Consider the following backyard barbecue entertainment ideas the next time you decide to throw an outdoor soiree.
Never underestimate the power of the sight of a tetherball set. Grown men have been reduced to near tears due to the humiliation of a tetherball loss. You don't need to have a permanent tetherball pole ground into your newly-laid sod. There are very good portable tetherball sets out there that have the power to bring out the fourth-grader in all of us. The look on a kid's face as they beat a much older person at tetherball is worth the price of the set alone.
Organize a scavenger hunt. Compile a list of at least ten items, hide them, write up clues regarding their whereabouts, and send out the search parties. Take the time to find good hiding places, but make sure they're in places that everyone has access to. There's no point in hiding anything in your kitchen if it's off-limits. Set aside a really nice prize for the winner. It could be a pair of movie tickets, or a gift certificate, but cold hard cash has always worked as well!
An equally interesting a game (and a really great way to get people who haven't met a chance to get to know each other) is a HUMAN scavenger hunt. Gather interesting tidbits and facts about your invited guests. Write down those tidbits as clues, and pass them out to the guests. The clues can read like the following: this person ran a marathon last year, this person has been to France seven times. Ask people to submit really interesting facts about themselves so that people can get to know Mrs. Smith, the tri-athlete, not Mrs. Smith, the neighborhood snoop.
The "Honey I Love You, Won't You Give Me A Smile" game is one of those games that seem so simple and ends up with everyone laughing and smiling. Everyone forms a circle. Someone stands in the middle of the circle. That person walks over to anyone in the circle, stands in front of them and says, "Honey I love you, won't you give me a smile?" The person is supposed to response, "Honey, I love you, but I just can't smile." The person in the center then does everything in their power to make them laugh except touch them. Adults and children can place this game together and it always puts everyone in a good mood.
Have a grilling contest. Rare is the family that doesn't have that one member who always brags about the quality of his steaks, and how they rival the top NYC steakhouse versions. Well, give him a chance to prove it: buy a bunch of steaks, tell contests participants that you'll supply basic spices, and they can bring whatever "special ingredients" they wish. Set uncles against dads against aunts. Set up an impartial panel of judges of kids (or better yet, wives). Just remember that the winner will have bragging rights for decades to come.
Have a food-eating contest. This is one summer event that people just seem to can't get enough of. Kids will love you forever and a day if you have an ice-cream sundae eating contest. Any food can be used: chicken wings, hot dogs, pancakes, sushi rolls, etc. Make sure that you have plenty of antacid - and barf bags - for the contestants. The winners probably won't want a gift certificate to a restaurant; for adults, cash is usually king. For kids, gift certificates to toy stores would work.
Have your own Backyard Idol. Set up a mike, laptop and some speakers, and have a singing contest. Judging by the plethora of singing contests on television with bigger and bigger prizes by the minute, allow your shy nephew or that unassuming neighbor from down the street the opportunity to really show their chops. It's hard to perform in front of people, especially for the first-timers, so make sure everyone is encouraged and applauded. Reward the best talent, and give prizes to everyone else as well.
For those who are looking for ideas that are a bit more posh, consider something like a wine tasting barbeque. Choose a small selection of vintages, and have everyone bring a white or red that they've been dying to try. Serve amazing appetizers like thin slices of filet mignon wrapped around arugula and crumbles of blue cheese. Serve smooth, creamy raspberry mousse for dessert.