Anatomy of a Fan Party: breaking it down so you can make your own

Today we have a guest post from Sarah E. Stumpf on how to do you’re own Fan Parties!

It all started with Doctor Who Jeopardy.

I didn’t make the game and I’m not even sure who did.  It was something that was passed around on the yalsa-bk listserv and I did it for a program.  However I quickly realized that the trivia game itself was too short to hold my teens attention since it took them less than 20 minutes to do the trivia game itself.   So that lead to me experimenting with different formats when I replicated the program at my other branch and for other programs where trivia contests were part of the fun.

The result of that tinkering is a finely tuned machine for how to take any topic, trend, or piece of media and make a (relatively) easy and fun Fan Party that has worked repeatedly to get teens into the library.


First thing you need is a topic.  Pick something that teens are really into, like a popular movie, tv show, anime/manga, or musician.  It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it is something your teens are interested in.

Once you have a topic, each Fan Party has the following important components:

  1. Food – It isn’t a party without food.  While you certainly can do this with a ‘big ticket’ food item like pizza, I’ve found that my teens are just happy to get snacky foods.  I tend to get 15-30 teens for each party depending on topic, so for me that means at least 3-4 packages of cookies and 2-3 bags of chips.  If I do drinks, it’s usually making country time lemonade mixed up in a pitcher or bottled water that I picked up on sale.  Drinks are more optional – the teens love them but they do drive up price.  That is the thing that is easiest for me to cut if we are running up the budget.Also let other departments know that you have this coming up — one time we got a ton of leftover cookies from a reception at the library the previous day and mini eclairs leftover from a children’s tea party.  Teens WILL eat anything you put in front of them.Bonus points if you can match the food to the theme of the party.  For Death Note we had apple slices, for Attack on Titan we had several different kinds of potato chips and potato straws, and for TFIOS we sipped sparkling juice.
  2. Decorations – This can be as simple or as elaborate as you would like.  At the very least, I buy colorful plastic tablecloths from The Dollar Store or Deal$ or Dollar General.  You can also get rolls of plastic tablecloth from GFS.  Plastic tablecloths are great because they catch snack crumbs and craft mess so you don’t end up having to clean down the tables afterwards.I theme them to the colors of whatever we are celebrating.  For Blue Exorcist it was blue and white tablecloths, for Attack on Titan it was dark green and tan, for Death Note it was black.  Oddly enough black is the hardest color to find most of the year, so stock up on that color around Halloween.While decorating is a lot of fun and sets a great ambiance that is different from a standard teen program, I usually don’t waste a lot of time or money on decorations (unless they are things we can reuse).  Look around your library (especially the children’s department) for weird things you can use as decorations and props.  For example, for the TFIOS Fan Party it was easy to use our library die cutter to cut out blue and white stars to confetti the tables.However decorating doesn’t have to go to the extreme.  I was stumped as to what to do for Death Note decorations.  In the end, we just had black table cloths and that was fine.
  3. Trivia – This is free but probably the most time consuming portion of the party, both in your planning time and in execution.This isn’t really all that hard since there are TONS of trivia questions all over the internet for popular things, however it is a bit time consuming.  I’d say it takes me at least 2 hours to get the trivia and format it into the board.  Yes I could just print out the trivia and ask the questions verbally, but the teens really like having the questions up on the screen in the game board fashion.  I think it makes it special.  I like to use fonts from the show/book/whatever because they really get a kick out of that.This means for every program I have to find 30 trivia questions, plus a tie breaker question or final round.  If there is a tie, we use this question to break it.  If not, it’s a way for even the kids that are loosing to have one last hail mary for a prize.  For the My LIttle Pony tie breaker, they had to name as many members of the Applejack family as they could.  For Death Note it was name as many Shinigami as you can.Also there is almost always some teen there who has been dragged by a friend and either doesn’t know much about the topic or just doesn’t want to play trivia.  Enlist that person to help you keep score.  We have a white board in our program room now but I used to also just tape a big piece of white paper to the wall since they like to have constant knowledge of who is winning.
  4. Prizes – These can be as simple or as elaborate as you would like.  The goal is to get 3-4 prizes that will be appealing to teens — they don’t have to be expensive but they should be something that teens would be excited to have AND excited enough about to show their friends.  I see the prizes like outreach honestly.  You want something that the teens will show their friends to show off how cool the library is and so their friends will be sad they missed out and more likely to come to your next party on a similar topic.  You can get super cheap prizes, but don’t get anything too kiddish.  You want to get something funny, tasty, or special.  Usually I end up spending $20-30 in prizes depending on how fancy I want to get.   You could certainly spend less or more quite easily.Some topics/show/media have mass merchandise that you can find in stores like Target, Hot Topic, 5 Below, and Barnes and Noble.  Others are a bit more… off the beaten path.   For certain anime series, your best bet is either going to be Hot Topic (with whom we’ve had serious issues accepting our tax exempt status) or Amazon.  Also don’t forget about Etsy.  There are some amazing artists making cool quirky and cheap stuff on there.When I did Attack on Titan Fan Party the prizes were a small keychain ($5), a poster ($4), a necklace ($7), and a copy of Vol 1 of the manga ($11) which all came from Amazon and Target.   For the TFIOS Fan Party, the prizes were stickers from etsy ($4), TFIOS necklace from Hot Topic ($7), and a copy of the book ($10).   For my upcoming Avengers Fan Party the prizes are an Iron Man magnet ($4), a dogtag necklace ($2.50), a candy Thor fan ($5), and a Captain America Funko Pop Figurine ($9) which came from 5 Below and Target.How they win the prizes is up to you.  I usually give three prizes out to the winners of the trivia contest with a fourth prize as a door prize or prize for winning at a game or contest.  I always encourage the teens to cosplay and sometimes someone will come in a really great outfit so I will give them a prize.  Each teen can only win one prize.
    It’s always fun to see them in cosplay
  5. A game, craft, or other activity –
    This is where you have the chance to customize.   There are tons of great crafts out there for a lot of these popular anime/manga, movies, shows, and books.  For example:Perler Bead patterns for TFIOS and lots of anime series
    Cube paper crafts from Adventure Time, Black Butler, Blue Exorcist, and Minecraft (free!)
    Feltie crafts from Adventure Time, Blue Exorcist, and MLP (sometimes these call for sewing but I just use tacky glue)
    Coloring contests for just about anythingThe goal is something neat and fun, but that doesn’t have a hard crafting learning curve.
    For Death Note I just got $1 composition notebooks from Dollar General and we painted the covers black with acrylic paint ($5) then copied the Death Note font onto the cover with white paint pens ($6).

