July 4th is a great holiday when most of our neighbors get together and enjoy a backyard BBQ and some good old-fashioned fun in the pool. Throwing an Independence Day party can be easy if you follow some of my simple tips.

We live in Texas, so summertime is hot. For that reason, we like to keep things light and simple with lots of drinks, food and fun time in the pool.

Because kids never want to stop playing to drink anything, it’s hard to keep them hydrated in the summer heat. But give them a frozen pop, and they will sit and eat it. I layer red, white and blue sports drinks in plastic cups and freeze them with Popsicle sticks. It works great, and kids love them. This way, we know they won’t be overheated when we start the games.

A great way to keep the adults hydrated is with super-simple fruited lemonade. I add some fresh lemons, limes and berries to store-bought lemonade (fruit punch works well, too) and serve it in a big dispenser, so guests can help themselves.

Whenever I throw a casual backyard party, I like to have everyone bring a side dish. This means less work for me! I can focus on making some great dishes ahead of time so that at the party I can join in on the fun.

Along with salads and vegetables, I usually like to serve kabobs that can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to grill.

What’s a pool party without everyone getting wet? We like to play a game called “Greased Watermelon.” I buy a large whole watermelon, rub a teaspoon of shortening or petroleum jelly over it and toss it into the pool. The bigger the watermelon, the better! The kids get divided into teams at either end of the pool and then the watermelon is dropped in the center. The team that gets the melon to the other team’s side first, without lifting it out of the water, is the winner. This game is guaranteed to get everyone jumping in the pool to play. It’s even fun to have an adult match.

No 4th of July party would be complete without some red, white and blue desserts. One of my all-time favorite party desserts is a trifle, super-simple sweet that can be prepared ahead of time. No matter what the ingredients, the layered approach guarantees it will be as pretty as it is tasty. Cake pops are also a treat the kids go crazy over. Plus, the pops can be prepared a day or two before.

After a day of food, friends, family and fun, we like to enjoy the local fireworks display. When it comes to summertime, celebrating this holiday is an all-time American favorite for everyone!