If you're organizing your first ever reunion and you've never done any party or activity of this scale, you have much to discover and learn. Making it all work takes careful, thoughtful planning and an ability to stick to it over the long haul. If this is not your first reunion, you probably know whereof I speak and can teach me much. But, here are some ideas of resolutions you might consider.
1. Be it resolved that you will give yourself time to get the reunion organized.
If it's your very first reunion, allow yourself enough time to make sure everything is done and in place. If you have lots of family around the country and some you still even need to find, two years may not be too long. Once you decide to go ahead, let nothing stay your course. Be sure you have a schedule with (flexible and reasonable) deadlines that everyone is very aware of.
2. Be it resolved that you will not organize the reunion alone.
Often the reunion is started by the firebrand in the family who can and will do all the work (her/him)self to make sure it all gets done. However, when this is the case, you lose broad-based ownership of the reunion. Others need to feel they've contributed and have a significant investment in this family affair.
Start with a committee of family members whom you can count on to do what they agree to do. Delegate as much of the detail as you possibly can. Do a mental inventory of what wonderful skills and talents run throughout your family. Who can do your mailing list(s) with their own database? Who can write your newsletter? Who can lay it out and get it ready for the printer? Who can explore and choose places to stay? to have your banquet? to have your golf tournament? take the kids? What will the family genealogist or historian bring to your program?
3. Be it resolved that you will plan enough activities to keep the kids happy.
Adults are often more than satisfied to catch up all day and maybe all night. However, children are soon bored if there are no plans specifically for them. Places with swimming pools go a long way to keep many children happy for a long time, but additional activities are even better.
The Beckley Family Reunion hired four busses for Saturday activities; three for adults and one for children with enough adults to chaperone. In the morning they went to the zoo, then spent the afternoon at a skating rink before meeting their parents back at the hotel for an evening banquet and program.
Games, contests, and tournaments can also engage kids for days at a time. Or, this may be the perfect time for cousins to take lessons in activities or sports that are important to family members; golf, rafting, tennis, fishing (grandpas are good at this!), or sailing. Also, don't overlook those summertime and Fourth of July games that were such fun. Sack, three-legged and wheelbarrow races, water balloon and egg tosses, sprints, jumps, and relays. They're still fun for kids no matter what day of the year it is.
4. Be it resolved that you'll establish a budget and stick to it.
Money will always be one of your reunion's biggest bugaboos. How much will you need? What do you want and how much will it cost? Who will pay for it? Who will get the estimates and make the decisions? All of these questions (and many more) should be important agenda items for a committee meeting. Consider what everyone can afford to pay, even through it will probably vary greatly among family members.
Many reunions include fundraising in their activities to help cover some of the costs and reduce overall expense for everyone. If fundraising will be among your activities, you will have to make that decision before the reunion and inform everyone. If you will be doing an auction, raffle or white elephant sale for which everyone is expected to contribute, let them know in advance. Or if you are going to develop some kind of memory book, directory or cookbook, you'll want to start early and be sure everyone knows what the items will cost and how proceeds will be used.
Many reunions include fundraising in their activities to help cover some of the costs and reduce overall expense for everyone.
5. Be it resolved that you'll get all the organizing help you possibly can.
It is much easier today to find help organizing reunions than it was even as little as five years ago. First of all there are Reunions magazine and Reunions Workbook along with a large array of books now available to give you inspiration and countless ideas. Many of the books are available in real and virtual bookstores online. Many, however, continue to be self-published and available only from their authors.
For a list of books, send a stamped self-addressed envelope with a request for Reunion Roundup, c/o Reunions magazine, PO Box 11727, Milwaukee WI 53211-0727.
One of the very first steps at the very beginning of your reunion planning might be to attend a reunion organizing class, workshop or conference. My vote for the very best conference, which has, alas, just occurred, is the African American Family Reunion Conference by the Family Reunion Institute at Temple University in Philadelphia. Look for it sometime again in 2001. Attendance is not limited to African Americans; everyone is encouraged to go. I attend every time and learn soooo much from the hundreds of families represented. It's also a great place to meet like-minded reunion organizers and share lots of wonderful ideas.
Also look for conferences and classes listed in Reunionsmagazine and often offered as meeting subjects by genealogical societies or church and community groups. Recently, someone from the continuing education department in Johnson County, Kansas, called wanting to organize a class. The continuing education department at Memphis State University also does workshops a couple of times a year (usually spring and autumn). Check with your local community college to see if they have similar offerings.
Kissimmee-St. Cloud, Florida, and Branson, Missouri, two popular reunion locations, offer special events to help you learn about the area as well as reunion organizing techniques in general. The tours should not be construed as vacations because your hosts deserve your full attention. You are the guest of (usually) the convention and visitors bureau and they will fill your time with so much to do and see, mountains of information, and answers to every question you could possibly ask. To qualify for an invitation, be prepared to introduce your reunion when you call.
Debby Rivera, CMP
800-831-1844, ext. 417
Web site: www.floridakiss.com
If Branson, Missouri, is more your style, then consider May 26-30, 2000 for a visit to the area. Call 888-283-8337 for details.
There is much to learn as you organize your family reunion and now many more ways for you to get help along the way.