Sara Feulner, Author at Loanables - Page 2 of 3

About Sara Feulner

A lifelong entrepreneur and start up junkie, Sara loves technology, culture, ideas, and people! Prior to her current quest to raise 4 young children to be creative risk takers, Sara studied at Harvard Business School and lived and worked both in Austin and Internationally building great teams and great Companies.

View all posts by Sara Feulner


Party and event trends today change faster than the blink of an eye. We are always seeing new and popular themes, decorations, and aesthetics which might be based on the newest Disney movie, decorating trend, or even historical or political event. Some themes go beyond the realm of our imaginations – the sky is really the limit!

I often write and speak about the party essentials: guests, entertainment, and, of course, the food! When I am invited to a party, I always look forward to the spread of delicious and fun things to eat and I am not alone. If guests are served an array of delicious treats and go home full, they are happy and the party goes well. When there is not enough food or the food is bad, that becomes the only thing people remember. I think one way to ensure great food that goes with your party theme is to include concessions in your party or event menu.

Here are some of the popular concession items available to rent for your next event. Below are some of our favorites along with the average rental prices: 

Cotton Candy Machine – $75.00

My kids LOVE Cotton Candy and while I can’t claim that I have ever been a big fan, I recently had the opportunity to taste some delicious mango cotton candy from Fancy Fluff which changed my tune on the whole Cotton candy concession idea. If you missed our blog about this fantastic Austin based Cotton Candy company, check it out here.

If you decide on a Cotton Candy Machine for your next event, most rental companies have the option of adding the sugar floss to your order at an additional charge. Amazon also sells sugar floss in many flavors. My personal favorite is the 5 Flavor Candy Floss Sugar Pack which includes the flavors you love from your favorite state fair – Blue Raspberry, Cherry, Orange, Grape, and Pink Vanilla.

If you are feeling ambitious and want to try mixing up some of your own flavors, the internet is full of great ideas. My personal favorite is Maple Cotton Candy – check out this video and get inspired to try making some yourself! Or, if you don’t want the hassle, you can book Fancy Fluff to make it for you for $85 per hour.  

Frozen Drink/Margarita Machine – $129.00

This Frozen Drink Machine can be used for smoothies or milkshakes for the kids but it can also be used for margaritas – a Texas must have at any adult get together.

My personal favorite margarita flavor is the Mango-Rita. If you are looking for a twist on a traditional margarita, below is a great recipe to try making them in the Margarita Machine for your next party:


Ingredients: (per Margarita – you can increase the recipe to feed your crowd)

  • 2 ounces tequila
  • 2 ounces lime juice
  • 2 ounces mango juice
  • 1 ounce orange liqueur 
  • 1 lime wedge
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • zest of 1 lime


  • Add tequila, lime juice, mango juice, and orange liqueur to the margarita machine and run machine until mixture is frozen
  • Mix together salt, sugar, and lime zest on a plate. Rub a lime wedge around the rim of the glass and dip the glass into the salt and sugar mixture.
  • Dispense frozen margarita in to the glass
  • Garnish with a lime wedge

My mouth is watering!

Popcorn Machine Cart – $90.00

At our house, popcorn is what it’s all about. We eat popcorn for snacks, meals, while watching a movie, and it is even the kids’ favorite part about going to the car wash – free popcorn. Popcorn machines are perfect for carnivals, a circus, a movie themed party, or even just as a good healthy snack for a kids’ birthday party. 

If you are looking to make popcorn more of an activity or to spice up the butter and salt variety, why not have a “Gourmet Popcorn Bar”? To do this, have bags, boxes, or buckets for guests to fill with popcorn and their favorite mix ‘ins. Our personal favorite items to include in the popcorn bar are:

  • M&M’s
  • Chocolate Covered Raisins
  • Sugar babies
  • Whoppers
  • A variety of popcorn seasonings such as Doritos Cool Ranch, Cheddar Cheese, or Butter Flavor

WARNING: Younger guests may need help creating their gourmet popcorn. I am certain that my two youngest children would happily add Doritos Cool Ranch seasoning to their popcorn and M&M’s and then refuse to eat it after realizing that was a bad combo!

Snow Cone Machine – $75.00

Summers in Austin are hot! I always try to plan a cool treat for any outdoor event – ice cream, popsicles or SNOW CONES! A Snow Cone Machine can create a perfect snack (or drink) for an event for kids and adults alike. Whether you are planning a pool party, outdoor fiesta, or carnival, snow cones can go with your theme.

For a variation on traditional snow cones, try adding an array of sliced fruit for guests to add to their drinks – strawberries, watermelon, bananas, pineapple, or even maraschino cherries. Pretty much any fruit tastes great in a sweet frozen snow cone!

Hot Dog Roller- $70.00

Hot Dogs make a great a main course for a party with kids and the hot dog carts are super cute. A couple of things to remember for hot dogs:

  • Are there any non-meat eaters at the party? If so, make sure you have some veggie dogs.
  • Don’t forget the toppings. I hosted a kids’ party once and all was going well until someone asked me where the ketchup was! Ketchup, mustard, and relish are the standards but feel free to include your personal favorites – chili or cheese perhaps?

Chocolate Fountain – $125.00

Who doesn’t love a chocolate fountain? It is a great concession for events ranging from a classy bridal shower to a fun kids’ fondue party.

