familyreunioninstitute.net is beginning a new series of features spotlighting families and their reunions. Thanks to Vanessa Hall for making it possible for us to feature her family, the Hancocks, in our first such article. If you’d like to have your family featured, click here to drop us an email and let us know a little about yourselves and how to contact you.
THIS IS HOW WE DO IT: The Hancock Family
We all like to think we are unique, but the Hancock Family has an approach to reunions that is different from almost all others. Whereas most families have a select number of individuals who form a planning committee, the Hancocks keep their meetings open to whomever wishes to take part. During a recent planning meeting held in December 2022, ten people gathered in a room and ten others joined by Zoom. While that might seem to be problematic—it’s hard sometimes to get a few people to agree on a plan, never mind 20—the Hancocks say their method works. “That is kind of what makes us unique,” says family member Dr. Dalydia Cason-Clemons. “We all work together. We try to ensure that everybody’s included. So we have many different perspectives.” But doesn’t that get a little unwieldy, trying to mesh 20 or more different opinions? “Sometimes, but you know, we’re family,” laughs Cason-Clemons. Of course, with each successful reunion they hold, it becomes a little easier to plan the next one. “The hotels, the places we stay, the format is almost really set for us,” explains Deacon Anthony Hancock, who hosted their most recent reunion. “It’s just a matter of us adding on to it or changing it…based on consistency where everybody wants to do the same thing.”
The Hancocks all trace their roots back to Cannon County, Tennessee, and to the Reverend Allen Hancock and his nine children. They’ve held their reunions in various parts of Tennessee, and in 2023, will meet in Gatlinburg, a resort town in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains.
According to Deacon Hancock, one of the most successful elements of their reunion has been the family trivia game they play. “Everybody would send in information, true trivia questions about themselves. Everybody had like a bingo board. And they would interview different people. And then when you got Bingo, you were eligible for a prize.” Obviously, this is a great way to accomplish several things: people interacted with each other, they learned facts about their family members, and they had a chance to win prizes. And mostly, they had fun. “As a matter of fact, it got so popular that it carried over to the next day,” says Deacon Hancock. “It got competitive. People didn’t want to stop.”
And the prizes all related to Tennessee and its traditions and landmarks, as the Hancocks emphasized their pride in their home state.
A trivia competition like that is a great way to communicate the family history to the younger folks in attendance, who otherwise might not be inclined to listen to a recitation of family facts. Informing those younger generations is an important goal of the Hancock’s reunion. “We try to remind them of whence we have come,” says Cason-Clemons, who as a teacher at a middle school, is aware of the challenges of keeping today’s youth engaged. “We have often met up at a local bowling alley. Sometimes we play games that might interest the kids. We try to choose locations (for the reunion) that are going to be friendly to every age group.”
Their 2023 Gatlinburg location has the Dollywood amusement park, and the Space Needle (a 400-foot-tall observation tower) and is 39 miles from Knoxville. But the best thing is the Smoky Mountains, in the opinion of family member Jim Davis, who suggested a day trip over the Blue Ridge Turnpike to Cherokee, North Carolina. “You have the Harrah’s Casino there, but there are also markets and things.“
Agreeing and planning on such a trip and other possible excursions will be a decision made by the entire family. Because that’s how the Hancocks do it.