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We decided to do something we had never done before: a Black Light party. We called it Black Light Night. We set the time from 6-8pm on a Sunday night and targeted families with children at Hayward Wesleyan.

Setting up the Black Lights:

Since we had never done something like this before, we had no idea how to light a room with black light other than to buy some black lights and see how they worked. I picked up some four 48″ fluorescent light fixtures from a local hardware store (each fixture held 2 tubes). These cost about $15 each. I also bought four 48″ black light fluorescent tubes @ $12 a piece (at Walmart). When we hooked all of this stuff up and hung them from our lighting trusses in our program room, we were a little disappointed in the amount of black light it put off (each fixture had one black light tube in them). It wasn’t dark, but it wasn’t very powerful. Then one of our volunteers wondered what it would look like to put 2 tubes in each fixture, so we took 2 tubes out of 2 fixtures and doubled them up into 2 fixtures. Then voila… 200% brighter! The room lit up with black light! So we sent one of our volunteers to every hardware store in town to see if we could find four more 48″ tubes. She found some, but they were a little more expensive than Walmart’s were. These additional black lights made the room incredible! For good measure, we grabbed some CFL black ligt bulbs and placed them into the ceiling can lights we have installed in the room and that helped, but the main black light source came from the 4 fluorescent light fixtures with 2 bulbs in each fixture.

Here are some of the elements we had around the room:

  • There was a “science” area with tonic water (that contains quinine, which glows blue in black light) as well as some rocks that go in fish tanks that glowed in black light. Kids were able to play and look at these things.
  • There was a “food” station with particular food things that glowed: glowy jello, gummy worms and pretzels (they didn’t glow, they were just a snack).
  • We had a “face painting” station where we used yellow highlighter that really glowed in the black light.
  • There was a “nail painting” station where the girls could get their nails painted a color that glowed.
  • There was a “craft” station that had glow paint along with black light friendly yarn. It was awesome stuff. Also at the craft station was white paper with highlighters to write on that really glowed.
  • There was also various “game” areas: Twister, glow bowling (water bottles in which we dropped a glow stick in them), and ring toss (made rings out of glow bracelets).
  • When kids arrived we handed out glow bracelets and finger LED lights.

The first hour was everyone milling about at the different stations. The last hour was hide and seek in the church. It was really fun.

What we would do differently next time:

Instead of trying to cram over 100 people into one large room, we would split up the stations and place them in different classrooms that are lit with black light. What we did this first time was more of a children’s museum kind of format where you have stations setup and kids and parents would go to the different “exhibits” and play then move on to the next. We think that it would calm the congestion if we broke it up a little.

We would have an official start time instead of just letting people do things as they came. The event started at 6pm, but people came between 5:45 and 6:20. So the people that got there early were already done looking at each thing by 6:20, but those who got there later were still involved. The ones that got there early began to create their own fun in the room and it became rather chaotic.

We need people manning each station. Ironically, we did have this planned, but because of the varying start time it was difficult to handle the influx of people coming in. As anyone can imagine, when you don’t have a station like snack manned, then those snacks disappear pretty quickly (which they did!). The crafts station was the worse because there was glow, puffy paint available to decorate a foam cross. It became very messy and the fact that we didn’t have a place (at first) to place the finished crafts, kids left their paint-filled crosses on the table and when other kids were working on theirs they got their elbows and such in the already finished projects. And a few crosses ended up on our wonderfully stain-prone carpet. Live and learn.

Lastly, we would better communicate that parents are required to attend this event with their kids. For some reason, about half of the parents thought this was a drop and dash sort of event. They left their kids with us and went on a date or back home. We hadn’t planned to watch the kids during this time. We had planned to create a fun family experience. Looking back on the promotional material, we did not communicate very clearly that this was an event where we expected parents to participate with their kids. As you can imagine, when kids are left to themselves in an environment where the adults can’t see very well, they begin to make their own fun. And it was nearly impossible to parent all these kids for over an hour.

Overall success?

We are absolutely going to do this again! Everyone who came, in spite of our apparent missteps, had a  blast and told us such! It will be even bigger next time because the students will know what “black light” is now (we are in a small town that doesn’t have many experiences with such things) and the word will spread.

It’s important for me to tell you that this did get expensive. The equipment for producing black light is not cheap and it will cost you some money to do it right. But it is so worth it!!

More pictures can be found @ Facebook