Chocolate fountains go great with your favorite droppable foods:

  • Sliced strawberries, bananas, and pineapple
  • Marshmallows
  • Popcorn
  • Angel Food Cake
  • And the list goes on…

Really, there are no rules when adding concessions to your party – you can usually find a way to make any of these fit your theme. My advice is choose what you like to eat just in case you have leftovers:) Or, rent them all and have a concession food park where guests can try any or all of the concessions on hand – this could even be the theme of your next event!

Throwing a Fantastic 4th of July Party

Holidays give us a chance to get together with friends and families, eat, tell stories, create memories, and celebrate! One of my favorite holidays is the 4th of July – it is fairly low key with kids out of school, the lazy days of summer, and often the entertainment provided by means of your local fireworks display.

When planning an annual 4th of July bash for our family and friends, I always keep in mind the 3 F’s (which I actually apply to all parties) – Food, Folks, and Fun. If you get the 3 F’s right, your party is sure to be a success.


When I think of 4th of July, I think of potlucks, barbecues, and good American staples – hot dogs, hamburgers, watermelon, vegetables and dip, and Jello. Since I am from the Southwest, I always throw in chips and guacamole. In fact, I add guacamole to pretty much every meal, holiday or not.

Below are a couple of my go-to recipes which are a perfect addition to your 4th of July meal.

12 Layer Jello

I make this Jello for every holiday and change up the flavors to get the color combinations I want. For example, at Christmas I use red and green, at Thanksgiving I use orange and yellow, and for the 4th of July it’s red, white, and blue! It is always a hit with grown ups and kids alike!


  • 6 (3oz) boxes of Jello in flavors/colors of your choice – for 4th of July I like Strawberry or Cherry and Berry Blue
  • 1 8oz container (227 grams) Sour Cream


  1. Choose the color of Jello you want on the bottom layer of your Jello
  2. Add 1 Cup Boiling water to your first box of Jello and stir until Jello is dissolved
  3. Divide Jello in 1/2
  4. Add 2 Tbsp sour cream to one 1/2 of the Jello and stir until smooth
  5. Pour into a 9″ x 13″ pan
  6. Refrigerate for 25 minutes
  7. Pour the remaining 1/2 of your first color of jello over the top of the chilled layer
  8. Refrigerate for 25 minutes
  9. Repeat process for the remaining 5 boxes of Jello alternating colors
  10. When the Jello is done and chilled, cut into squares and serve


I love guacamole as does everyone in my family and during the spring and summer when the avocados are best, I make a batch pretty much every day. When friends and extended family come over they always say “I love your guacamole!” which is pretty funny given that I keep it really simple and rely on the avocados for the flavor.  Here’s my “not so secret” guacamole recipe.


  • Avocados – I usually use 5-6 for a party but the recipe can easily be adjusted for number of guests/guacamole eaters. Normally I buy my avocados from Costco and they come in a bag of 5 or 6. If you do shop at Costco, however, make sure to buy them 4-5 days in advance and leave them out on the counter to ripen up. As soon as they are ripe throw them in the refrigerator. If you don’t shop at Costco, look for large Haas avocados at your local grocery store.
  • Green Onions – I figure 2 onions per avocado but this may depend on the size of your onions.
  • Lemon juice (or lime juice if you prefer) – I actually buy my lemon juice in a bottle at the grocery store but if you prefer fresh lemons, you will probably only need 1. I use about 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice and then add more to taste. Really the lemon juice helps keep the guacamole from turning brown too quickly. You can also add the pit of one avocado to your prepared guacamole which also helps stop browning.
  • Salt to taste
  • Chile Powder to taste


  1. Slice avocados in 1/2 and remove pits. Scoop pulp into a bowl.
  2. Finely chop 1-2 green onions per avocado and add to bowl.
  3. Squeeze 1/2 – 1 Tbsp of lemon juice into bowl.
  4. Add a fair amount of salt. I start with 8 good turns of my sea salt grinder.
  5. Add about 1/2 Tbsp of chile powder.
  6. Smash avocados and mix with the rest of the ingredients.  Taste and add lemon juice, salt, and chile powder as necessary.

If the avocados are in season and perfectly ripe, they do the work with the other ingredients helping to bring out the flavor.

Serve with your favorite tortilla chips or veggies – I love guacamole on carrots – and make sure to reserve some for your burgers!

If you are looking for a way to add some American pride to your food, you can always add some American Flag Toothpicks to your burgers, dogs, and/or Jello.  They are available on Amazon here.

And, if you want to add some extra fun treats to your party, consider renting a cotton candy machine or popcorn machine. Popcorn and cotton candy are two of my kids’ favorite treats and adding them to your menu really makes it seem like a party!



I always try to remember that the right combination of party guests is key to party success. We all know there are certain people who are easy to have around and others who are a bit more high maintenance. I find that sometimes the higher maintenance guests force me to up my game a bit and make the party extra special. Plus, they often add an extra flair to your party and some memories you won’t forget.

As a mom of 4 kids ages 2, 4, 6, and 8 I know that everyone in our house has a playmate…until we invite a friend or two that are the same ages as some (but not all) of my kids. For this reason, I always consider having a friend for no one or a friend for everyone. The right combination of guests can make my life as a host a lot easier and more enjoyable.

