Five Things I Will Never Do Again at a Family Reunion

5 things i  will never do at a family reunion

1.  I will never make a fish print t shirt. 

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Fish  print t shirts- it seemed like a great idea- and it fit our theme perfectly but in the end it was an epic fail.   To make the shirts you generously paint one side of the  fish with fabric paint. Then you place the T-shirt front side down on the painted fish and pat in place.

When you lift the t shirt  off the fish you have the imprint of the fish, scales and all, on the shirt. 

I’ve seen cute shirts done this way but the only fish we could  find were HUGE catfish- in most cases bigger than the shirt.  Everyone worked hard to make the shirts successful but when only half of the fish fits on your shirt it’s kind of disappointing. This activity goes down as the worst one I’ve ever planned.

Never again will  I plan an activity or craft without trying it out on my immediate family before using it at a family reunion.

2. I will never let a scientist be in charge  of making gravy


At a huge family dinner I was in charge of I gave the  responsibility for making the gravy to a scientist who had all the correct formulas for making gravy but couldn’t seem to get it to thicken up.  It looked like brown water.  I had 300 people sitting at tables waiting to be served and no gravy for their potatoes.  Panic mode! 

I finally enlisted the help of a school lunch cook who swooped in  and easily thickened the gravy.  It was kind of a touchy situation- I didn’t want to offend the  scientist but I really needed to get that gravy thickened so I had to turn to the REAL expert.

This “never” item  isn’t about gravy it’s more about assigning people responsibilities that they can be successful  at completing.  I learned to make sure I matched the right people with the right assignment!

3. I  will never hold a reunion without having a plan for bad weather.

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Look at this picture- these are not happy times. A rainy family reunion  is not a happy family reunion. 

We’ve been  holding the Stewart family reunion for 30 years and have only had bad weather two times.  So what am  I complaining about- that’s a pretty good record.  It’s great, unless it’s one of the times it rained for three days. 

Rain and other bad weather can really put a damper on your  family reunion.  Our family were really great sports when it came to this family reunion in 2012 but a break from the rain would’ve been nice.  Now when  I  schedule our reunion I also reserve a nearby church’s cultural hall where we can do activities, eat a meal and get out of the weather for awhile if needed.  We also come prepared with large tarps and portable heaters- just in case. 

Of course, if you hold your reunion at a hotel this won’t be as much of an issue- unless, you plan on attending a theme park or other outdoor activities.  Talk to hotel officials in advance about the use of large conference halls for a bad weather day.

4. I  will never reserve a reunion site without shade.


Several years ago, we had a difficult time finding a location for our family reunion.  Someone beat us to the punch and we  lost out on our normal reunion site.  (That hasn’t happened since.) In desperation we reserved a campsite at a hot springs thinking that swimming would be great fun  for everyone- it was.  However; there was no shade whatsoever and it was HOT!  We put up some tarps to give us some relief but the sun beat down on us relentlessly.  Everyone was exhausted from swimming in the hot springs pools and then baking in the hot sun. 

Since that reunion I have made it a policy to check out our family reunion sites personally.  A couple of things I look for in a suitable site are:  proximity  to the bathrooms
        suitable sites for tents  and trailers
        Enough parking (most campsites restrict the number of cars) 
        cooking facilities & eating arrangements
        open space for games and activities
        and SHADE!

5.  I will never contribute to a boring reunion.

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This is a picture of the really awesome obstacle course we put together for a family reunion.  Where’s Waldo?  You won’t  find Waldo or any other human in this picture because nobody wanted to do anything- BORING!

I was asked to plan activities for a large family.  My family worked hard at hauling bales of hay, ladders and other props for a dynamite obstacle  course.  We  also organized Frisbee golf and volleyball tournaments- BUT… nobody wanted to participate.  Their reunion consisted of eating, visiting (which  is important) and holding  an auction.  The most frustrating part of the reunion for me was when we finally got enough people together to play volleyball and the reunion  organizers shut us down so they could start the auction.  UGH!

When  I attend a family reunion I want to get to  know family members better- I want to  play with  them, laugh with  them and get a little crazy with them, but if that’s not what’s  important at your reunion  don’t ask  someone  to plan activities. 

I learned from this experience that I had better know who my “audience” is and plan activities (or no activities) depending on their  family makeup and interests.

