BYU students involved with award-winning party-planning business

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Rapunzel walks into the room and is greeted by a swarm of squealing little girls.

Rapunzel smiles, kneels down and talks with them. She sings songs and reads them the story of her life. This is not Disney World — just a local party with a character from Pirates & Princess Parties, a party business based in Utah.

Utah Pirate & Princess Parties offers an array of characters including princesses, pirates and cowboys. Parents can contact the party-planning business when they want a character to come to their child’s birthday party. The business is run by Kendalynn Harris, a woman from Bountiful, and is staffed by 30 young adults from northern Utah, eight of which are BYU students.

“I started dressing up as Snow White,” Harris said. “People began calling, asking for other characters.”

Harris then hired a handful of characters and booked a few more parties.

“It just exploded to where we have 10 parties a week,” she said.

[pullquote]”I started dressing up as Snow White. People began calling, asking for other characters.” — Kendalynn Harris[/pullquote]

The business won Nickelodeon’s Parent’s Pick Award in 2010 for Best Party Entertainer in Salt Lake City.

Despite the recent economic downturn, Harris said her business is going strong.

“I think people want to still celebrate their kids’ birthdays,” she said. “We try to have affordable choices.”

Pirate & Princess Parties also hosts various charity balls with their characters. The main charity event is called Hope Kids Princess Party, for children with terminal illnesses.

“It’s really a magical event,” Harris said. “It’s a night away from needles and tubes.”

Jessica Wilson, a math education major from Bountiful, works as Sleeping Beauty. She said she appreciates the amount of money she makes for the amount of time she puts in.

“It’s good money for such little time,” she said. “It’s not grungy. I don’t have anything to complain about.”

Parents can choose how long they would like the character with time slots ranging from 15 minutes to two hours. For every visit, the characters sing and read their story. Then, depending on the time, they make a craft, paint faces and twist balloons.

Lizzy Van de Graaff, a violin performance major from Woods Cross, works as Belle and Rapunzel.

“I think it’s amazing that the little kids trust you,” she said. “This is just the best job ever. You get paid to play with little kids. It’s really cool that you can be something for someone. Who doesn’t want to be a princess?”

Parties can be booked for any location along the Wasatch front, and accommodations can be made if someone does not live in the area but would like to book a party. More information is available at aprincessparty.net.

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