How Many

Besides who you invite, consider how many guests you would like to have at your party. Are you looking to host an all out bash or a small, intimate get together?  Here are some things to consider:

  1. How much food are you planning to have? Potlucks and catered events work well with bigger parties but if you are planning to cook everything yourself, you may want to limit your numbers if you don’t want to be cooking for a week before.
  2. What kind of entertainment (aka “Fun”) are you providing? Will everyone be able to participate in the activities if you have big crowds vs a small get together?


What kinds of entertainment are you planning to provide? Fireworks are a 4th of July staple and they are something you don’t need to plan yourself. Here is a list of the best Fireworks displays in Austin.

Aside from public fireworks displays, you may want to consider sparklers, party snaps, or other small fireworks at home. Remember to read the instructions and make safety a primary focus when using fireworks at home, especially with children.

At our house, we always have some kind of water fun and/or bounce houses for the kids. One of our favorites is the bounce house/water slide combo to keep everyone busy and cool during the summer party hours. Loanables can find you exactly what you are looking for at the best price for your 4th of July bash.

In addition to fireworks and bounce houses, why not try an outdoor game like giant twister, giant jenga, corn hole, giant connect 4…the sky’s the limit. At our house we often split into teams and have a big playoff – the winner after several games gets a prize (or doesn’t have to help clean up). This helps get everyone involved in the games and gets any spectators cheering. There are several rental options for outdoor games so if you don’t have these at home, check out to get ideas and reserve your event rentals.

Food, Folks, & Fun

So, there you have it. Food, folks, and fun (and a little thought and preparation) – if you get these right, you are sure to have a fun and memorable 4th of July!




5 Event Trends in 2018

Anyone in the event world knows that events, like everything else, are a sign of the times. Current values on Unique Venues, Going Local, Creating Memories, Going Green, and Technology are here and are taking the event world by storm. Halfway through 2018, we are seeing these 5 trends emerge and everyone should take note of them when planning their next event.

Trend #1: Unique venues

Forever gone are the days when events were confined to four walls. The demand for non-traditional spaces has grown and a hotel or traditional conference center is no longer enough.

Ideally, venues should make an impression immediately, even before one sets foot on the location. We hear all the time that people are attending an event because they haven’t been to a specific venue or seen a certain space.

To get guests excited about attending your event, choose an unusual setting that also reflects the personality, values, and purpose of the event. These are those venues that integrate an experiential aspect to events. These include unique places like castles, museums, and boathouses.

For a list of utterly cool and unique venues, check out our Top 10 Event Spaces for Rent in Austin blog.

Trend #2: Going Local

When we talk about going local, we mean more than just the food. The entire event should be infiltrated with local flavor. Some examples of “Going Local” are:
  • Making sure the location is part fo the event’s attraction.  Consider guided tours, dinners, receptions, and more to showcase the best of the event’s locale.
  • Supplying gifts and souvenirs which are characteristic of the location and made locally where possible.
  • Allowing event goers the opportunity to document their experiences as a memory and send some “wish you were here” messages to those who could not attend.
  • And, then there is the food. Where possible it should be sourced locally, prepared by a local chef, and be authentic to the event location.

Trend #3: Creating Memories

Providing an amazing experience that is memorable may seem like an obvious goal for any event, but it can never be overstated. Attendees need to come away having had a brilliant time and in no doubt as to why they were there.

In order to help attendees create more memories, consider customizing your event for each guest. Digital photo walls with real time photo displays, Tweet walls, LED displays, crowd-responsive lighting, etc. Or, varied activities and amenities that will appeal to guests differently. These things can help ensure each guest has his or her own unique take-aways from the event.

Another sure fire way to create a lasting memory is to give each guest a gift from the event. A photo booth picture, a prize won during an event game, or a bottle of local brew. There are really no rules, just something to ensure guests remember and hopefully cherish.


Trend #4: Going Green

With all the negative effects of our unsustainable practices are now coming back to haunt us, sustainability on the upward trend.

One of the most common ways to foster sustainable events is to go paperless. Use digital replacements like apps and emails instead of sending out paper invitations or handing out paper materials such as brochures, schedules, and more. If you just can’t avoid using paper, think about using recyclable, recycled or reusable materials instead.

Social responsibility doesn’t stop with simply becoming eco-friendly. You can also include the following activities when thinking about creating a sustainable event:

  • Support local businesses by using them as suppliers for your events. This generates job and income for locals and can help with the mission to “Go Local”, too.
  • Integrate charitable activities into the event, and give back to the local community this way.

And, just to bring the whole “going green” point home, consider green foliage as a backdrop for your event. The trend to decorate with foliage has been around for a few years now and has never disappointed. So look out for stunning garlands, walls and even hoops. We have a feeling it is going to be big and sticking around for a while.

Trend #5: Technology

Technology can be used to both ease and enhance the event experience. Used well, technology can help accomplish all of the aforementioned trends: enhance engagement by creating unique experiences, bringing in local experiences and flavors, creating memories, and making the event more sustainable.

It can also help connect people, create common ground, and shape the course of an event. Imagine an event where people from all over the world come together. Handing out name badges and wine really isn’t going to get the party started, but, you can use technology to encourage interaction. Apps, gamification, RFID, and virtual reality activities are all ways to do this.

