By Nina Silberstein
As the COVID-19 pandemic has forced people to stay at home, limit face-to-face contact and restrict gatherings of large groups, Stefanie Hausman and her 17-year-old daughter, Uma Frost-Hausman, saw a need for celebrating birthdays and other life events in a different way.
They wanted to do something that would bring joy to the community, could be done from a distance and was environmentally friendly. As a result, Lawn Party began providing its services at the end of May.
The mother-daughter duo provides creative, handmade messages that are made up of large letters and other decorative items installed on front lawns to call out special occasions such as birthdays, school graduations, anniversaries and the like.
“We attended some ‘drive-by’ parades and we thought that some lawn decorations would add a festive flair to these events,” Hausman explains.
Stefanie and Uma create large (20 feet x 20 feet) templates out of paper and cut colored corrugated plastic for the letters.
“We make large birthday candles out of pool noodles, foam and decorative duct tape,” Stefanie said.
Their neighbors have even donated some of the stakes from their lawn election signs, which are then used to support these handmade messages.
“We personalize the signs with people’s names, cut-out balloons, hearts and even rubber duckies,” she noted. A card can be added to the message.
Lawn Party’s services include creation, setup and pickup, and it is 100 percent contact-free.
Expressions include Happy Birthday, Congratulations and Mazel Tov, but others range from We Love You, and Thank You (Essential Workers) to It’s a Boy/Girl/Baby, Welcome Home and Marry Me. You name it and they’ll create it.
The challenging part of the work is setting up the signs discreetly. Lawn Party puts the letters up at night when it’s dark and they have had to be very stealthy about it to provide the surprise element.
“We have gone as far as ‘army crawling’ under windows to not be seen,” Hausman said.
Hausman is originally from Chicago, but has lived in SE Portland for almost 20 years. She works in educational technology and has dabbled in entrepreneurial ventures prior to Lawn Party, such as introducing Skuut Balance Bikes to the Pacific Northwest.
Uma was born in Portland and is entering her senior year at Cleveland High School. She’s involved in social justice causes and enjoys the outdoors.
The pair are both avid skiers, kayakers and backpackers.Their family includes dad, David, and 15-year-old brother, Jonas, as well as a Havanese dog named Quadra.
Another aspect of Lawn Party’s business is to raise money to help support local causes. They have chosen the Portland Homeless Family Solutions COVID Relief Fund and Don’t Shoot PDX (a Black Lives Matter accountability group).
When you place an order, you can designate a percentage of the money you pay for their services to be donated to one of the above-mentioned organizations.
“People are excited, do something unique and personal, and they love to surprise a friend or family member,” Hausman adds.
Customer feedback has been great. Most people appreciate the joy that Stefanie and Uma bring to neighborhoods during these trying times. It has been a good pick-me-up, especially for kids who are unable to have conventional birthday or graduation parties.
There’s nothing like cheers from the neighbors and bicyclists passing by the signage, as well as honks from cars driving by to brighten everyone’s day.
They have had customers from as far away as Lake Oswego and Beaverton. Signs can stay up for 24 or 48 hours depending on what is requested.
Lawn Party’s hope is to bring creative expressions for every occasion directly to front yards throughout the Portland-metro area and as their website says, they are “spreading joy, not germs, one lawn letter at a time.”
Photos by Lawn Party