When an elaborate gender reveal went bad and started a California forest fire early this month, Jenna Karvunidis knew that it was only a matter of time until her phone would ring.
“When idiots burn down forests with pink or blue bombs, I will wind up on CNN,” said Karvunidis, the person generally credited with launching the gender reveal party phenomenon.
She is well past the point of making excuses for reveals that go bad. She thinks that it’s time to do away with the very notion of them.
“The parties, they’re ridiculous,” she said.
And they’re dangerous, sometimes even deadly. Last year, a woman in Iowa was killed in an explosion that was the centerpiece of a gender reveal. And the California fire — which authorities attributed to a “smoke generating pyrotechnic device” — isn’t the first one that has destroyed thousands of acres of forest.
In 2017, off-duty Border Patrol agent Dennis Dickey started a wildfire in Arizona when he shot a decorative target with an explosive to announce that he was having a son. The fire burned $8.2 million in property.
As for this year’s California gender reveal fire, which started on Sept. 5 and officially was called the El Dorado Fire, the names of the couple have not yet been released (nor has the sex of the child). But it’s safe to say they will be looking at a hefty fine; Dickey had to pay $220,000 after pleading guilty.
Some people have paid the ultimate price: their life. Soon-to-be grandmother Pamela Kreimeyer died while attending a gender reveal party in Iowa in October 2019. A homemade bomb that was supposed to release a puff of colored smoke shattered when it exploded, sending pieces of metal hundreds of feet. Kreimeyer, who was standing 45 feet away, was killed by one of them.
At another gender reveal disaster, this one in Texas, two people were lucky to escape with their lives.
They were flying in a crop duster plane in September 2019 and dropped 350 gallons of pink water out of the sky to inform the happy couple that they’d be having a baby girl. Then, the crop duster stalled and fell, crashing in a field.
Fortunately, the pilot walked away unharmed, and the passenger suffered only minor injuries. But they didn’t fare as well with the FAA, which noted that the plane was a single-seater and should not have been carrying two people.
A humble beginning
These extravagant displays are a far cry from Karvunidis’ original party, where she cut into a pink cake in 2008 to reveal that she’d be having a girl. At the time, she was just searching for a little happiness.
“I had two miscarriages right before my oldest was born, so I was just celebrating a milestone for myself,” she said. “I was just trying to get my family excited and make the baby real, which is kind of problematic.”
Karvunidis posted the story to her blog, it got picked up by the Bump magazine and spread from there.
“At first, when I noticed people copying the party, it was kind of like when you see someone else wearing your outfit, like, ‘I’m not gonna wear that anymore. That’s over,’ ” Karvunidis said. “I had two more children, and I didn’t do any more gender reveal parties, and that was one of the reasons.”
But while Karvunidis sat out her own trend, millions across the world took it to new heights, literally. In September, a Dubai YouTuber couple projected their gender reveal on the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. It reportedly cost $140,000.
That extravaganza went smoothly (if the slickly produced YouTube video is to be believed), but many a backyard party has been a mess.
In a baseball-themed reveal, one expectant father inexplicably didn’t swing at a high pitch from the mom-to-be, causing the revelation ball to explode on another family member.
Another future dad actually did make contact, but smacked the pitch right back into the mom’s face. And neither of the impacts even revealed the baby’s sex.
Karvunidis knows that people are looking for reasons to celebrate, especially during the pandemic, so she has some ideas for people considering a gender reveal party.
“Just transition these parties to celebrating something else,” she said. “Do a name reveal, do a pregnancy reveal. If you really want to just have cake and celebrate, you don’t need a reason. Get out the bottle of Champagne on a Tuesday night.”