Other technology trends that have been around but that are becoming increasingly prevalent are:

  • Virtual speakers at a corporate event, or virtual toasters at a wedding. While we already do this to some extent with screens, a 3D visualization adds a certain depth to the speaker’s virtual presence.
  • Live footage of the event allowing those who could not attend to feel like they are part of the party or event.
  • Host digital hangouts that add a new dimension to networking and interaction. These hangouts can be accessed at any time during the event to engage other participants, speakers, and virtual audiences right from your device.

Take Note

So there you have it, these are the 2018 event trends which are pushing the industry forward and changing the way we think about event planning. If you are planning an event, be an innovator of the industry by taking a close look at each of the above trends and see which ones you can implement to make your next event as memorable and impactful as possible.

Party Theme Idea: Camping

teepee tent decoration


Every year, my kids’ preschool hosts a Family Day where families are invited to come and view their children’s artwork, enjoy time with other families, meet new families to the school community, have lunch, and enjoy some sort of entertainment. The event is always centered around a theme and is one of the favorite days of the year.

This year, I was asked to chair the event and when asked what the theme should be, I answered, “Camping”. I hadn’t actually given it much thought and I think the theme took everyone by surprise. Themes in the past have been Fiesta; Peace, Love, and Happiness; Circus; … things that had been tested and proven to be really cute and really fun. Camping was clearly a new one. And, I am so glad we chose it.

How we did it…

Honestly, we probably could have just set up some tents and let the kids play in them, because what kid doesn’t like to play in a tent? Instead, the Family Day Committee came up with some great ideas. If I ever decide to hold another camping theme party, I am simply going to repeat what we did for Family Day and it will be a blast.

Hot Dog Truck


When I think of camping, I think of grilling hot dogs, hamburgers, and marshmallows for s’mores. With that in mind, we went to work looking for cute ways to make that happen using food trucks (our Family Day staple as we also use these to block off the preschool parking lot where we hold the party). After looking near and far for the Oscar Meyer Weiner mobile (which is only available for tours, not hot dog sales), we settled on the next best thing – Hot Dog and Sausage King. With a hot dog on the top, this was a really cute option and the owners promised to have the hot dogs precooked and ready so we wouldn’t have long lines. We also hired an ice cream truck to serve ice cream and shaved ice. Not exactly a camping staple but it is Austin in April so ice cream really helps keep things cool.

To the food trucks, we added lemonade, water, and chips which we purchased at Costco and had sitting out on a table for people to grab. In addition, we put together some really cute s’mores party favors to eat or take home.


Besides the children’s amazing artwork, we had to have a way to entertain 150 kids and parents for 2 hours so we planned a variety of activities for them to choose from.  We had karaoke which we labeled “Campfire Songs”.  We used outside blocks to build a stage and set up a microphone, some music, and gave the kids some blow up instruments to use. We also had a fishing booth where the kids could fish for prizes. We had a corn hole set and giant jenga for those who wanted to play games. And, we hired 2 face painters and 2 balloon tiers from Epic Entertainment. The kids and parents were thrilled and thanks to the creative decorations committee, we were able to tie all of these together with really cute signs, balloons, and other decor.


There are so many great camping ideas out there on Pinterest and other sites and our decorations committee absolutely outdid themselves creating an adorable setting for very little money. They bought a few teepees and blankets/tablecloths which the kids loved playing with. They also bought some campfire signs, created fishing poles and other signage out of things from their own homes and backyards, added some woodland animal balloons, and brought a few extra props from home to create a camping experience not to be forgotten.

So Go Camping

This theme turned out so well, it begs to be repeated. While we did have to spend some money buying props, decorations, etc. I am sure similar items could have been rented from a local rental company. In our situation, the items will be used for a Camping Day Camp this summer at the preschool so it made more sense to buy them but if you want to hold a camping party and are looking to rent, loanables is there to help find all of your rental needs at the best price.

So wait no longer, plan your Kids’ Camping Party today and send us pictures from your event. We would love to see them.

SassTass & The Pour Horse

Mobile bars are all the rage. From airstreams to horse trailers, party throwers and goers across the US are choosing bars on wheels for their next big event. Here in central Texas, Tassie Grantham is making a big splash with her mobile horse trailer bars.

The idea for horse trailer bars came to Tassie in October 2016.  She woke up one morning and was determined to buy a horse trailer.  Why?  Because she lived in Texas and in Texas people want horse trailers!  She bought her first horse trailer that very day and began to customize it to be her first mobile bar.  Today, Tassie is owner of SassTass & the Pour Horse, Mobile Bars, LLC and has a couple of horse trailer bars as well as other portable bar options and her business is booming!

SassTass Mobile Bars and Bartending Services

If you are looking for a unique bar option, fantastic bartending service, or food service staff for your wedding, charity event, or other big party, look no further. SassTass & The Pour Horse has a variety of mobile bars, portable bars, and bartending and food service for hire and even create signature cocktails and offer to personalize the service to make your event extra special.

When it comes to mobile bars, SassTass has a few options:

The Pour Horse
– this charming converted 1975 King horse trailer has vintage charm and becomes a talking point at any event. The Pour Horse rental includes 1 bartender to service your guests.





