Many, if not most, fun event patches are souvenirs; an Anglo-French (Latin) word meaning "to remember". We also call them memorabilia. As the makers of patches for youth, we often find ourselves dating the patches so the end user, the youth, can recall when they received the patch. The hope is, knowing when they received it, they will be able to recall the event and some of the memories it can yield. Unfortunately, however, that desired end result is too often not realized. Here's why.
Suppose a child receives a patch for participating in a campout. And, suppose that same event happens year after year such that the child receives several "campout" patches, each portraying a generic but different camping scene with lettering and the year. Now, consider the child as an adult perusing the campout patches many years later and trying to conjure memories peculiar to each campout. Given only the year to distinguish one event from another, it's extremely difficult to recall specifically what happened at any given campout.
Now, add a theme to each campout and make sure each theme is different year after year. Fast forward many years and the end user, the child who is now an adult, will not have to rely on just the date to remember. Now they have a theme, such as "Hawaiian Dreams" in the pictorial example above, to help them associate various activities with the memories and nostalgia they will enjoy most.
For example, they may recall the "grass skirt contest" and that in turn allows them to recall the excitement they experienced when Amanda's skirt got too close to the campfire and began to smoulder whereupon she was doused with a fire bucket. Or they may recall the "luau" and the fun they had cooking dinner over hot coals in a dirt covered pit. Or maybe the hula lessons were most memorable. Or the tasty island kabobs and poi. Or doing the limbo. Or making leis.. Regardless, it's the association with the theme that make the memories easy to recall.
Themes can also be a lot of fun. They can be conveyed in venue or site decorations, clothing, cooking, songs, contests, crafts, and just about every aspect of an event binding many elements together in a single memorable way. And, when properly illustrated on a patch, the theme can make that patch deliver memories throughout the end user's life.
Themes are HUGE. Just
for examples of patch designs for a variety of themes.