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Having a family reunion takes time, commitment, and planning. To get started, form a committee of family members. It can be as small as 3-4 people. Include young people when possible. Decide how often the committee will meet and consider the following items: Date, Invitations, Location, Travel and Lodging, Facilities, Food, Mailing List, Program and Format, Finances, Local Transportation, Communications, Souvenirs.
Communications with family members helps to generate information and maintain interest over the months of planning for the reunion. A computer makes it easier to handle all of your communications.
Compile the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of as many family members as you can find through your family network. Note how each person is related to the family.
The first communication may just be a notice that the family reunion is being planned and invite suggestions. When the location, date, and facility have been confirmed send another notice, including the cost. This should go out at least 4-6 months before the reunion. If the facility has some particularly attractive feathers, include this information to keep family members interested.
You may wish to send out a survey soliciting the kinds of activities family members would like to have. This can help the planners. Or your survey may be sent to gather information about each person to be included in a directory.
Set a definite date for registration and payment. It is necessary to know who will be coming to the reunion so that arrangements regarding food, trips and tours, and lodging may be finalized. Be prepared to mail a follow-up letter closer to the due date and set up a telephone chain to contact family members who haven’t responded.
Don’t forget to include directions for how to get to the event using various modes of transportation. Some facilities may provide maps.
FACILITIES & FOOD
Family finances and expenses may dictate the search for the right facility, but often the family reunion is perceived as a time for a vacation and members want a nice place. If there is a particular purpose for the reunion, e.g., bringing people together primarily to get to know each other, a more isolated area may be more desirable. On the other hand, if family members have said they want to spend time on their own, look for a facility near shopping and amusements.The local Convention and Visitors Bureau can be very helpful in providing assistance. In addition to hotels, consider conference centers, state parks with housing facilities, resorts, and college campuses. All of the activities do not have to be held where people are housed. Picnics may be held in a park or banquets may be held at the local museum.Eating is an important event at the reunion. People like to have plenty of good food. The choice of a facility sometimes dictates the food arrangements. Some require you to use their food service; others offer a meal plan. Confirm all arrangements in your negotiations with hotels and in the information package you send to your family members.
Family members do look forward to having fun together. The range of possible activities is limitless. The more family members are involved in carrying out the activities, the more likely their participation over time. Talents in the family have an opportunity to shine. Use the abilities and interests of family members to have such activities as:
Family members may lead workshops in topics with which they are familiar such as economic development, investing, education, parenting skills, political action, etc. Remember to include activities for all ages, including the youth and the elderly.
Family reunions do cost money, but with careful planning every family can afford to have one. The cost of organizing includes expenses such as postage, duplication, stationary, and telephone. These costs may be passed on to the family members as part of their registration fee. The planning committee should be aware that deposits might also be needed for the sites, souvenirs, and the like. However, some families have fundraising events during the year to offset these expenses.
Fundraisers may include dinner dances and parties, raffles, casinos or theater trips, card parties, flea markets, and any other way that people raise money.
At the reunion itself, mementos such as tote bags, t-shirts, hats, etc., can be sold above cost to help pay for the expenses.
Sharing the family history has become a major activity at the family reunions. Many families have found interesting ways to tell the story other than through family trees and charts.
Genealogical societies, groups, genealogists, and other resources exist to help persons trace their roots. Be sure to interview the family elders and tape what they say. Also remember that family reunions offer a chance to collect history in the making. Videotape your activities and record information about living members for the sake of future generations.
AFTER THE REUNION
After the reunion, evaluate how it went. Accentuate the positive and celebrate your successes. Iron out the rough spots. Encourage ongoing gatherings and reunions. You’ll find that it gets easier to organize and even more fun as time goes on.
Good Luck with your planning!
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