Whinny, The Mini Bar – a 1938 one horse horse trailer renovated and converted into a bar with wood panels on the side, wood bar tops, a canvas roof and really cool lighting. Whinny can also be a coffee or dessert bar







Beelavish “The Laurel Traveler”
– the Laurel Trailer is a Glamping Style Vintage Camper Bar owned by Bee Lavish in Spring Branch, TX.  SassTass & The Pour Horse has partnered with Bee Lavish to offer your favorite cocktails and bar tending service in this really great camper.  It is a slightly different look and feel than a horse trailer bar giving you yet another option for your event than the other mobile bars.

In addition, SassTass has portable bar options, a vintage tea cart, and just standard bartending service. So, no matter what your needs, SassTass is a great option to provide cocktails and food service for your next event.

What should I serve?

If you need some cocktail ideas for your event, how about a Skinny version of a Texas classic to go with the Texas trailers? My favorites are these Easy Skinny Mojitos with all the flavor and none of the sugar found in most mojitos. Serving them in mason jars makes them even more fun.

Easy Skinny Mojito Recipe


  • Juice of one lime
  • 6 fresh mint leaves
  • 2 oz of white rum
  • 12 oz of diet lemon lime soda (Diet 7UP or Sprite Zero


  1. Divide the mint leaves and lime juice between two glasses.
  2. Add 1 oz of rum to each glass and muddle (use the back of a spoon to mush everything up)
  3. Add a little ice, top with the soda, and stir to combine.

For a light and delicious appetizer, you might try sliced garlic toast with a smear of cream cheese, roasted red pepper, and a slice of cucumber. These go great with the mojitos and are easy finger foods for guests.

No matter what you serve, Tassie Grantham and her team of TABC certified bartenders and insured food handlers and service staff are there to make your event go off without a hitch with a ton of Texas charm.

So, what are you waiting for?  Book SassTass & the Pour Horse for your next event today!


Behind The Scenes – Explore Austin’s 2018 Quest for the Summit

Anna and Jason Herd are passionate about helping kids and about the outdoors. So, it’s no wonder that in 2009 when they learned about Explore Austin from one of Jason’s business school professors who was also one of the organization’s founders, they had to get involved. Originally a host family, Anna and Jason have been involved in Explore Austin for the last 9 years. Jason joined their Board of Directors in 2016, and this year, the couple is chairing the organization’s big spring fundraiser, Quest for the Summit.

I sat down with the Herds to learn more about Explore Austin, their involvement, and the upcoming Quest for the Summit.

Mentorship and the Great Outdoors

Coming from outdoorsy families, both Anna and Jason felt that spending time outside and having strong mentorship in their lives was really important to them as children and played a critical role in who they are today. Growing up, Anna remembers: spending weekends and summers driving 4 wheelers;  joining her dad on timber cruises on a lush family property in Mississippi full of wildlife; living in the mountains of Costa Rica (where she had to walk down the road to buy groceries from a local farmer); and doing Sail Caribbean a couple of summers in a row.

Jason grew up in a ranching family and spent his weekends hunting, fishing, working cattle, and fixing fences. He also was the first of his peer group to achieve Eagle Scout. Both of them say that they had excellent mentorship and a support system of family and friends that helped shape them and allowed them to excel. Jason said “You don’t get to Eagle Scout without strong mentorship. My dad was very influential and he wouldn’t let me get my driver’s license until I did it.”

These days, the couple and their two young sons love the outdoors and take advantage of any opportunity to be hiking, camping, skiing, doing sports, or anything out in nature. They try to include an outside component to any family vacation. During our conversation, Jason commented that his father was a successful entrepreneur but was always there for the important events and both he and Anna want to do the same for their boys. They would also like to provide this mentorship and these outdoor opportunities to as many kids as possible.

Explore Austin

Explore Austin is providing both these outdoor experiences and long term mentorship to children who might otherwise not have these things.

Founded in 2006, the organization was put together to test a model of mentoring and outdoor adventure for underserved youth. They approached one of the local Kipp charter schools and essentially took a group of boys (Explorers) on a camping trip. Since then, the program has grown to around 270 Explorers and 90 Mentors with a mission to change the lives of underserved youth through leadership, mentoring, and adventure.

Each spring, Explore Austin recruits 2 new teams (one 6th grade boys team and one 6th grade girls team) primarily from schools where most kids qualify for free or reduced lunch and pairs each team of 15 youth with 5 adult mentors. They then provide these youth with leadership training, long term mentors and outdoor experiences. Both the explorers and their mentors spend one Saturday per month outside in Austin hiking, mountain biking, bouldering, canoeing, etc. In addition, they spend a week in the summer somewhere in the backcountry in Texas or states like Wyoming, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas, or New Mexico on a much more challenging outdoor wilderness adventure. This is the first time many of these kids have been on an airplane, lived out of backpacks, and faced physically and mentally challenging activities.

The program is 6 years in duration and the Explorers and Mentors are asked to make a long term commitment. Currently, they have over a 90% Mentor retention rate and close to that for the Explorers. An unintended outcome has been that most, if not all, of these kids end up applying for and being accepted to college, something many of their parents have not accomplished.

