Party animals - The ice cream lady turns party impresario

If you take young children to the wading pool on Warren Avenue North in the summer, perhaps you know Deborah Artis. From June 15 through Labor Day, she sells ice cream from her yellow electric car all over Queen Anne, and the wading pool is the hub of her route.

A Queen Anne resident since 1975, in November she started another business with her daughter Alexis in Ballard: Pretty Pretty Princess Parties. Alexis came up with the name. "One 'pretty' just wasn't enough," she says.

Despite the name, boys are as welcome as girls.

PPPP, as we'll call it here, puts on fairytale dress-up parties for children 4 and older, usually birthday parties. Par-ties are held on company premises, not the customers' homes. Every detail is customized, including the theme, color, personalized invitations and games. The child's wish is PPPP's command.

Arrangements begin with a questionnaire. The child indicates his or her preferred theme and favorite color, and areas of sensitivity are identified: special needs, food allergies and dislikes, fears. "Some children are afraid of clowns," says Alexis, "or balloons."

Parents are encouraged to visit PPPP with their child several days before the occasion. "This reduces any apprehensions the child may have about an unfamiliar place," says Alexis.

On the day of the party, the table is set in the dining room in the theme and color the child has selected, with real glassware and dishes and stainless steel utensils, which makes the children feel more grown up. (Paper plates and plastic utensils are available upon request.)

Costumes await the children in a changing room. After they change clothes, a brief ceremony ensues in which the birthday girl is proclaimed and crowned princess, or the birthday boy is knighted. A regally draped throne sits in the corner of the playroom for that purpose.

Several other costumes are available, including pirates, cowgirls and cowboys. "Un-costumed parties are also okay," says Deborah, "and children are welcome to bring their own costumes as well."

Games played are appropriate for the age and gender of the children, as well as the theme of the party. All games are cooperative, about sharing and teamwork. "While the birthday girl or boy is made to feel special," says Deborah, "the atmosphere is inclusive." For example, when music is played, all the kids take turns being deejay.

When food is served, the icing on the cake or cookies is the favorite color of the honored child.

Once the party is over, it's sometimes difficult to get children to relinquish their costumes. For that reason, and also because two adjoining buildings were for rent together, parents can go into the gift shop next door and buy their child's costume.

In addition to party costumes and Disney character costumes, there are outfits for adult. "Some moms like to play dress-up with their daughters," says Alexis; "we're hoping we get a lot of business at Halloween." Other items include accessories, infant wear and hand-knit hats, scarves and booties.

Critical to this endeavor is Debo-rah's younger daughter, Madeline. At age 9 she is a knowledgeable con-sultant about what's hot among kids. "Right now, girls my age are interest-ed in American Girl dolls," says Madeline, "and Furby dolls. They're talking owls, sort of.

"Boys like Yugioh cards," she continues, "and remote-control cars."

Deborah and Alexis are happy to be in Ballard for now, but they hope to move the business to Queen Anne once they're more established. Come summer, they plan to host parties outdoors, in a park of the customer's choice. "We'll modify costumes - tutus instead of princess attire, for example," says Alexis, "and we'll play bigger games, like hide-and-seek and treasure hunts."

Maybe Deborah will serve ice cream from her yellow electric car.

Costs range from $250 to $295, including tax, for eight children, though up to 12 can be accommodated. For more information, log on to or call 783-3500. Better yet, drop by at 7330 15th Ave. N.W. Look for two chalets on the east side of the street, drive under the arch between them and park in back.[[In-content Ad]]