Where, Oh, Where?

Choosing a family reunion location

One of  the most difficult things about finding a family reunion is finding a location.  If your family holds reunions at a hotel or on a cruise ship the process is pretty easy- just do an  online search, but if you’re looking for someplace different, and perhaps cheaper, the task gets a little more daunting. The BIG challenge is finding a place large enough when you have a BIG family.

On one side of our family, we need to accommodate about 35 family members.  We love holding our reunions in Bear Lake, Utah.  It’s pretty easy to find a cabin that will accommodate 35, but as our family grows it will get more difficult.

Reunion locations for large family groups

My daughter has married into a family that plans for reunions of about 200  people. Many of them come from all across the country, many flying to the reunion.  There are locations that cater to these large groups but the cost gets pretty high.  This family has a lot of experience planning for these large reunions and they have a couple of great ideas for keeping costs as low as possible.  Their reunion is held every other year and they schedule their reunion during the middle of the week when rates are cheapest.  My daughter has been surprised at all the people that show up for these reunions considering that most have to take off work to be there.

This is Blacks Fork River Lodge in  Wyoming.  It’s a beautiful location that can accommodate large family groups.

 

Blacks Fork River Lodge

 

Blacks Fork River Lodge is ideal for Family Reunions, Corporate Retreats, or any large group use, situated on 51-plus acres including a ½ mile of the beautiful Blacks Fork River. The lodge is located in Bridger Valley, Wyoming, less than 2 hours drive from Salt Lake City, Utah. The main lodge is a three-story 5,400-plus square foot lodge with 9 bedrooms, 8 baths, large kitchen, living, and dining rooms, oversized back deck, all with beautiful river views. The Lodge rental sleeps 50 with cabin and ranch house included. There is also a 3 bedroom ranch house and a 2 bedroom cabin.

https://blacksforkriverlodge.com/

The May Family Ranch in Idaho is an ideal location for your family reunion, retreat, camping, hunting or fishing trip. They can easily accommodate from 1 to 200 persons. We are in one of the premier recreational and hunting/fishing areas in Idaho. The mountains surrounding us have numerous hiking, biking, &ATV trails.

The Ranch is open year-round and they offer a variety of accommodations. The Lodge sleeps 28 and the Miners’ Cabin sleeps 14. Both are both self-contained units. They have 8-person family cabins, private loft rooms, a bunkhouse that sleeps 26, private rooms with baths, as well as many tent spaces and RV hookups. http://www.mayfamilyranch.com/

Roughing it is fun!

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The Stewart side of our family has grown to over 100 members.  We ALWAYS spend our reunions at a campground. This year we will be camping in Mantua, Utah.  For our large family we reserve two group area and may soon need to increase that to three. For our reunions we need a location for both RVs and tents.

Our Favorite Family Reunion Location- Elwood Utah

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.

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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.

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RV Camping

If your family loves RV’ing, there’s a new online resource for finding your perfect campground.  As an avid RV’er, Mark McKinney, used to get quite frustrated with how slow and laggy many of the existing RV & campsite websites were, so he decided to create the website that he wished existed. His website is https://www.findrvparks.com.  The site is great for finding a family reunion campground.  I searched for the Mantua, Utah campground we’ll be staying in this summer and sure enough, there it was. 

If you have an RV, this site is perfect for you.  You can use the filters on the site to search for electric, water, waste and whether or not pets are allowed. You can also search for RV campgrounds that have Wi-Fi and laundry. 

Mark even wants you to contribute to his collection of reviews and photos for your favorite RV Parks by submitting photos and experiences of your favorite campgrounds.

Space Camping

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I’m glad we’ve locked down the reunion site for our Space themed reunion this year- now I just have to turn it into the “moon”  or perhaps “NASA”.  That’s one of many decisions I haven’t made yet.

Out of This World Family Reunion

Coming in 2020

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My family is in  charge of our Stewart family reunion this year.  It’s been 5 years since my family has had this responsibility.  (The Stewarts rotate each year and now it’s rotated back to us!) I’m excited to take our turn again but already a little tired and yes, I’ve started planning.

I had an idea… how would you like to  follow us along as  we plan this new reunion.  Check out our progress and maybe find a few good ideas for your reunion too.

The very first thing we did was choose a theme and the theme for this reunion is TA DA- Our Family is Out of This World, a space theme.  We felt that a space theme would go along with the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. Also; three family members worked on the Space Shuttle, when there was a Space Shuttle program, including the patriarch of our family. Besides the picture below, we also have a photo of Grandpa with an astronaut that  we  will enlarge  for display at the reunion.

A DeLoy Stewart Machinist Thiokol (2)

We already have the date for our reunion, Labor Day, and the  location, a campground and we’ve told everyone to “save the date” so now it’s time to start gathering ideas. 

I like to keep a  file of all my ideas and a great way to do that is on  Pinterest.  I  created a Space board and add every good idea I find to that board. I like to get as many quality ideas as I can for the next couple of months and then we’ll choose our favorite ideas and start putting together  a schedule.

Take a look at these fun ideas:

This solar system necklace is so cool.  It  would be a great idea for an ice breaker activity as family members arrive or for some down time on a hot afternoon.  The idea comes from https://www.handmadecharlotte.com/make-a-stellar-solar-system-necklace/

Make a Stellar Solar System Necklace

We also need to turn our name badges into “astronaut in training” badges.