2018 Quest for the Summit

The organization would love to expand it’s reach and add more teams in the next few years as the outcome for these students are tremendous. In order to do this and to support the existing program, they are holding the 9th Annual Quest for the Summit on April 5th at Fair Market. The fundraising goal for this event is $230k  and close to 300 guests are expected for a night filled with music, food, drinks and outdoor games like corn hole and washers. The night will be more relaxed than a typical fundraising event and attendees will have the opportunity to mingle with other guests, Explorers, Mentors, and Explore Staff to learn more about the organization and how they can get involved. Explorers will share their stories and there will be opportunities to support the program and even participate in a mystery raffle for a Yeti filled with all sorts of fun supplies. Prior to the Quest, there will be a graduation ceremony honoring all graduating senior Explorers and their Mentors for six years of dedication.

It will definitely be a night not to miss and a wonderful opportunity to learn even more about an organization that is clearly making such a big difference in the lives of underserved youth in the Austin community.

If you would like to sponsor the event or purchase tickets for this year’s Quest for the Summit, you can do so Here.

Live Auction, Silent Auction or Raffle?

When is it best to do a live auction?  What about a silent auction?  Or a raffle?  How do I decide which one, two, or three of these options will work best for me?

These are just a few of the most commonly asked questions from people planning fundraising events.  While all of these options have their advantages, it is important to carefully evaluate your event to determine which is going to be the best fit for your audience, your auction items, and your fundraising venue.

Below are some things to consider when trying to decide the best fundraising option for your charity or organization’s next event.

Things to Consider for Silent Auctions

1 – Silent auctions are a good option if the auction is being held as part of another event – an annual dinner or the like.  In these situations, a silent auction can be conducted in a side room or in a corner of the event space.

2 – Silent auctions are ideal for charity/benefit events that have a lot of items to sell.

3 – Silent auctions are ideal for low-mid-priced items.

4 – Silent auctions work better for items that need to be observed or examined up close.

4 – Silent auction items typically sell for about 50% of their value.  This is important to consider in your fundraising goals


Things to Consider for Live Auctions

Live auctions are often seen as more fun than silent auctions because they get everyone involved and, if done right, captivate the audience for a short period of time.  When trying to decide whether to do a live auction, you should consider the following:

1 – What kinds of items will you be auctioning off?  Live auctions are typically reserved for high ticket items – a ski cabin for a week in Colorado, expensive artwork, a car etc. but sometimes include items that just pull on the audience’s heartstrings – for example, a puppy or kitten.

2 – How much time will be dedicated to a live auction?  Benefit auctions should encompass no more than 40 minutes in the live auction as guests begin to grow impatient which causes bidding to slow down or stop.

3 – Given that it takes approximately 3 minutes for a professional auctioneer to sell an item, you should have no more than 10 – 12 live auction items to stick to the 40 minute timeline consider a minute to move between items.

4 – Do you have resources to get a professional auctioneer?  This is essential to capturing the audience’s attention and getting the most money for the items on auction.

5 – Live auction items will usually sell for close to or above their value, another important thing to consider in your fundraising goals.

Things to Consider for Raffles

There is always a question about whether or not to add raffle items or conduct a raffle rather than a silent auction.  Some things to consider are:

1 – How many people will be attending the event?  If the numbers are large, it may be better to put most of your items in the silent auction, but if attendance will be low or most people are not expected to participate in a silent auction, a raffle may be more appropriate.

2 – How many volunteers do you have?  It takes far fewer volunteers to coordinate a raffle than an auction.

3 – How many tickets can you sell?  If you plan to conduct the raffle before as well as during the event, you need to consider how you will sell the tickets and how many you think you can sell.  A raffle is only lucrative if you can sell lots of tickets!

4 – There are IRS regulations concerning raffles.  When you do a raffle, you must get any winner of a prize worth $600 or more to compete a W-2G (gambling winnings form).  For larger prizes you are required to withhold a percentage for federal income taxes.

5 – Higher value prizes and larger numbers of prizes (and winners) may make your raffle more appealing, and therefore, make people more likely to buy tickets!  This is important to consider when determining what you will place in your raffle vs. an auction.

Deciding Between Live Auction, Silent Auction and Raffle

Below is a very simple graphic showing how you might decide on the best option for your event.  Keep in mind that this does not take into account venue size.  This should really be your first decision point as you can be limited by your venue.  Also, if you have a lot of items you may choose to do a combination of silent and live auctions keeping in mind that you don’t want a live auction to last too long but you make significantly more money selling the same item in a live auction than you would selling it in a silent auction.

The Best Bet is a Combination

In reality, many events tend to be a blend of a silent and live auction with the option to buy a few raffle tickets for one or two key items.

Attendees are often invited to purchase raffle tickets prior to the event and then again at the door.  They also may receive a ticket or two as part of their admission ticket.  The events then start with a silent auction allowing guests to enjoy a cocktail and bid on smaller items thus warming them up for the live auction.

This format invites participation as some may be attending the event as a spectator but happy to contribute by way of buying a few raffle tickets, others may be more comfortable with a silent auction and less likely to get into the competitive live auction bidding, and a few may be there for the excitement of the live auction.

Whatever you decide to do, your will be much more successful if you spend some time in the early stages of your event planning process considering your fundraising goal, the size and shape of your venue, the event format, and the types of items you will be giving away/selling.