Getting It Right– Choosing A Family Reunion Location

This is a freelance article authored by Sally Fain

family reunion location blog

Getting It Right – Picking A Family Reunion Location

A family reunion can be great fun, but it can also be fraught with difficulties. Every family is different, and therefore likely to react differently to different situations. While some family reunions may work best if the family remains closely grouped and in proximity to one another at all times, other families may understandably feel that being around one another 24/7 is a high-speed route to irrevocable family breakdown! Choosing the right location for your reunion is therefore crucial to ensure that everything goes according to plan. Luckily, there’s an ideal place out there for everyone!

Reunion Locations- Consider The Kids


One major factor to take into consideration is how many children will be attending your reunion. If it’s not very many, or those that are attending are older teens, then finding somewhere with child-friendly activities is not so much of an issue. However, if a lot of attendees have young kids, then it is crucial to make sure that you book a place which will give the kids plenty to do.

While chatting, reminiscing, and catching up over a few beverages can keep adults occupied for hours, the same is not necessarily true of children. While many kids will, to a certain extent, play together and keep each other entertained, relying solely on the capacity of your children and the children of your relatives to play nicely together can be a recipe for disaster.

You don’t want to spend the whole of your reunion breaking up fights over toys etc, and dealing with bored, grizzly kids. You also would like your offspring to enjoy the reunion as much as you will. As such, it’s probably a good idea to plan ahead and book a place which gives the kids plenty of scope to run around, enjoy themselves, and be nicely tired out by the time the grown-ups retire to the bar for that all-important gossip. Many theme parks like Walt Disney World family reunion packages which are sure to delight both adults and children. If this is perhaps a little too child-centric, try picking a venue with a play-park, a crèche, or a toy-room attached.


cruise ship

Ideally, many people want to combine their family reunion with a vacation. Meeting up with the relatives can be stressful, so many people try and choose a relaxing location in order to ease the pressure a bit. There are plenty of spas and country retreat which offer a relaxing family reunion package, but smaller families could do a lot worse than to book themselves onto a cruise. While some may quail at the thought of being stuck on a boat with their extended family for days, others will be surprised at just how much scope for family fun and gentle, solo relaxation is provided by cruise lines these days. Even the kids will be happy, as plenty of cruise lines offer a considerable amount of child-centric activity. Most cruises make plenty of shore stops in diverse locations, meaning that you can cement your family bonds by experiencing new places and cultures together, or escape from them all in a foreign port for a couple of hours – whatever floats your boat (excuse the pun).

Accommodation Without Compromise

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Most families, of course, do not fall neatly into any particular category. They are made up of diverse elements, all of which want different things out of a family reunion. Ideally, therefore, a family reunion venue should provide the opportunity both for teenagers (for example) to be alone with their phones, and for grandparents to spend a reasonable degree of time with their grandchildren without compromising either party too much. Parents will probably need a certain amount of space in which to corral their children and recover from familial overload, while at the same time having lots of facetime with relatives they’ve not seen for years.

A cabin vacation can accommodate a variety of such needs, without too much compromise. Retiring to individual cabins (or the beautiful countryside in which many such cabin facilities reside) gives those who need it some alone time, while those who wish to can gather and chat in one of the other cabins. Family can gather together at mealtimes, thus ensuring that time for connection and catch-up is given to everyone. A cabin vacation (or similar) gives individuals a degree of independence while ensuring that family connection still remains at the forefront of the reunion. Perfect for large groups with diverse needs!

Create a Cities and Towns Game

You can create a fun pencil and paper game using the names of the cities and towns in your state.  It’s pretty simple to do, especially if you get a few people together to brainstorm with you.  Things might get a little silly as you match up clues and cities but in the end you should have 20- 25 clues for your next reunion  or party.

Utah Cities and Towns Game

Here’s the game we made for our state, Utah.  Hopefully our ideas will help you create a game for your state. The first part is the clue the second  part is the city or town name that matches the clue.

1. Get on a horse smiling- Mount Pleasant

2. What it costs- Price

3. What you do for a girl in need- Helper

4. Has figs in in- Newton

5. Always around a dam site- Beaver

6. Place of 360 degrees- Circleville

7. A wealthy meadow- Richfield

8. Big Wind- Hurricane

9. Fragrant Tree- Cedar

10. Spanish headdress- Mexican Hat

11. A wreath of flowers- Garland

12. Hurrah!- Eureka!

13. Happy outlook- Pleasant View

14. Everyone is under 21- Minersville

15. A prickly weed- Thistle

16. Halfway there- Midway

17. Put your money on us- Backus

18. Give your boy money- Payson

19. A dragging gun holster- Logan

20. Nothing beautiful about her- Plain City

21. What you do with the little cars at mines- Orem

22. His dad is a firearm- Gunnison

Scene Setters for Parties and Family Reunions

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How do you turn a forest campground into a ship on a tropical cruise? Scene setters!  I love scene setters- they are inexpensive (each piece is under $20.00 and the add ons are usually about $5.00) and they instantly make your reunion or party theme come alive!

