Reunions, like family members, come in all shapes and sizes. The first
task of those planning a reunion is to decide what kind to have. It can
be a huge, joyous gathering or a small, low-key event. It can last for
several hours or several days. It can be held on the same weekend every
year or once every five years. It can be in Grandma's back yard, or at
a dude ranch, or in a large hotel. Some reunions return to the same spot
each time. Others move around.
You can start with a small, simple reunion and work up to a big, expensive
one in future years. Or, more realistically, a big, expensive reunion
can be a once-in-a-lifetime event that could be announced years in advance
so that everyone has time to plan and save.
Of course, no matter what kind of reunion you choose to have, the focus
is on bringing the family together to celebrate their roots and to get
to know each other better.
Your first consideration is the family members themselves their
ages, agility, disabilities, where they live, their financial resources,
and who is to be included. If everyone is to be included young,
very old, disabled, rich, poor, out-of-towners, and locals then
the most popular type of reunion is a picnic or barbecue in a city or
state park. That's because such a reunion tends to be the cheapest and
easiest to plan. However, other options are possible that don't involve
too much more expenditure of time and money and offer variety and
interest as well.
If you would like something other than the usual picnic or barbecue,
consider your family's background and interests when choosing the kind
of reunion. Ask yourself, what is unique about my family? Do family members
have interests in common? If they do, plan your reunion to include one
or more of these interests. For example, if your family likes outdoor
activity, plan a reunion at a guest ranch, or plan to camp, backpack,
or boat. Or plan a reunion around the most popular family sport; it may
be on the water, the ski slopes, or the baseball diamond.
If the family interests are more intellectual, a reunion near a Shakespeare
festival, a group of art galleries, or an archaeological dig could be
a great experience. Another family might want a catered event in a fancy
resort with evening entertainment. If the family is interested in exploring
its roots, it could meet near the old family homestead, tour the hometown
area, travel to the family homeland, do genealogical research, or restore
together the family cemetery or the old family home. Another family might
be ecology oriented and want a reunion focused on helping the environment
in some way, such as building or restoring a trail, helping students catalog
insects, or studying glaciers.
We found many families around the country creating reunions based on
shared interests. The Hudson Family patterned their reunion after a country
fair. This creative family displayed its crafts, art, and collections,
including the work of the children. They held classes during the event
to stimulate interest in each individual craft or art. Relatives demonstrated,
among other crafts, rattlesnake skin-tanning and wood-root clock making.
These classes created an appreciation for the talents of family members
and passed on skills that might have been lost. Food booths and games
added fun, challenge, and excitement to the festive fair atmosphere.
Another family visited the community where the great-grandparents were
buried, took pictures in the cemetery, and looked up family obituaries
on microfilm in the local library to add to the family genealogical information.
Since the widely-scattered Eymann Family grew up with camping in their
blood, it seemed only natural to gather for a camp out reunion. The first
one was held on a cattle ranch in the Sierra foothills of California.
The family arranged their tents and RV's around a central campfire, covered-wagon
style. Ranging in age from three to 80, the Eymann's hiked, panned for
gold, and exchanged news as they cooked family favorites on their camp
stoves. The most treasured times were spent around evening campfires where
everyone sang favorite songs and listened to both true and "tall" tales
of the family's past.
As mentioned before, many families have a picnic reunion in a nearby
park. This type of reunion, too, can be made interesting and fun by planning
special events. The Kuhlmann Family met one year in Faust County Park,
Missouri. Their picnic was catered by friends, leaving family members
free to enjoy each other's company. The young people played ball, some
older folks played cards, but most enjoyed just visiting and getting acquainted.
The possibilities are endless.
- join a tour (historical, sightseeing, religious, environmental)
- stay at a guest ranch
- lose weight at a spa
- go on a cattle drive, pan for gold, join a wagon train
- entertain the kids at Disneyland, Disneyworld, or Sea World
- experience the wilderness by rafting down a river, backpacking, or
- live in a Native American village
- rent a houseboat on a lake
- watch whales
- take a riverboat cruise
- go on a bicycle or motorcycle trip
- enroll in a summer class at an Elderhostel or at the Smithsonian
- visit a national, state, or historical park
- bareboat in the Caribbean or in the San Juan Islands
- take a cruise to Alaska, Mexico, Hawaii, or up the St. Lawrence River
- go windjamming
- gather at a church retreat
- attend a YMCA family camp
- take a train ride coast to coast
- attend the Olympics or World's Fair
- meet at Ellis Island