Banner Journal, Black River Falls, Jackson Co. WI
September 20, 2006
Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.
Family reunions allow reconnection of all generations
In the not-too-distant past, it was customary for family members to settle down in close proximity to other members of the family. When the kids grew up and left home, they were only a few minutes away from Mom and Dad and their childhood home. Visiting and holidays were easy because all one had to do was make a short trip to a grandparentís home or even an uncleís.
Today, families are becoming more widespread with members dotting the country. In 2003, approximately 120 million people, or 46 percent of the population, moved into a different home than the one they had in 1995. Nearly 8 percent of those people moved out of state. As a result, families are going longer stretches of time between visits, and that close-knit feeling may be evaporating.
Family reunions make reconnecting with out-of-town relatives an eagerly anticipated event. They allow all generations Ė young and old Ė to come together in the spirit of family togetherness, exploring heritage and just to have fun. However, family reunions are no small undertaking. They require careful planning and execution to ensure the event can be enjoyed by all.
The first step in planning a reunion is making a list of all family members who will be invited. This includes spouses, partners and children. Enlist as many helpful family members as you can to acquire contact information on these individuals such as addresses, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses. This may be the most difficult aspect of planning the reunion, particularly if your family numbers in the hundreds.
Next up in the planning stages is deciding upon a date. While this may be dependent upon your choice of venue, it is often a good idea to schedule a family reunion during the summer when children will be out of school, or during some other vacation time. Remember, you wonít be able to accommodate everyone, but if you plan several months in advance, youíll allow family to rearrange their schedules if necessary to attend.
If your family is very spread out, it is wise to secure a central location for the reunion so travel time is about equal for everyone. Scour that designated area for hotels, reception facilities, fairgrounds, or other locations that can accommodate a crowd. If your family always frequented a favorite vacation spot, this can also be a good place to hold the reunion as it will serve as a family memory anchor. Remember to book the location as soon as possible to ensure you get the date you want. Oftentimes, people planning weddings or other occasions are competing for the same venues.
Remember, too, that as family-reunion organizer, you are taking some financial responsibility for the event. However, that isnít to say you canít develop a reunion budget and require attendants to contribute toward the collective cause. They may be responsible for paying for a hotel stay, bringing food or just submitting a lump sum (as one would for a block party) that covers entertainment and refreshments.
Some of the easiest reunions to plan include a picnic or barbecue on a grand scale. However, you can tailor the event based on family interest. Work the theme around your particular ethnic descent. If the family loves the outdoors, organize a giant campout complete with cookouts, marshmallow roasting and creepy campfire stories. For water buffs, a trip to a seaside resort or a group cruise may be fun. It may be a good idea (albeit a more costly one) to schedule the event around what the venue can provide, limiting the amount of legwork youíll need to do as party planner.
It this is your first time planning a family reunion, you may want to send out a survey to family members to get a general consensus on what they want to do.
Technology can help make family-reunion planning easier. Today there is a host of computer software with the purpose of helping you organize and create invitations, guest lists, RSVPís, event itineraries, menus, etc. Another valuable resource can be the internet. Many sites offer free webpage hosting, meaning you can design and upload a family website and post all of the essential information about the reunion online. When sending out invitations, include the website URL and encourage family members to visit it frequently to learn all the updates on the event. This can save time and phone calls if something needs to be changed. It can also be a way to cut down on paperwork since a website can list directions, maps and budget requirements in addition to old family photos to get everyone in the mood. Ask guests to e-mail you suggestions on food and entertainment so youíll have a leg up on what everyone likes.
If the entire family lives in close proximity, a fun idea can be to take out an ad in the local newspaper advertising your event. Itíll serve as an invitation and keepsake of the reunion.
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