The $50,000 Kiddie Birthday Party

Limos. Petting zoos. Did we mention spa treatments? When it comes to their kids’ birthdays, status-seeking Philly parents now say it’s their party, and they’ll spend what they want to.

Tiffany Gabbay was shocked.

She’d just opened her estimate from the company that rents carnival-style vending carts for kids’ birthday parties. Gabbay was thinking small, just three or four stands — maybe one popcorn, one cotton candy, one hot dog, one funnel cake.

The total cost: $2,500.

Only $2,500? she thought to herself.

Twenty-five hundred was nothing … not when she had $13,000 to spend. That was the budget she’d allotted for her only daughter’s birthday party. At those prices, she figured she could rent twice as many food carts. Maybe more. So she added churros, ice cream, french fries, pizza, fried -Oreos, snow cones, fresh-squeezed lemonade and soft pretzels. New total: $5,400. “So far,” Gabbay says.

That wasn’t all. She’d already rented three moon bounces — cost: $1,200 — for the birthday bash. Plus carnival games, though she was still debating over those — should she rent them, or just hire a contractor to build them, using her party colors? Which meant, of course, she’d have to choose party colors — either traditional circus red, blue and yellow, or French circus pink, lavender and baby yellow. For the games. And the hats. And the banners. And the streamers. And the balloons, which would be outrageously large, the largest she could find. Hundreds of them. All over her aunt’s backyard in Cherry Hill, where the big event — 160 guests and counting — would take place in October.

Gabbay barely had a month to get it all together. And she still hadn’t heard back from the Philadelphia Zoo — she wanted the portable petting zoo, big-time — and she was still playing phone tag with Stacey’s Face Painting. There were picnic tables to rent. And tents. And linens. And plates and silverware. (“The thought of plastic bothers me,” she says.) There was the photographer to hire. And the videographer. She had yet to settle on the invitations, though she’d just found a design she loved, shaped like a circus ticket, with a scratch-off to reveal the date, time and place. Plus, finding the perfect birthday outfit for her daughter Brielle had already consumed 20 hours of online research. Planning the party wasn’t the hard part, Gabbay wrote on her Facebook status in September: “it’s the outfit for sure!!!”

Even with all that, her biggest challenge was trying to work out a deal with the manager of Gymboree in Cherry Hill. The über-popular gym for little kids insisted that it only hosted birthday parties in-house, but Gabbay wanted the staff to come to the party, to bring their music and parachutes and gigantic tumbling mats.

“That way, my daughter can be involved,” Gabbay says. Although she knows, of course, that Brielle can’t eat the food or jump on the moon bounces or play Skee-ball, no matter what color the game is.

Brielle, after all, is just turning one.

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  • Tenley

    I recognize that Philadelphia Magazine is not exactly written for the vast majority of Philadelphia residents. But giving the impression that children’s birthday parties costing thousands of dollars are somehow “the norm,” and that even struggling parents are doing what they can to live up to (or down to) this outrageous display of narcissism, only feeds the misperception at the same time it proves how drastic the economic divide really is between the wealthy few and the working-class many. You know what I do for my son’s party? I bake a cake, invite about a dozen of his friends, and have them play at my house or a park for a couple of hours. You know what he’ll get for his 16th birthday? A chance to get a job after school, so he can save up to buy himself a used car. Even if my salary quadrupled, I still would stick to my principles (remember those?) — money can buy entertainment, but it can’t buy love.

  • Jimmy

    These momo kids are going to be just like you know whatever like like like their idiot parents. 13 grand to spend on a bday party….makes me throw up. You better get a suite at the Union game…
    Unheard of when I was growing up and I’m not that old. But, that’s why rich ass couples cheat on each other and buys whatever to make them feel better. So enjoy your fake smiles and go fck yourselves

  • Kay

    Spring Mountain in the Poconos? Surprised this was not known, and obviously not researched (what else wasn’t verified in this ‘story’?). There are two references to it. It’s right in Montgomery County.

  • Babymama ♡♥♡♥

    Wow!!!! A lot of angry comments. Calm down people. Dang…who cares what people spend on their kids birthday parties. Its their money and their kids. I am not rich by any means but I love having super fun parties for my kids. Especially when I don’t have to clean up( ;-) lol) so I usually rent out a place like brunswick zone or Sahara Sam’s. Its not crazy expensive its affordable and tons of fun. The point behind having cool parties is making your child feel extra special on their birthday. If people do it for other reasons thats their problem and you should feel sad for their kids not get your undies in a bunch. You can’t buy happiness but you can’t find happiness being cruel or judging people either. Peace out and don’t forget to throw your children at least a handful of cool parties. Life is short and so is childhood and every kid deserves to feel extra special on their bdays even if you make certain they know their loved every day.