Ideas and advice
Lisa Makosewski, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is a great source of wonderful hints from her McLaughlin Family Reunion. “It was a wonderful day, primarily because so many people worked hard to make sure it went smoothly.”
Here are some new ones.
These are a few things Makosewski says she’d do differently.
Have a formal agenda for the day. “We had a magician and arts and crafts for the children, but without announced times, we had to round them up for these events.
I would have a separate “check in” table where people pick up their name badges.”
These are what Makosewski describes as winning ideas.
“Badges with really big print got an excellent response! You didn’t have to be on top of someone to read the name!
Reunion hostesses arranged a parking shuttle to remote parking areas; it was a godsend.
We also rented a portable latrine to help ease bathroom facilities. I was surprised at how much it helped. With 200 people there, it was well used.”
Cindy Walker reported about her mother’s Perron Family Reunion; descendants of seven children, five generations of 100+ members. It is a weekend reunion every three years with arrival Friday and departure Monday. Members come from all across Canada to Elk Lake, Ontario, where an aunt and uncle have cabins they rent as a business. Early on, people felt that if reunions were too frequent, they would fizzle out and become too expensive for an annual event.
Friday is for socializing and getting reacquainted around a bonfire that usually goes until 4 AM. Even so, people are up for the Saturday morning fishing derby which cannot interfere with the normal activities. All fishermen must be at 9 AM breakfast.
On Saturday there are games and races for kids, teens, adults and the group. A traditional 50 on 50 baseball game runs about enough time to let everyone have a bat. A horseshoe tournament continues throughout the weekend. In the evening there is a dance with a bonfire and movies for the kids. They also have a skit, scavenger hunt and cabin decorating contest. Sunday is described as a colorful day. T-shirt day shines with color-coded shirts for each family.
Fireworks over the lake finishes off the weekend. Something Walker would like to add at the next reunion is the balloon launch; an idea she found on this site. She wants to include notes for people who find the balloons to fill in (name, age, etc.). She is curious to learn how far balloons travel.
Walker says, “I cannot describe the excitement of our reunions. The setting is wonderful. There are 12 cabins and 2 houses on a 10 or 15 acre lakefront property. Some people bring trailers; the rest of us cram into cabins.”
Long tradition continues
Thelma D. Jones, coordinator for the Banks, Hill, Outlaw Family Reunion, reported about her 20th annual family reunion in Kinston, North Carolina. About 100 members attended from New Jersey, Washington DC, South and North Carolina. “There are many of my family,” Jones says, “old and young — who live, in part, just to attend or participate in our reunion from one year to the next. As the coordinator, it’s a wonderful feeling to know that my family is so enthusiastic about coming together, paying tribute to our heritage and relishing a wonderful and lasting tradition. I’m also pleased to see how our family reunion has become a model for other families and an inspiration to continue other family celebrations, including holidays, birthdays and other accomplishments.”
Always in search of something new
Pat Steelman, Indianapolis, Indiana, wrote “I have organized seven reunions. I’m always looking for ideas to make each more interesting than the last. I may not always succeed, but reunions are anything but boring.” Reunions are in August, weather permitting. Some go swimming, some play baseball, croquet, cards and a playground area is handy for kids. These are some of Steelman’s ideas.
Getting started the first year she sent out invitations designating time and place but had no shelter house. The second year she bought an inexpensive address book, listing birthdays and anniversaries and she paid for shelter house.
By the third year she made birthday/address booklets for all families with monthly calendars of birthday/anniversaries and addresses. She asked everyone to bring wrapped white elephant gifts and a clown (family member) was the auctioneer. Proceeds were used to pay to rent a shelter house and for meats and paper products.
In the fourth year Steelman started a family chain letter mailed from one member to the next throughout the year. Then, she made booklets containing copies of all the letters for each family. They had another auction.
The fifth year each family wore different color t-shirts. For family booklets Steelman had each family send letters about happenings since the last reunion. She had a computer by then and made booklets very colorful and used a lot of clipart. The sections included Under the weather (health problems of family members in past year), puzzle games, family letters, great expectations (pregnancies, pending marriages), outstanding achievements, retirements, new jobs, graduations, church accomplishments, new homes, In Memory (section for family members who died), one page was Littlest Angels (stillborn infants or early baby deaths). For the Memory section, a family member furnished original poems about each member and Steelman added their pictures. At the fifth reunion, they did things in “5’s.” They had five extra special wrapped gifts and drew five names out for five kids prizes and used five colors for table coverings.
The sixth year added a new section to the booklets called Kids Klips for the younger generation. Kids sent letters about themselves (of course, some mothers had to do the writing). There were Kids gifts at the auction so they could bid, too. And family members sent recipes to make a “Cooking With Family” recipe book.
For the seventh reunion there were more letters, more recipes, another auction and a “Pet Section” was added to the booklets!
Steelman is now planning her eighth reunion which she started thinking about on her way home from the seventh. She is planning a ‘scavenger hunt.’ She sends a newsletter about two to three times a year, then two weeks before the reunion she sends invitations. With the invitation is a list of 25 to 30 items for each family to bring. Each item has a point value and if the family brings the required items and has the high point total, they receive a special gift. Steelman now has families send their information in 20 copies, reducing her time and costs.
Already, Steelman admits, she’s trying to think of an extra special “10th reunion!”