The list of losses from COVID is large: Businesses. Jobs. Human contact. Way too many human lives.
But there are small losses too. We don’t often think about things like missed birthday parties and sleepovers. But they matter — especially if you’re a kid, locked down at home and missing your friends.
Which is why the creative talents of Sarah Rose are so important. And so sweet.
She’s the brains behind Rosebud Slumber Parties. It’s a niche specialty, and she’s pivoted several times during the pandemic. But by planning, setting up (and cleaning up) themed events — even if it’s just siblings or one friend — she’s put smiles on the faces of many Westport children.
And their parents.
Sarah moved to Westport 4 years ago from England,, when her husband was transferred. With 3 young boys, she thought it would be “a great adventure.”
She settled in more quickly than she expected, thanks to new friends through preschool, the Compo playground, and her Kings Highway South neighborhood.
In Britain, kids’ birthday parties often take place at home. So she started a business: Rosebud Boxes. (When she was pregnant, her babies were called “Rosebuds” — a play on her last name. I told you she was clever!)
Sarah provided tableware, costumes and themes. But, she soon realized, most Westporters plan children’s birthday parties at other venues.
She heard about a company that did the same thing for sleepovers. No one was doing that here.
So in early 2019 Sarah began offering tents (handmade with her husband), sleeping mats, blankets, sheets, pillows, twinkling lights, star machines –the whole shebang.
There were 8 themes to choose from, like Harry Potter, unicorns and rainbows, Paris, sports. The age range was around 5 to 11. She did more girl parties than boys, but there were plenty of those too.
Then came COVID.
From mid-March through May, Sarah had no bookings. Yet when people tentatively ventured back into the world, she was ready. She dropped boxes off at people’s homes, with instructions for how parents could set everything up.
For a 7th birthday, one mother surprised her daughter with a themed tent — just for her. The little girl loved it.
Word spread. This summer, Sarah provided outdoor tepee parties. Each youngster had his or her small, individual tepee. But kids could sit on their own, socially distanced, Sarah-provided blankets outside. And they talked easily between them, all night long.
When the concept of outdoor movies took off, so did Sarah’s tepee business. Then she introduced low picnic tables, with themes like “English high tea” and “enchanted forest.”
As COVID cases surged, parties moved back inside. Now the guest list might include only siblings and cousins, or perhaps a friend or two.
(Earlier this month, good weather allowed a party planned for a garage to move outdoors to a patio. Screened-in porches and pool houses are also good venues.)
It’s still “magical and fun,” Sarah says. And, with lower numbers, it’s more of a bonding experience than with tons of boys and girls.
Business is picking up. She’s hired Staples High School students to help. She also offers add-on packages, like a cookie service and children’s yoga.
“When parents see everything all set up, they’re blown away,” Sarah says. “They love the idea, and they’re just thankful they can do something for their kids.”
Sarah’s service has brought herself some unexpected joy too.
Growing up in England, she adored Melissa Joan Hart. When the former “Sabrina” actress — who last year lived in Westport — threw a Minecraft-themed party for her 8-year-0ld son, Sarah did the honors.
“From being a 13-year-old girls in a small English village, to planning a party for Melissa Joan Hart, was like a dream,” Sarah says.
Almost as dreamlike as providing a party — small, socially distanced, but a party none the same — for kids in this American suburban town, in the middle of a pandemic.
(Click here for the Rosebud Slumber Parties website. Hat tip: Michele Sinacore)