Spotlight on Austin Events: CASAblanca

Looking for a fabulous night out while giving back to the Austin Community? Consider attending the CASAblanca Gala benefitting CASA of Travis County on February 3, 2018 at the JW Marriott in downtown Austin.

If you know anything about CASA, you know just how much they do for kids in our community.  If you don’t know anything about CASA, you should definitely take a minute to familiarize yourself with this incredible organization.

CASA’s mission is to promote and protect the best interest of children who have been abused or neglected by training volunteers to advocate for them in the courts, in schools, and in our community to help them find safe, permanent, and loving homes.  Currently, CASA serves all children ages 5 and over with court appointed special advocates.  Through this year’s CASAblanca Gala, their hope is to be able to add enough volunteers and funding to expand that offering to children ages 2-5 who also need this service.

Victoria Young, Events Manager for CASA, has been working with this year’s magnificent gala chair, Donna Bell, and honorary chair, Catherine Sansbury as well as the gala committee to organize this year’s event entitled “creating brighter futures”.  This year marks the 25th anniversary of the gala and will include uniquely told stories of the children whose lives have been impacted by the wonderful work at CASA.  It will be moving and inspiring to all who attend.

In addition to the narratives, there will be live music by The Eggmen, performances by Violet Crown Collective, and a Verbena bloom bar with corsages, boutonnieres and other flower adornments for attendees.  In addition, there will be mystery boxes featuring Kendra Scott jewelry, a live and silent auction (get a sneak peak of what you can win on the event home page here), bling from Diamonds Direct (who will get to take home the real deal?), and a casino after party. It is definitely an event not to be missed.

So, what are you waiting for? Round up your friends and get your tickets to this fabulous event today. And if you are thinking about volunteering as a CASA advocate yourself, consider this from long time volunteer, K. Brown. “I would say if you have a love for children and basic human rights, then CASA is for you. It will be tough at first and you’ll give your entire heart to each child, but when you form that bond and become their advocate, you have officially changed that child’s life. There is no greater reward than protecting and defending a child from the abuse they have endured.”


Top 10 Event Spaces for Rent in Austin

Planning your next office party, school function, or charity event and looking for somewhere to host it?  We have put together a list of 10 utterly cool and unique Austin Event Spaces.  So, if you are looking for something different to help create your event of the year…

Check out these event spaces for rent in Austin:

#10 – Springdale Station

This historic train station moved to East Austin in the 1980’s.  Recently, the station was renovated and in the summer of 2016, it was opened to the public as an event venue, a one of a kind space to host parties of all sorts.  In addition, they in the process of adding the Pine Street Station building to Springdale Station.  Moved from 5th and Waller downtown, this historic building will soon be part of the event venue complex – look for it to be ready when you plan your event!

#9 – Four Seasons Hotel

The ground floor of the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin hosts a beautiful convertible event space for groups of all sizes.  Located in the heart of downtown and backing to the beautiful Ladybird Lake and Hike and Bike Trail, this beautiful venue would be perfect for weddings and fundraisers alike.

#8 – Modern Rocks Gallery

This space is about 800 square feet and is bright and open with a rolling front shutter open to a front terrace which can be used during events.  The walls are covered in fine art rock-n-roll photography and art including some great shots of the early Austin music scene.  It would be a really cool private party venue!

#7 – South Congress Hotel

While most people who have been in Austin for a while know of the South Congress Hotel, many of us don’t think of it as an event venue but seriously, what’s cooler and more Austin-y than a party on South Congress?  This indoor/outdoor event venue can provide an amazing event space for up to 450 guests.  Designed with a flexible room configuration, this space can work for almost any event!

#6 – Hotel Ella

Located in the historic Goodall Wooten House just minutes from downtown and the State Capitol building, this venue is in the heart of Austin.  This Greek revival style mansion offers indoor and outdoor spaces which provide the perfect backdrop for any social event.

#5 – Waller Ballroom

Built in the early 1900’s, this multi-purpose event space sits directly on Waller Creek and 6th Street.  The main ballroom showcases the original brick, hand-scraped hardwood floors and a balcony overlooking the water and can accommodate up to 270 guests for a standing reception.

#4 – Coyote Garden Hall

OK, so it’s not technically in Austin but just 15 miles south in Kyle, TX lives this amazing event center.   An ex-motion picture studio, this property has been reborn as the peaceful and versatile event center it is today.

#3 – Mercury Hall

Nestled on a secluded hilltop just minutes from downtown Austin, the historic structure and beautiful gardens can accommodate up to 200 guests.  The hall was originally built in 1904 in Mercury, Texas and moved to its current location in 1997 where it has laid home to a wide variety of events.  One of our favorite things about Mercury Hall?  They try to keep things in the South Austin mindset; laid-back!

#2 – Waller Creek Boathouse

Another gem on Waller Creek.  Built in 2012 overlooking Lady Bird Lake, downtown Austin, and Congress Avenue Bridge, this boathouse is a partnership between the City of Austin Parks and Rec Department and Austin Rowing Club.  It is a short walk from the Convention Center, local hotels, and many restaurants and can accommodate up to 600 guests for a wide range of events.

