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Stress-free shindigs: All-in-one parties popular with parents, kids

That kind of convenience is one of the big reasons Carraher has had all of her daughter's parties somewhere other than at her house.

"I like the idea of not having to get our home ready, not having to clean up, not having to worry about the furniture getting damaged," Carraher, of Rexford, said.

She also likes the idea of giving her daughter a day in the spotlight.

"Every parent wants their child to feel special on his or her birthday," Carraher said.

Kate Cross, owner of Tiny Tots Tea Room, embraces that philosophy. Cassandra, like other birthday girls who opt for Tiny Tot's princess package, wore a tiara and got to sit on a "throne." When the kids ate their three-course meal (vegetables, sandwiches and dessert), Cassandra got to ring a bell to signal the end of each course. When the girls put on an array of fancy gowns complemented by hats, boas and wands, Cassandra had the first choice of clothing.

Cross said she lets the girls dress however they want, even if that means heaping on layers and layers of accessories.

"I'm a firm believer in letting kids be who they are," she said.

When Jessica Shea was a kid, she was a self-described country girl. Shea turned her childhood fascination with snakes and other animals into a business called Reptile Adventures. She brings snakes, turtles and frogs to area birthday parties, teaching kids about the creatures and letting them pose for pictures with her snakes.

"There are always a million questions," Shea said. "Kids want to know if they bite and what they eat."

Allyson Thiessen of Colonie booked Shea for her daughter Laurel Genthner's 13th birthday party in February and came away marveling at the way the guests took to the animals.

"It was such a fantastic experience," Thiessen said. "It's not the thing that you would normally get at a party."

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