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Ready for Halloween

Owner: Party Productions offers choice

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Mary Rivera, an employee at Party Productions, holds a Chucky mask after pulling it off the shelf at the store. Halloween is one of the busiest times of the year at the shop.

One of the lines Mary Rivera likes to use on customers at Party Productions is, “It won’t cost you an arm and a leg.”

She says that line while she’s holding Halloween props of an arm and a leg.

Rivera, who has been an employee of the party supply and rental shop for five years, said she loves coming to work every day.

“Next to petting puppies or tasting ice cream for a living, this a dream job,” said Rivera, a Fort Dodge native. “Here it’s like a 9-5 job because we are open during the day, but I don’t have to do stuffy office stuff. They let me be me. They let me be as goofy as I want to be and I get to go with it.”

Party Productions is sometimes known for their balloons or vast collection of Halloween merchandise, but Rivera said there’s so much more to see throughout the approximately 15,000-square-foot retail space.

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson
Kelly Heinen, costumer in masque productions at the Party Productions shop, poses as the Wicked Witch of the West from the classic children’s novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

“There’s something for everybody,” she said. “Something for almost every stage of their life. If you get married, we have a wedding room. Expecting a baby, we have baby shower stuff or a Baptism room. Every holiday that comes up — from Easter to St. Patrick’s day and Halloween.”

Promposals have become more trendy in recent times, Rivera said.

“People are borrowing props from us to do promposals,” she said. “Then there’s the gender reveal with the babies. When we had my children, my husband called on the payphone and said it’s a boy or a girl. Now we have balloons that we pop and it’s blue or pink.”

With Halloween right around the corner, more people have been coming in to find their favorite mask or a particular costume.

Some masks remain popular year after year.

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson
A variety of masks are on display are Party Productions.

“The classics,” Rivera said. “It, Michael Myers, Freddy Crougar, those ones always do well. But I found a lot of people are doing their own thing. One lady was doing Ace Ventura and her boyfriend was going as Ray Finkle. We have a lot of accessories to go with people’s ideas.”

People can buy costumes, but also have the opportunity to rent them.

“We have the whole Wizard of Oz cast and the whole Star Wars cast,” Rivera said. “People can go as a whole theme. We have all the members of Kiss. Anything you can think of. Halloween is like our Christmas.”

Party Productions has had a presence in Fort Dodge since 1980, according to owner Dan Garst.

“It was a cash and carry operation,” Garst said. “A backroom entity kind of thing.”

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Shades of pink plates are displayed on the shelves at Party Productions. The shop has a wide selection of solid colors for customers to choose from.

Easily the biggest change since the 80s has been the emergence of online retail. But Garst said that’s not always the best idea with party supplies and color.

“I don’t know how you shop online for color when you can’t see what you’re looking at,” Garst said. “I don’t care what name you call it. This blue could be called 15 different names, but you need to come see it. People aren’t used to having that ability. You can see all the colors that are out there. People get spoiled because they want to do that quick couple keys and get what they want. They just don’t know what the name is under or if it’s even available. They may never know. That’s why we encourage to at least talk to us. When you’ve been doing it for 40 years you get a feel for what’s going on out there.

“We are such a throwback to the old hardware store days where you have one store that has a little of everything in it. Things you always wonder, ‘where did you find that stuff?’ We are one of those stores most people haven’t been exposed to. Back in 60s’ and 70s’ these stores still existed. By the time you got to 80s’ and 90s’, there wasn’t a lot of full-service. You didn’t carry inventory or offer in-store choices.”

Solid colors for things like plates, have been a mainstay at the store.

“Solid-color coordinating,” Garst said. “That’s stayed consistent. We do custom mapping and printing.”

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Mary Rivera, an employee at Party Productions, says the merchandise at the shop won’t cost an arm and a leg as she holds up props of a human arm and leg.

A large source of income for Party Productions is events like birthdays, graduations and weddings.

“Those are still the biggest events we have going on out there,” Garst said. “That’s what we started with and is still our core business.”

The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t do the shop any favors in terms of those.

“We rent out tents for Shellabration and chairs and stuff for Frontier Days,” said Rivera. “Weddings if they couldn’t have more than 50 people, they canceled their tents.

The tent season is big for us, too. Because of canceling weddings and celebrations and Frontier Days. People would buy parade candy. So much of that would go out.

All the cities around us — Humboldt, West Bend, Gowrie, and they didn’t have their parades this year. That affects us.”

Garst said Party Productions was going to provide 14 tents with tables and chairs for Shellabration

“The Downtown Country Jam, eight tents went for that — so that’s two (events) in town,” he said. “Plus the fairs and fair things that didn’t occur. It’s not been a good year. We are in the people business and if you can’t have people around..hopefully 21′ will be different and we can get back to a routine.”

On the flipside, Rivera said Party Productions did start to provide protective rubber gloves and hair coverings to the community.

Party Productions also employs a seamstress — Rhonda Olson. In addition to her regular duties, she’s been making face coverings for store employees.

The business employs about 15 workers, both full-time and part-time.

“We have been blessed to have some good help,” Garst said. “It’s a people business.”

Balloons remain the top seller, no matter the season.

“Our balloon orders are huge,” Rivera said. “Balloons are a really good commodity thing we have. So many different birthday themes.”

Garst reiterated that it’s about choice.

“Until you’ve seen the place,” he said. “How do you describe a store like this when you provide so many different services. We are beyond just birthday. We have largest birthday selection of anywhere you know of. We are for people who want to have a choice. We have people get frustrated because they have choices now. You will see things you wouldn’t ordinarily see in any other store.

“I love helping people and make things happen. If we weren’t here, certain things just wouldn’t occur in this market area. The choices, the amount of things people are able to do in this town. We have kept things alive, because again where would you get the stuff? We have been accumulating product, knowledge and how to do it for 40 years.”

Garst said October should be a good month for the store.

“October is a big month for us,” he said. “It’s our last big month for about five months.”

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