#1 – Gather Venues

Gather boasts both indoor and outdoor customizable spaces that they use to help make your event come to life.  They have 2 unique venues:

  1. South Austin – Monroe Street just minutes from downtown between South First and South Congress. This hospitality-driven event venue can accommodate up to 200 people and hosts both big and small events including fundraisers, weddings, conferences, workshops, etc.
  2. North Austin – North Lamar just South of Koenig is Gather’s new north-central event location with a modern/industrial open feel with two floors.  This space was once the Texas State Troopers Recreation Center and can accommodate up to 380 guests.

I guess that’s really 11 if you are being pedantic, and there are so many others as well.  If you don’t see what you are looking for on this list, check out Peerspace or Unique Venues to find a unique, creative space that meets your needs!

So, what are you waiting for?  Book your venue today and get planning!  And, remember, check out loanables for all your event rental needs!

Party Drink Calculator: How Much Alcohol Do I Need?

If you are throwing a wedding, housewarming party, 40th birthday party, or any other big bash, you may be wondering how much alcohol you need to buy.  If you read our How Many Glasses Do You Need? blog, you may be searching for some additional information on how much alcohol to actually buy to go in those glasses.

As you may know, you should plan on one drink per guest for each hour of your function.  This should ensure you have enough alcohol for your party (unless you are having a college fraternity party – then you may have to rethink your calculations).  So, you can use the following formula:

# of guests x hours of party time

Let’s assume you are throwing a 4 hour party for 250 guests.  In other words, you will need 250 guests x 4 hours = 1000 drinks.

Now, let’s assume you will serve beer, wine, and mixed drinks.

BEER: How Much Do You Need?

40% of all party drinks are beer.  So you will need to use:

# of total drinks x 40%


1000 x 40% = 400 beers

We recommend bottled beer but if you are having a keg, you need to make sure you can serve 400 beers.  (NOTE: Most kegs contain 15.5 gallons of beer or 165 12-oz servings.)

WINE: How Much Do You Need?

Wine accounts for 60% of all remaining drinks.  So you can use the formula:

(Total # of Drinks – Beers) x 60%


(1000 – 400) x 60% = 360 glasses of wine

A standard bottle of wine (750ml) serves approximately 6 glasses, but unless you are really careful about how much you are pouring, you may not get the full 6.  I like to use 5 glasses per bottle for my calculations, then you are sure to have enough.  To figure out how many bottles you will need, you can simply divide the total number of glasses you need by 5.  In this case: 360 glasses of wine / 5 glasses per bottle = 72 bottles of wine needed.

Now you need to decide how many bottles of red, white, and sparkling wine you need.  In order to do this, you should consider whether the event is an indoor/fall, winter, spring event or an outdoor/summer event.  In case of an indoor/fall, winter, spring event people will drink more red wine so you should plan for 50% of the bottles being red, 25% white, and 25% sparkling.  In our example, this would mean you need 36 bottles of red, 18 bottles of white, and 18 bottles of sparkling.  If you are planning an outdoor/summer event, you can split the bottles evenly between red, white and sparkling.  Using our numbers, this would mean you needed 24 bottles of each red, white, and sparkling.

When buying multiple bottles of wine, you will definitely want to buy it by the case.  I always round up to the next case.  Having a few extra bottles ensures that you will not run out and maybe you will have a few bottles left over for hostess gifts or to drink while you wind down!

SPIRITS: How Much Do You Need for Mixed Drinks?

Any drinks that are not wine or beer will fall into the mixed drink category.  You can calculate this as:

Total # of Drinks – Beer – Wine = # of Mixed Drinks

Calculating what you need to buy for this category is WAY trickier and depends entirely on the types of mixed drinks you will be serving.  Limiting the choices to one or two “signature cocktails” can help you decipher how much alcohol and mixers you will need to purchase.

The average cocktail uses:

  • 1 1/2 ounces (the average shot) of a base liquor (ie. Vodka, gin, rum, etc.)
  • Accent juices (ie. lemon and lime) usually use 1/4 to 1/2 ounce
  • Filling a highball or tall drink with juice or soda often requires 4-6 ounces of the mixer.

For example, if you are making mojito which contains rum, lime juice, and club soda, you can assume you need 1.5 oz rum, 1/4 oz lime juice, and 4-6 oz club soda.  You just need to figure out how many ounces your bottle of rum contains, and divide that by 1.5 to know how many cocktails you can make with that bottle and then do the same with your accent juices and mixers.


If you are serving champagne for a champagne toast, you will need one bottle of champagne for every 8 guests.  This should give you enough champagne to have 1/2 glass for each guest for the toast.  In our example, this would be 250 guests/8 = 31.25 bottles of champagne (rounding up, you need 32 bottles).

Don’t Forget the Water

In all the discussion about how much alcohol to buy, don’t forget that all guests will need water at some point in the event.  Make sure you have plenty!  You can estimate that guests will drink about 12 ounces every 1/2 hour – hour during the party.  We recommend tap water where possible to help preserve the environment.  Did you know that only 8% of plastic water bottles are actually recycled?  That leaves a lot of water bottles filling up our landfills!  If serving tap water you need to account for 4 12-oz glasses per person or 1000 glasses of water.

If you keep these tips in mind, you can rest assured that you will have everything you need (drink-wise) for your big event.  If you need glasses, tables, chairs, etc. check out to find, compare, and rent.

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