Make 8 1/2” x 11” “You’re Wanted” posters featuring family faces on Kraft paper inviting members to celebrate your reunion and mail in a manila envelope.
- Encourage ranch hands to come dressed in ranch wear.
- Cover tables in old quilts, gingham prints or cow-patterned fabric.
- Use bandannas as place mats and napkins.
- Toy sheriff’s badge pinned to a ponytail holder makes a mighty fine napkin ring. Or write names on the badge and use as name tags.
- Display cowboy hats, toy six-shooters or rifles, a spittoon, Indian headdresses, cowboy boots, toy rifles, horseshoes and ropes.
- Soak labels off beer bottles to use as candle holders. Create your own brewery label bearing the family name.
- Get everyone up for line dances or arrange for a square dance caller.
- Put hay in the back of an open pickup truck and take everyone for a hayride.
- Host a western tune sing-along around a campfire, fireplace or barbecue.
- Set up a rousing game of horseshoes. For an indoor version, have guests try to toss pretzels on a wooden dowel.
- Line cowboy hats with a gingham napkin or bandanna to serve corn, taco, or potato chips. Hats also work well for peanuts in shells, popcorn, trail mix, pretzels and/or other dry snacks.
- A large galvanized wash tub serves as a drink cooler.
- If you’re cooking wieners over a grill or in a fireplace, spear them on dead tree branches and have everyone roast their own.
- Serve sarsaparilla, root beer, lemonade and regular beers in plastic or glass mugs or mason jars bearing each guest’s name
- A toy sheriff’s star, with a self-adhesive magnetic strip attached to the back, makes a decorative and useful hoe-down memento.
- Say “thank you for coming” with a small live or artificial cactus plant in a clay pot.
- Send your party posse into the sunset with a mason jar filled with trail mix, trimmed with a licorice string.
Themes tie reunion programs together
Many reunions choose themes to indicate how parties will be decorated while others design activities and programs around their themes. Georgia Burnette reports the Burnett(e) Family Reunion chooses a theme, then selects activities to reinforce the theme. Activities are always “family focused” and relate to the theme. The Burnett(e) reunion bylaws mandate a theme and program development. The 1997 theme was “Finding Renewal in Family.” The activity was educational seminars discussing hereditary health and financial planning issues. The 1999 theme was “Back to Our Roots” featuring family oral history collection. The 2001 theme was “Gathering While We May,” focusing on the family archivist’s “Burnette Trunk.” The trunk is the repository of historical or genealogical artifacts, photos, writings, and poetry of family members.
Burnette By-laws: “Purpose is to conduct activities facilitating family members interest and participation. This may include recreational, economic, historical, genealogical, health or educational activities designed to enhance the family members well being.”
ALLAFFAs celebrate patriotism
The ALAFFFA (acronym of the first letter of the last name in each branch) Family Reunion has had a theme every year and 2002 was no exception. In a show of patriotism, the ALAFFA’S decided America’s red, white and blue would be the theme of their July reunion. Their reunion site and family members (ages a few months and up) were smothered in red, white and blue.
Patti Breen Homan reports that her Breen Family Reunion themes cover diverse ideas. Theme parties are their “feature event.” They’ve had a Las Vegas theme, mystery murder night, a Halloween party and 50s prom. She says themes are “always fun and, of course, always build a few more memories.”
Phyllis Rowland, Wichita, Kansas, reported that the Rowland/Geist/Wilson Family Reunion celebrated a “40-Something” theme, dressed in 1940s clothes. Some male members wore vintage Army khakis and bell-bottom sailor suits, even a 40s wedding dress was found to wear. The musical family enjoyed singing 40s songs and had a men’s quartet expand on the theme. Those old enough to do so told stories of how they remembered the 40s, when life was “simpler.”