Is your son or daughter begging for Elsa or Spider-Man to make an appearance at their next birthday party? If your kids are dreaming of a singalong or picture-taking session with their favorite fictional character and just can’t let it go, chances are you won’t be the only parent on the block trying to make it happen.
In fact, having party performers is practically the new pinata or pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey when it comes to the most brag-worthy birthday party attractions.
“This industry is definitely growing,” says Todd Demoff, owner of Fairytale Entertainment in Auburn Hills. “Our company was one of the first in the area to make this popular.”
So how much is a visit from a princess or superhero going to set you back? You can plan to spend between $195 and $395 for a standard one-hour visit with one character, but keep in mind there’s a wide range among local services.
“This range will likely impact the quality and reliability of this service, which you might expect in any service-based industry,” he says. “We believe that price can reflect quality but we are hopeful that potential customers will take their time in discerning why a company may charge so little and another so much. With our company, we believe they’ll discover an extraordinary level of customer service that brings them back year after year.”
Fairytale Entertainment offers party entertainers such as Cinderella, the “Snow Queen,” Little Mermaid, the “Man of Iron,” “Darth Villain,” “Jedi Master” and more.
At Fairytale Entertainment, parents can choose from two main packages. The 40-minute meet-and-greet package for $175 includes a dramatic entry and welcome, singing and dancing, a game with prizes and pictures with the family. For $195, the one-hour party package includes extra time for face painting, balloon twisting and a gift for the birthday boy or girl.
“This one-hour party package has many variations based on the character they choose,” Demoff says, pointing out that activities might include superhero training, treasure hunts or hair styling.
Bonnie Ream, who owned Once Upon a Fairytale in Orion Township at the time of publication, says princess party companies typically charge between $150 and $250 per hour.
Plan in advance
Ream encourages parents to plan well in advance for their child’s party performers.
“The No. 1 thing is don’t wait until the last minute,” she says. “Definitely get your entertainment lined up before you send out the invitations in case you need to be flexible to get what you want.”
Also find out what is included with your package, since different companies offer a wide range of activities with a character visit.
“For our company, our big thing is we really hire and train performers that are flexible. So we have certain things that always happen at a party, which is a game, a story, balloon twisting and face painting and a gift for the child,” Ream says. “If she notices that when she did story time the kids were really not digging story time, [the performer will] just quickly wrap it up and maybe do a second game instead.”
Tipping and other added expenses
Parents should remember to budget for tipping the performers at their child’s party.
“It is customary to tip the performer,” Ream says, adding that her performers are often given $15 to $20 as a tip.
Demoff agrees most parents tip their party performers.
“We do provide our entertainers with a great wage because we hire the very best. However, the tips make the variety of challenges that come with live character performances possible,” he says. “When you have an entertainer show up in a Darth Vader suit on a 90-degree day performing in the sun or an adorable little fairy show up in a blizzard on a February day, I hope you tip them!”
There may be added charges for families who live beyond a certain traveling distance of the company or when a parent wants to add time or additional characters to the party. Demoff says his company also offers candy-filled pinatas.
“Essentially, we love to customize and help a customer achieve the vision they have for their event,” he says. “If it needs more characters, or more time or even a character we don’t offer, we will usually do our best to accommodate them.”
How to choose a company
Parents should take their time in choosing the right party entertainers or entertainment company for their event, Demoff recommends.
“They should feel safe and assured that the service they’re paying for will show up and the experience will be amazing,” he says. “One of the biggest tips we can offer is be sure you see the actual pictures of their entertainers.”
Also take time to read online reviews and look for companies with many positive reviews on multiple platforms.
“When party planners take their time to look at all the elements that make a great company, they’ll realize that price is not the only concern,” he says.
What you’re really paying for
While it can be expensive to hire a professional party entertainer for your event, many parents find it’s worth the price when you consider the fun and memorable moments your child and their guests will have. Plus, parents can relax a bit while the entertainer keeps the kids fully engaged.
“You’re really paying for somebody to completely entertain your party guests from the minute they get there until the minute they leave,” Ream says. “I have four girls myself so that to me is invaluable.”
Parents should also understand the value of responsible, experienced performers who can carry a tune, show up on time and answer all kinds of questions from the children while staying in character.
“There’s no script for that,” Ream says. “They have to really understand kids and have a really good working relationship with children. They have to be able to think quickly on their feet.”
Ream says when her older daughters were young, the only type of entertainer usually available for a children’s birthday party was a clown.
“I really just do this because I have four girls and I didn’t have anything like this available to me as a parent for the oldest three girls,” she says. “People just didn’t dress up as princesses and come to your house. It think it’s a wonderful thing.”
This post was originally published in 2015 and is updated regularly.