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Party central On election night, celebrate the democratic process with a gathering of (bipartisan?) friends and family.

You've cast your votes. Stationed yourself in front of the TV. The question is: Do you want to endure election night alone?

For some, Nov. 4 is a good excuse to plan a party, and it doesn't have to be anything big and fancy.

Some tasty food. A few decorations. Even a few games to play during downtimes.

In fact, your biggest challenge may be your guest list: Will all political parties be welcome?

Hmmm.

In previous years, local event planner Lisa Redino has delivered festive balloons to people's homes for election night parties.

Some people definitely are into it, she agreed.

Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

*If you want to make an effort to do some decorating, why not haul out your July 4 decor -- flags, leftover paper plates, melamine platters -- to create a patriotic theme?

Low on supplies? You also can pick up some solid red, white and blue party goods and decorative items at party stores and possibly even your favorite dollar store.

And while you're at it, pick up some red, white and blue balloons.

*Engage your guests in a little presidential trivia during television downtime. One place to find it: http://www.nps.gov/pub_aff/pres/trivia.htmLine is overdrawn . You can entertain your guests with such tidbits as Andrew Jackson was the first president to ride in a train. Or that Harry S. Truman, as a boy, got up at 5 a.m. to practice the piano for two hours.

Redino has another challenge for party guests:

"Have a contest on who can remember the most promises made by each of the candidates," said Redino, who owns Party Harty, in the Georgetown Square Plaza Courtyard at Sheridan Drive and Evans Street, Williamsville.

The person who lists the most promises wins a prize, she said.

*Choose for your menu dishes representative of each presidential candidate's home digs. Chicago deep-dish pizza (Barack Obama). Some Southwestern fare (John McCain).

Or you can go the red, white and blue route.

Redino suggests berry pies (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries); chili with blue corn chips on the side; blue popcorn; red, white and blue M & Ms or even jelly beans.

You even can get the kids involved in the party. Have them draw pictures of elephants and donkeys or pull out their Beanie Babies or other stuffed animals of the same to double as decorations.

Another idea: You may have a tough time finding one, but political masks are popular for Halloween and could make for interesting decor at your Tuesday night gathering.

Locally, John McCain and Barack Obama masks were selling fast at George & Company and Party City, so you may want to call ahead to check inventory.

Masks of former Presidents Clinton and Nixon were still around earlier this week -- not that those are what you probably are looking for for Tuesday -- but you may be able to land a Sarah Palin or Joe Biden mask as well.

But, again, no promises.

Other props could include confetti, horns, noise-makers, endorsement signs, Uncle Sam hats, Statue of Liberty tiaras . .. those types of things.

Small touches are fun as well.

At Choco-Logo, a chocolate factory shop at 141 Broadway between Elm Street and Michigan Avenue, shoppers can pick up some donkey and elephant chocolate coins, festivally wrapped in foil colors.

They cost 25 cents each. These can be bagged in sets of four or so as party favors.

Or, with a day's notice, custom tags can be printed up in-house, said owner Dan Johnson.

The challenge here: Come up with something clever to have printed on the tag.

Patriotic-theme cookies or desserts are another idea. Go for elephant or donkey-shaped cut-outs, or even stars.

If you don't have time to make them yourself, your favorite bakery may be able to help.

For example, if you place an order quickly, Dessert Deli can whip up a patriotic-theme cake or cookies, such as flags or stars, said Trish Mullaney, owner of the gourmet bakery and cafe at 716 Maple Road at North Forest Road, Amherst.

And for those looking for a different twist, Mullaney offers one final idea for an election night theme:

"A thank-God-it's-finally-over party," she said.

e-mail: smartin@buffnews.com

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