For our “Cruisin’” family reunion we used a cruise ship scene setter to give the allusion of  being in the ocean on a luxury cruise ship.  Scene setters are usually used in a room and applied with some sort of “Sticky Tack” or tape.  Taking scene setters outside is where the real challenge is!

Each roll is usually 30 feet long and 4 feet high and because we were camping for our reunion we had to work around trees, rocks and other obstacles.  Uncle Richard, who works in construction, came to the rescue and very quickly built a background for my scene setter to go on.  Here’s how we did it-

Making Room Scene Setters Work Without a Room

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I didn’t care if the scene setter was 30 feet long or not- I believe ours ended up being 24 feet long.  Uncle Richard used plywood (the quality didn’t matter) and 2×4’s to brace it and hold it up.

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Once the background was up we used spray adhesive to attach the scene setter.  The trick to using spray adhesive is to spray both the plywood AND the scene setter.  It took three of us to keep smooth and straight but it wasn’t hard and it didn’t take long.

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There will be a few creases but it didn’t bother us at all. 

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After putting up the two large sheets of our scene setter we cut out the individual “add on” decorations.  Use your own wall adhesive for hanging or we found that if you get the add on a little wet it will just smooth on and although not permanent, adhered to our scene for the three days of our reunion.  I didn’t use all of the add ons provided- just our favorites.

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The pictures below show how a scene setter works.  This is how the makers of scene setters visualize the finished product.

Cruise Scene Setter

Tropical Cruise Ship Scene Setter

This is the top scene setter.

Ocean and Sky Backdrop

This is the bottom of the scene setter.  Each piece is 4 feet tall by 30 feet long.

Cruise Ship Deck BackdropCruise Ship Deck Backdrop

This is the “add on” we used.  We had to cut out each piece before we applied it to our scene.

Jungle Scene Setter

Other scenes are available like this fun jungle theme.  It is made up a jungle “trees” roll AND a jungle “foliage” roll.

Then you add decorations and animals.

Sports Stadium Scene Setter

I love this sports stadium scene setter.  Imagine holding a sports themed reunion or party and putting this along the walls of your gym or party room.

Sports Stadium Insta Theme

Pirate Design a Room

Design-A-Room Pirate Pack - Party Decorations & Backdrops & Scene Setters

I’ve used scene setters before- just last Christmas I used a brick like scene setter to take Santa pictures with the kids.  We held our party in the church gym and the brick background sure looked nicer than the boring white wall that we would’ve used.

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If you don’t do a 30 foot long scene and a have some pieces of your scene setter left over use on your serving table as a table cloth.

You can purchase all of the items I’ve shown you in the Family Reunion Helper store.  You’ll need some help and good adhesive to put it up but the way it transforms your room or your OUTSIDE party is almost magical.

Planning a Family Reunion- the Basics

I recently received a mailbag question from a visitor to Family Reunion Helper.  They asked,  “How do we plan a family reunion? Please give me specifics? Dates, locations, committees. How do we finance a family reunion?”


I have a lot of respect for someone who is building a family reunion from scratch.  I did it 25 years ago and although reunions can be a ton of work they are so worth it.

Family Reunion Helper has addressed all the questions asked above in previous blogs so I though it might be a good idea to put all those blogs together to be easily accessed if someone is planning a reunion for the first time.  Just click on the link below each heading to read more “back to the basics” about planning a family reunion.

Three Keys to a Successful Family Reunion

Family Reunion Checklist and Timeline

Family Reunion Committees

How to Pay for Your Reunion

Family Reunion Locations

Family Reunion Themes


Aunt MO

Location, Location- What’s Your Favorite Family Reunion Location?

A real estate agent will tell you- location is everything when buying a house and family reunion planners will heartily agree that when planning a reunion- LOCATION is everything!

Tell us about your favorite family reunion location- where is it at and why do you go there?

For many families, returning to a much-loved reunion destination has become an annual tradition.  After several years that location may feel more like home than home itself.

