The Best Things We Saw at Partyfest 2013, DFW's Party Industry Trade Show

If you think the God of parties is some heavenly figure with neon lasers shooting from his eyes, annoying house music reverberating from his wind pipe and confetti blowing out of his ass, you are, we fear, eternally mistaken. The lord of celebrations is actually a position divided into two equal halves and overseen by a middle-aged married couple so cute that they could star in a Levitra commercial.

See also: For the Love of Graphic Design: A Dispatch from Dallas Designers' Monthly Meeting

Dirk and Lisa Owen, owners of Applause Productions and founders of Partyfest, have been gathering their mitzvah resources and providing the meeting place for party planners and unique vendors for almost three decades, and they hosted another such gathering in Dallas this week.

"We've been going on strong for 25 years, and our very first show was at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center," says " said Lisa Owen, producer of Partyfest. "We were actually the first event in the Morton Meyerson, in 1988."

Partyfest has a simple origin story. Lisa began as an entertainment agent in charge of booking bands in the mid-1980s. When people began asking her to arrange lights and coordinate more intricate parties, she started jotting numbers and names into a list that later became The Dallas/Fort Worth Party & Event Planner's Source Book.

That book now has 244 pages and thousands of vendors. "The show [Partyfest] is a live version of the book. It lists all of the caterers, vendors and entertainers in the party industry," Dirk says. "It's like The Yellow Pages of party resources for DFW"

A few months in advance, more than15,000 invitations are sent out to DFW businesses and party vendors alerting them of the next Partyfest date, and instructions describing how to participate. The primary audience for these invitations is corporate HR representatives, and anyone in search of planning a party that doesn't suck.

Every year the show gets a little bit bigger. There were somewhere between 1,200 and 1,500 people at Dallas Market Hall for Partyfest 2013, all soggy from the January downpour. Here's the best of what they saw:

The Game Truck is essentially a big, rigged trailer that has leather couches, multiple flat screens, and every game system imaginable. If you want your teenager (or inner child) to explode with gleeful burst of gamer joy, rent this setup. It is truly awesome.


You know those Christmas lights that sync up perfectly to music and make the neighbors blind with jealousy, and maybe even blind for real because of their intense luminosity? The best ones are done by Gordon Lights, whose services can be rented for whatever party, concert, dance or rave needs a neon display. This guy is equal parts Eddie Van Halen and Thomas Edison.


Le Theatre Marionette is a miniature stage production starring two-foot-high puppets that you can rent to entertain (or terrify) you children. These puppets are beautifully (and creepily) decorated so that the performance is life-like. A word of caution: If the movie Chuckie freaks you out, then stay the hell away from these. (Can you tell I am afraid of dolls?)

"Short-n-Sweet" isn't just another food truck. Sure, it offers delicious ice cream and other sweet snacks, but the name is a literal one: both of the truck's operators, Pebbles and Bam, are little people. Their hospitality and willingness to talk are only outmatched by their delicately sweet ice cream. These guys are funny and scoop some serious cream.


Critterman is a wildlife expert who will bring his gaggle of fury friends to your backyard for your next event. He has been voted "the best travelling zoo" and "best children's entertainer entertainer." He as number of different pricing options and animal packages available for your next fury get together.


A bit off the party path and on a more elegant one is Red River Winery Tours, a limousine service that offers a tour of local vineyards for a very reasonable price. Lunch is included, as well glasses of local wine. Alcohol and an upscale driver service? Yes please.

Photos by Matthew Lawson

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