Fun Serving Ideas for a Patriotic Picnic

From food labels to table settings, these fun ideas will help you serve a fabulous patriotic picnic on the Fourth of July.

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napkin rings
Stars & Stripes

    Salute Old Glory with star-studded napkin rings. Stamp "USA" into metal tags using a steel stamp set. Thread star-print ribbon through the tags and wrap around striped napkins. For no-sew napkins, cut cotton ticking in 16-inch squares; fray the edges by pulling on the threads. You also can roll silverware into the napkins for guests to grab as they go through the buffet line.

Independence Day Garland

    Trace mirror-image pairs of letters, numbers, and stars onto red, white, and blue patterned paper. Cut out the shapes and glue the pairs together with patterned sides facing out. Punch holes in the tops of the shapes and string onto ribbon. Hang the ribbon from a patio umbrella, a porch overhang, or tree branches for a festive decoration.

Temporary Glass Labels

    Turn plain drinking glasses into patriotic ones -- temporarily -- for the holiday. Using pinking shears, cut bands of red-and-white plaid oilcloth to fit around the glasses. Sew or glue a white oilcloth rectangle to the center of the band, then adhere the ends of the band together so it fit around a glass. (The band should easily slip over the narrower bottom of a glass and slide upward until it stays snugly in place.) Provide permanent markers for guests to write their names on the rectangles so they'll know exactly which glass is theirs.

Patriotic Message

    Display famous words from the Declaration of Independence on galvanized tubs. Coat galvanized tubs with white metal primer. Then paint each tub a different shade of blue. (Buy deep blue exterior paint and dilute with white exterior paint to get the two lighter hues). Use letter stickers to spell "life," "liberty," and "happiness" on the tubs. Fill with ice to hold drinks or frozen treats, or use without ice to hold sparklers for some July 4 fun.

Posh Picnic Basket

    Upgrade your picnic basket with a stylish no-sew fabric liner. Drape Independence Day-inspired fabric inside your basket with right side down, fitting to size. Fold the fabric over the edges of the basket, smoothing as you go. With tailor's chalk, mark the fabric at the point where it hangs down three inches over the outside edge. Remove fabric from the basket and cut along chalk line. Hem with iron-on tape, then place fabric in the basket right side up. Tie ribbon around the basket handles for added color.

Banner Day

    Decorate the picnic table with plastic banners -- one stars, one stripes -- laid in perpendicular rows across the table (see above). Plan the layout so the banners create a "place mat" at each seat. For extra spirit, layer a clear glass plate over a red paper star on a white charger.

Basket Case

    Corral patriotic flatware and napkins into red-white-and-blue baskets to keep the tableware organized and standing at attention.

Patriotic Table

    Mix and match assorted patterns of paper goods to create a patriotic table setting. Don't worry if the blues and reds don't match perfectly -- together they'll create a cohesive look suitable for any patriotic holiday.

Keep It Clean

    Eating saucy sandwiches and dripping ice cream treats is all part of a great summer picnic. So let your guests enjoy the messy fare by using inexpensive white dish towels as oversize napkins. Roll the towels and fasten with checkered shoelaces for a pop of color.

Roll & Wrap

    Make going through the picnic buffet line a breeze with an all-in-one utensil holder and place mat. Fold the long end of a dish towel up until it becomes the size of a place mat. Stitch or hot-glue the outer edges together. Insert utensils into the pocket, roll up, and tie with a separate ribbon.

Label It

    Print labels for your picnic dishes to let everyone know what's on the menu. If it's a potluck, make blank labels and let guests fill in the names of their contributions.

    Editor's Tip: Tor protect the labels from spills, slip them into small plastic sleeves (name tags or small acrylic frames work well), available at office supply stores.

Recipe Swap

    If you're hosting a potluck, ask guests to bring their signature dishes and send the recipes to you ahead of time. Print the recipes on white and blue paper, roll the pages together, and tie with red ribbon. Make enough recipe scrolls to send home with all your guests.

Deli Style

    For a fun presentation, preassemble hot dogs or burgers with buns wrapped in waxed paper. Secure the wrap with an American flag toothpick.

Dual Role

    Use food to decorate the picnic table. Fill white snow cone cups with blue and red berries to create a sweet treat and dazzling display all in one.

Serve in Style

    Ditch the food packages and line galvanized pails with napkins to serve picnic staples, such as potato chips or buns.

Easy Treat Baskets

    Cut two 3x9-inch strips of double-sided scrapbook paper in patriotic colors; overlap in a cross shape. Use a glue stick to adhere overlapping centers. Punch holes in the corners of each strip. Fold the sides up and thread ribbon or rickrack through the holes to create the box shape, then tie the ends together in a knot. Fill with lightweight snacks (such as popcorn or chips) that won't slip through the open edges.

Sweet Spot

    Make dessert your grand finale -- just like a spectacular burst of fireworks. Fill canning jars with sundae toppings and let guests create their own ice cream confections. These jars are displayed in a wire tree purchased at a gift store, but you also could arrange the toppings on tiered stands.

More Independence Day

    See our favorite sweet treats for the Fourth of July.

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