It's high season for reunions and everyone's scrambling for activities.
Eat, drink and be merry apply, but a reunion requires a bit more
to keep everyone happy.
A golden reunion activity rule is to try to plan something for
everyone well, almost everyone. Many reunions leave formal
activities to chance and each year Reunions magazine hears
from organizers who are disappointed at low turnout. They are
hesitant to change "the way we've always done things." A very
important consideration for keeping reunions fresh is do something
a bit different and unexpected.
If you aren't making very specific activity plans for the children
attending, you are either very sure of yourself or you're in for
some level of disaster and some pretty unhappy kids. Happy kids
make happy relatives and, thus, a happy reunion! It's probably
last minute for this year, but here are some quickie examples
to help with ice breakers and activities.
It is important for the person who facilitates ice breakers at your
reunion to be enthusiastic and have an attitude that sells the group
on the fun to follow. However, be sensitive to your group and don't
overdo it. We learned some of these ice breakers at the wonderful
Share the Secrets conference at the YMCA of the Rockies, sponsored
in part by Photos by Dill in Estes Park, Colorado. They describe
these as "great ways to break down the long-time-no-see barriers."
Circulate a roll of toilet paper and ask everyone to
take some squares. When everyone has squares, ask everyone to tell as
many things about themselves as they've taken squares. So if Auntie
Erika took seven squares, you'll learn seven things about her. The facilitator
should be first to demonstrate how the game works.
Peoples' Names and Hobbies
Ask everyone to stand in a circle facing in. Tell members each person
is to say his/her name and pantomime a favorite activity or hobby. "My
name is James." Everyone says, "Hello James." Then he acts out his hobby:
piano playing, fly fishing, tennis, golf. Everyone guesses until they
guess James' hobby and his turn is over. When the game is over, you
should know everyone's name and hobby.
Get everyone onto their feet and form groups based upon things you
call out. For example, everyone with blue or brown eyes. Once the group
is formed, call out something else. Everyone who likes baseball or chess
or Nintendo. Everyone whose favorite movie is Gone with the Wind. Everyone
who loves lasagna. Everyone who loves to camp. Before long lots of people
know lots about lots of others!
This is an ideal way for generations to mix. Pose questions to your
group then, let everyone circulate and ask the questions of others.
When did you first fly in an airplane? Have you ever used a computer?
Do you remember the first auto or TV? Have you ever ______? Do you remember
_______? When did you _____? Instruct members to query folks they don't
know well to learn more about them. After the pandemonium, ask everyone
to tell something new they learned about someone else.
on a Theme of B-I-N-G-O!
The Winston Family Reunion leaves nothing to chance or maybe
everything! At the banquet of their three-day bi-annual reunion, the
Winstons indulge in a night of Bingo Madness. Over the years, the bingo
game has become the special extravaganza of Andrew Walker. He constructed
the bingo set, purchased a permanent hopper and balls, gathers prizes
and calls games. These are some of Walker's best Bingo Madness secrets:
He suggests preparing a souvenir grab bag for all participants. He solicits
small prizes in advance from all branches of the family and also asks
each family to bring one $5 gift. Once play starts, he lets winners
choose prizes they're age- and interest-appropriate.
Walker lets everyone mark a "bonus number" along with the freebie on
the center of the card. If the bonus number is called as part of the
winning row, he gives a second bonus prize. He also adds a special "Black-out
Jackpot." Each participant pays $1 for each card they play (enthusiasts
take several) and the money is used for a cash jackpot.
In her book Family Reunions & Clan Gatherings, Shari Fiock suggests
a family name Bingo game asking each player to write his/her name on
a piece of paper, fold it and drop it into a container. Then, give each
person a sheet of paper divided into squares (12 minimum, 100 maximum).
Players circulate the room collecting a different signature in each
square. This is good to do as people arrive or during a reception. Then,
the game can be played and completed right away or can be continued
at a later time. To play, provide enough dry beans to each player. Draw
and announce names from the container filled earlier; continue drawing
names until someone has a row covered. As each name is called, ask the
person to stand.
Alexandra Walker Clark shared details about the "Walker
Follies" skits, music, and especially story-telling by older
folks. Before the reunion, Clark and her children wrote a skit depicting
her great grandfather's 1872 arrival by covered wagon at the old farm,
now Audubon Acres near Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her son, Liam, starred
as his great, great grandfather while daughters Sarah and Amanda dressed
in calico and portrayed his covered wagon with two hula hoops and a
bed sheet (Sarah's brainstorm). The kids became hooked on family history.
The Follies also included humorous contributions from the younger generation
and wonderful stories from family matriarchs and patriarchs. Other entertainment
included lively fiddle music, a sing-along, and a genuine virtuoso on
Potpourri of Reunion Activities
When we met Elizabeth Bishop Palmer Gay, editor of The Family Tree
in Moultre, Georgia, she was organizer of the Gay Clan Reunion. She
loves door prizes and suggests accepting anything from fresh squash
to afghans to assorted mouth-watering baked goods or t-shirts. Put paper
and a supply of sharpened pencils next to a sign that says, "Free door
prizes, register here" Then, make the drawing the last thing you do
at the reunion because folks will stay for the door prize drawing. It's
fun to see how excited everyone gets over winning a prize of any kind.
At dinner, Gay suggests, ask those over 70 to stand and be recognized.
Serve them first. Award ribbons or prizes for sack, three-legged and
spoon races. Rent a big screen TV and VCR. Encourage family members
to bring tapes of weddings, last year's family reunion, birthday parties,
etc. It's something everyone gets to enjoy and a God-send in case of
inclement weather. Ask attendees to wear "old time" outfits to add to
the fun. Highlight your ethnic customs and traditions. This makes everybody
proud of their heritage - and makes the reunion more interesting. Whatever
your heritage is, study it, learn it and celebrate it!
Doris Curless, Lowell, Indiana, reports that there's no "down-time"
at Lindsey Family Reunions! Activities keep everyone involved, including
team games, contests, bubble-blowing, volleyball, swimming, water-balloon
tossing and of course eating and visiting. At one reunion,
the Richardson Clan branch of the family provided materials for T-shirt
painting. Old and young designed their own shirts and then hung them
to dry for all to see. A pinata bash highlighted a Sunday picnic.
What If, God Forbid, It Rains?
The Brolras are the masters of making rain into rainbows. Many
had never met when they had their first reunion of six cousins
who had grown to a family of 29 members. For that first reunion
they were trapped by a three-day storm. Their plans for fair weather
had included boating and golf but instead group activities were
moved to a large suite.
Karen Robertson, Wildomar, California, took charge and improvised the
first Indoor Brolra Olympics. Everyone old enough to walk was included.
There were individual points and team points and to keep score large
butcher paper sheets were hung on the wall.
Robertson's contests included humming, apple peeling, peanut pushing,
weight guessing, egg carrying, bubble gum blowing, musical chairs and
measuring team members in a contest of "how long are we?" They also
made toilet paper mummies of some members, played board games, had a
sing-along, talent show and, of course, an elaborate awards ceremony.
Robertson also divided the room into activity areas so in one corner
card games were going on, in another a TV, in a third chairs were arranged
in conversation grouping and the fourth corner was for snacks.
Very philosophically, Robertson suggests that you not let the weather
spoil your reunion. "Being trapped inside allows people to get better
acquainted and can be great fun." And finally, she suggests getting
a "meeting room situated over a carport (like ours was) or we probably
would have been evicted!"