preparation on your part. Options include foil-grilled salmon, grilled steak, campfire potatoes, or prep shish kabobs the night before, in addition to your standard burgers and dogs. Anything that can be prepared or prepped the day before is a winner. (See additional winning menu items in Your Best Cookout Menu.)
These are just a few suggestions to help ensure your Independence Day gathering is safe and stylish. Add your own with a focus on safety and your guests will be comforted by your thoughtful touches.
If you want to go super-safe, consider a virtual cookout—sharing your mealtime and menu with others who are at home. In addition to the ultimate social distancing, this option allows for a longer cocktail hour without the need to drive home.
Either way, remember that this holiday is not an excuse to ignore the safety practices that are still in place in many states across our country. This Independence Day, as you flip those burgers or light that first firecracker, remember that a key element of freedom is safety.