Planning any event is never an easy task, and something as important as a bar or bat mitzvah requires a lot of preparation to create a special day for a child.

Fortunately, these children and their parents can turn to the Mitzvahs & More Expo held on Aug. 26. Expo organizers Melissa Mulera and Tina Celle think the event is a great chance for Jewish families to start planning. Held at the JW Marriott Camelback Resort and Spa, the expo showcased an eclectic collection of vendors.

“We feel it’s a niche market that is not being addressed anywhere else in Arizona,” Mulera said. “Our goal is to bring the Jewish community together for a day of family fun and socializing. Our future vision is to grow the expo and continue to bring more Jewish resources and unique exhibitors to the show.”

This is Mulera and Celle’s third expo, and each one took a year’s worth of preparation. Much of the pair’s time is spent attracting vendors, marketing and creating all of the print materials for the event.

“Organization and creativity are two key components when it comes to the show’s look and feel,” Mulera said. “There is a tremendous amount of time and energy spent on social media getting the word out.”

That time and energy brought a host of performance artists, DJs and vendors to the expo. EMP Management President Amy Corben displayed 20 years of event planning experience to potential clients.

“There are so many moving parts that I highly recommend going by way of an event planner,” Corben said. “There’s so much to executing the day and making sure things go right.”

Corben spoke with one child about potential themes and designs. She also recommended hiring an event planner to provide input on potential vendors the family is considering hiring.

Many vendors displayed their talents in demonstrative and interactive fashion.

Airbrush Party owner David Barba used his first expo appearance to show off his artistic abilities. He took a plain white T-shirt and created a multicolored design on it, showing the behind-the-scenes creation process that led to the multiple clothing items at his booth. His biggest sellers, he said, are baseball caps that can be customized with partygoers’ names.

“The hats are a really big hit. Whenever I show up to a party, everybody just bum rushes the table,” Barba said. “Usually, we’re making anywhere between 80 to 150 hats. Sometimes even 300 to 400.”

Rachel Stegman, owner and founder of Circus School of Arizona, has her own way of standing out among the crowd. She brought a large hoop that suspended from a rig for her aerialist students to perform their stunts. Some were even contorting around a brass hotel luggage cart.

“It’s something that’s a little less common, so there’s a ‘wow’ factor,” Stegman said.

Such circus-inspired performance shows how much bar and bat mitzvah planning has changed over the years. What was typical or even popular 10 years ago is completely different today.

“I think the biggest change that’s really fascinating is seeing how people are incorporating social media into their design and their themes,” Corben said. “Especially a lot of girls gravitate to having Snapchat themes; they’ll have cutouts of phones, they’ll have the icons posted. It’s such a big part of their lives that it’s great to have that incorporated into their parties.”

Trying to plan a bar or bat mitzvah that’s ahead of the curve and memorable can be a challenge, and themes and events are often subject to change depending on what is new and popular. That also changes frequently, especially when dealing with a population of 13-year-olds.

“Clients continue to search for new and different venues, products, entertainment and theme ideas,” Mulera said. “Within the mitzvah circuit, children can attend up to 20 of their classmates’ parties that year, and by the time they have theirs they don’t want it to be just like the rest. Bar mitzvahs have continually evolved alongside fashion and trends.” JN

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