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UNT student runs character party business
H. Drew Blackburn
Senior Staff Writer
There’s no setup required. The entertainer – princess, pirate or superhero – walks in the door dressed and ready to go with all props and games in a bag on their shoulder. Music plays to set the mood for the smiling kids. Immediately, the entertainer brings the kids together and sits them down to tell them a little story, usually about how the birthday girl’s treasure box has been stolen or that the boy of the hour is now a superhero. There’s always a treasure hunt, games, face-painting and later, presents.
The point behind Jessica’s Princess and Character Parties, owned by studio art senior Megan Thurgood, is to make sure kids have a memorable birthday experience. It also gives Thurgood and the other employees a chance to indulge their passion – acting.
Jessica’s Princess and Character Parties has been around the Dallas-Fort Worth area since 2005. Before Thurgood took over two years ago, the business switched hands once from the founder and namesake Jessica to Shannon Jones, a theater teacher at Cross Timbers Middle School.
“This was always something I did in my spare time,” Jones said. “When my husband and I decided to start a family I knew I wouldn’t have time for it anymore. Megan had been working for me and I knew she would do a wonderful job.”
Thurgood said that the princess parties get a lot of attention in the metroplex. She said a simple Google search for “princess parties Dallas” garners Jessica’s Princess and Character Parties as one of the top search results. The company is advertised in Dallas Child, Fort Worth Child, Suburban Parent and Irving Parent.
“Pretty much all of the publications you get at the doctor’s office,” Thurgood said.
Thurgood takes calls and books events all day. Once there’s a deposit for the party, it’s set in stone on the calendar.
“We stay busy all the time,” Thurgood said. “We can have like twelve parties in a weekend, we can have three parties in a weekend. But either way, we pretty much have a party every weekend.”
Aside from throwing parties for kids in Dallas, Fort Worth, Denton and the surrounding suburbs, Jessica’s Princess Parties also does events for charities like the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Heroes For Children.
“It’s exciting, especially with right now, being able to be a princess. The kids hang on every word, they listen to everything you say,” Thurgood said. “It’s just fun. It’s fun to make people smile and laugh and be happy.”
Radio, television and film senior Matt Johnston primarily plays a pirate, Prince Charming or Spiderman for Jessica’s Princess and Character Parties.
“I once went to a child’s five-year-old birthday as Paul Stanley from Kiss,” Johnston said. “Apparently he was a pretty big fan.”
Johnston said that seeing the kids’ reactions never get old.
“The kids respond differently every time, and it is always interesting to see how they react,” Johnston said. “They are completely sold to the fact that Spiderman or Cinderella is actually at their party.”
Thurgood said that she has always been the person to realize what other people like, and to instantly figure out a way to get involved. She’s currently president of UNT’s fine arts photography club Parallax. In middle school, she was the representative for the theatre club.
When Thurgood was 13-years-oldshe went as far as getting an agent.
“I kind of wanted to be punk rock so I cut off all of my hair and lost my agent,” Thurgood said. “I was 13. I didn’t know what I was doing.”
She has basically been finding a way to act ever since – in plays and a 5-year stint at the Magic Time Machine restaurant in Dallas, where the servers dress up as characters like “Dora the Explorer” and Woody from the “Toy Story” movies. Thurgood was the resident Wonder Woman.
The employees at Jessica’s Princess and Character Parties all share a love of acting. Johnston is active in a theatre community, one of the employees Kelli Wolfe acts in an online-only series, and the previous owner has a background in theatre and now teaches it.
“I just have a blast being a princess. I never thought of myself as the princess type,” Thurgood said. “Everybody loves to dress up and pretend and be someone