Our Favorite Family Reunion Location

We have the greatest little reunion site It’s called Hansen Park in Elwood Utah.  It has a huge covered bowery with a kitchen, a fire pit, restrooms and even a baseball diamond and small basketball court.



Someone must have told the good people of Elwood what a treasure they have because they have now made it as difficult as possible to reserve the park and our family has just given up trying to get it- but if you can find a friend that lives in Elwood they may just be able to help you out.

Family Reunion Camping


In the years before Hansen Park and the years after- we have spent many family reunions in group site C and D in Box Elder Campground.  It’s a little more like “roughing it” then Hansen Park and the kids get dirtier because there is a lot more dirt.  It’s true camping and all of us except the mom’s that have kids that crawl love it.  There are lots of picnic tables, restrooms and beautiful shade trees. Parking can sometimes be a challenge but we’ve learned to adapt.

If you’re looking for a campground you can find a list of campgrounds in the US and make reservations at

Family Reunion at the Lake


In the years that we had access to a boat we held our family reunions at Bear Lake.  The water is some of the bluest I’ve ever seen but hold your reunion in June and it will be some of the coldest water you’ve ever jumped in.  You can camp at locations such as Rendezvous Beach or rent a condo close by.

If you’re looking for  a list of lakes in North America you could use as a resource.


Of course, if I had unlimited resources I would probably choose a cruise for my favorite family reunion location, but since that isn’t an option, you’ll find my family campin’ out at good ole campsite C and lovin’ every minute of it!

Tell us about your favorite family reunion location

Tell us about your favorite family reunion location- where is it at and why do you go there?  It may feel like you’re giving up your favorite fishin’ hole but please share- what works for your family?

Aunt MO

Location, Location, Location!

It’s official- the Stewart family reunion will be held at Box  Elder Campground! Why is that great news? Well, as far as I’m concerned, finding the location to hold a family reunion is the most difficult part of the planning. Give me responsibility for the food, the games and the decorating but PLEASE don’t make me find a place to hold the family reunion.  That’s just too hard.  That’s why when we find a good family reunion location we keep going there until circumstances change and we have to move on.

Lately, our favorite reunion location has been Hanson Park. It is the dream location. It has a large grassy area for camping and playing games, ball diamond for softball, restrooms, kitchen with large grills and a full size fridge, covered bowery, basketball, swings and lots of parking. The only problem with Hanson Park is that it wasn’t available this year – you snooze you lose. . .

So where to hold your family reunion?  Here’s my list:

Campground, Park, College dormitory, Condominium, Resort, Cruise, Theme Park, Reservoir, Beach, Bed and Breakfast, Grandma’s yard, Hotel, Ranch, Water Park, Hot Springs Resort or an Ancestral Site such as a town where your ancestors’ homesteaded or where they were born or died.  Have I left any place out?

When looking for a family reunion location consider the distance family members will have to travel to the reunion.  Can family members get to your reunion without having to take a lot of vacation from work?  There are some wonderful resort locations near us but the cost is prohibitive.  Consider affordability– will some of your family members be unable to attend the reunion because of the cost?   Determine what features the proposed reunion site offers.  If  you want to have a water reunion then plan your reunion at a water park.  When choosing your location, be sure to ask about facilities such as parking, restrooms and, for outdoor reunions, alternatives in case of rain. Most campgrounds limit how many vehicles you can park at the site. Even group sites will have a limit. One of the campgrounds we have used for our family reunions will allow 100 people in the group camping site but only allows parking for 10 total automobiles. Doesn’t seem to make sense, does it?

Some things the Stewarts consider when selecting a family reunion location is that it is close enough to Grandma and Grandpa’s house so that Grandpa (age 85) can sleep in his own bed. We also want our reunion location to be close enough to motels so that families that don’t care for camping can rent a room for the reunion and we HAVE to have access to restrooms but hot showers and electricity are not necessary.

There have been some years that I thought, “Oh, well, guess we won’t be having a family reunion this year.” But every year we keep  at it and something eventually works out. We have held our family reunion at parks, campgrounds, on the beach, at a condominium, in a backyard, bed and breakfast, at a hot springs resort and Grandma’s front yard.  Each year everyone always says, “this has been the best reunion ever!” and although each site has different things to offer I would consider each of our reunions a success. I guess that just proves that although “where” you have your family reunion is important, “having” a family reunion is the most important thing of all!



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