    I did tell them not to use their Death Notes against any friends, enemies, or younger siblings….
  6. Music  – For anime series in particular, there are often parodies, music videos, and clips you can show.  I usually throw on soundtrack music from You Tube while the teens are entering, mingling, and snacking.  It sets a nice party-like tone.  Then I show other parodies and AMVs at the end depending on time.

So now that I’ve gone over the basics of how these parties work, I want to walk you through two specific parties I’ve done recently that you guys could EASILY replicate yourselves.

Attack on Titan Fan Party
Budget: $70  ($20 Food, $10 decorations, $30 prizes, $10 craft supplies)
Length: An hour and a half aka 90 minutes

-15 minutes: Start Attack on Titan soundtrack music 15 minutes beforehand while setting up
0-15 minutes: While music continues to play, teens eat snacks, investigate prizes, and socialize.
15-40 minutes: Titan Craft Contest!  Using the supplies provided, make your own titan (either original or from the show).  A prize will be given to the person who makes the best one!
For this craft I got large wooden stick people from the general crafts section of Hobby Lobby and some tiny wooden people from the scrapbooking section.  They were given the wooden people, Elmers glue, and sharpies to make their creation.

Making their own Titans

40-70 minutes: Trivia Contest!  Prizes given for the first, second, and third place winner.
70-90 minutes:  Watch Attack on Titan Abridged

Afterwards clean up

Blue Exorcist Fan Party
Budget: $60  ($20 Food, $15 decorations, $25 prizes, $0 craft supplies)
Length: An hour and a half aka 90 minutes

-15 minutes: Start Blue Exorcist soundtrack music 15 minutes beforehand while setting up
0-15 minutes: While music continues to play, teens eat snacks, investigate prizes, and socialize.
15-45 minutes: Trivia Contest!  Prizes given for the first, second, and third place winner.
45-70 minutes: Blue Exorcist Paper Crafts!  Using the patterns I found online and printed onto cardstock earlier, teens can make paper cube people of their favorite Blue Exorcist characters.
70-90 minutes:  Watch Blue Exorcist Abridged

Afterwards clean up

So there you guys go.  Go forth and make your own Fan Parties, and if you need, I have trivia for MLP , Adventure Time , Death Note , TFIOS, Blue Exorcist, and Attack on Titan  that you can use.




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