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I thought these signs would look cool on the bathroom doors. They’re from catchmyparty.com.

Family members have asked if we can do a murder mystery (I’ve written several for our reunions and they’re lots of fun) and a talent show, two activities I need to get to work on so I don’t have that last minute cram the month before our reunion. (I really don’t like that)

I hope you’ll check back often and see how the planning is going.  I’ll keep posting our planning and progress and hey, if you have a fun “space” idea, let me know!

New Years Man- A Family Tradition

You’ve probably never heard of the  New Years Man but it’s a family tradition that has  been part of our family for generations.New Years Man

At midnight on New Year’s Eve, it’s customary in Spain to quickly eat 12 grapes, one at each stroke of the clock. Each grape supposedly signifies good luck for one month of the coming year.  People around the world celebrate the  coming of the new year in many different ways but our families’ New Years tradition is one you’ve probably never heard of.

Every New Years Eve, if we have cleaned our rooms and put away our Christmas gifts, the “New Years Man” will  stop at our house and leave one last holiday gift.   I have no idea how the New Years Man tradition in  my family but it’s a tradition that goes back many generations. 

My Mom  remembers- “On  New Years Eve,  at bedtime we would make a “nest” out of our clothes.  While we were sleeping the New Years man would come and put goodies in our nest—It was always something to eat, candy, fruit etc.  Not toys.  Never a lot but we could tell he had been there “checking ” up on us. We  thought it was fun!” 

The tradition continued when  I was a child.  My parents used the New Years Man as a bribe to motivate us to clean up and put our Christmas things away. 

The New Years Man tradition has evolved to him bringing a small toy, treat or book etc. on New Years Eve for every girl  or boy that has put away their Christmas presents and cleaned their room so that it is spotless.  On New Years Eve we write our names on  a paper plate and if our rooms are clean the New Years Man will leave us a special prize.

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I don’t know what the  New Years Man looks like and I don’t know where he comes from but  I  do know that as a child I was extremely motivated to get my room cleaned and my Christmas gifts put away so that the  New Years man would leave me one more gift for the season.  I’m  sure that having the  house  clean  and orderly for the first day of the new year was well the effort  for my parents.

Log Slice Ice Breaker Craft

Many families gather together during the holiday  season for their traditional Christmas parties.  To get the party started , I like to have a simple craft or activity that can be done as everyone arrives and these log slice ornaments are just the thing. They’re a fun ice breaker that keeps your guests busy and requires little supervision and they’re pretty inexpensive.

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With just a few supplies, you can whip up LOTS of them.  Wood slice ornaments are perfect for hanging on your Christmas tree, attaching to gifts, or giving to friends and family.  If you don’t have access to tree logs you can purchase pre sliced packages at the craft store.  The ones I found cost under $2.00 for a package of 4, but the least expensive option is to cut your  own.

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After cutting your wood slices, don’t  forget to drill a small hole at the top so that you can hang it on your tree or tie to a package. 

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Purchase chalkboard paint at your favorite craft store.  Paint the center of the wood slice. 

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It doesn’t take long for the paint to dry but if you’re really pressed for time, have a hand held hair dryer to speed up the process. After the paint dries, draw a simple picture or write your favorite Christmas word with chalk.  And don’t forget some cute Christmas string for hanging on the tree.

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If you don’t want the mess of painting your ornaments and you have a  die cutting machine, you can cut a variety of shapes and words and family members can apply those onto their wood slices. You could add a layer of decoupage on top so it will last longer.

5 Things Reunion Planners Should Stop Doing-Now!

Stop Sending Invitations Through  Snail  Mail

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For more than a century, the mailbox and the rotary dial phone were how we communicated.  But times have changed, we no longer have eight track tapes, floppy disks,  typewriters and . no one is using shorthand.  Family reunion planners should embrace the advances in technology when sending invitations and keeping  in  touch with family members.

I’m all for sending thank you cards, Christmas and birthday cards and wedding announcements by sail mail but when it comes  to family reunion invitations and flyers using email and texts just makes sense.

First off, consider the cost, at almost 50 cents for a stamp, the cost of mailing every family an invitation adds up quickly, especially if you have a large family.  Also factor in the cost of paper and ink to  print it on  or the cost  of taking your  invitations to a print  shop  to have them professionally printed.  You also need to figure in  the labor involved, sorting, stapling ,folding and putting  your  invitations into envelopes.

A reunion  planner can sit at her computer, compose a quick message, or create a beautiful custom invitation and send it off to the entire reunion family in a matter of seconds. No stamp is required, no trip to the  post office,  and no time is taken to physically fold, staple and lick. Just send it out and your whole family can be reading  it in a matter of minutes.

Our family has enjoyed sharing our family news and information on our family Facebook page and I know some families that have created their own family websites.  Both are convenient, instant and inexpensive ways to keep in touch.

However email isn’t perfect, Grandma and Grandpa and great Aunts and Uncles may still need a  physical invitation that arrives in their mailbox but using the latest technology is a great tool for reunion planners. 

Stop trying to do everything yourself

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This one is huge.  As a reunion planner you have enough to do without  worrying about every detail of your reunion.  Form a committee and give out assignments or if working solo, make a list of activities and give out assignments.  A simple way to make assignments is by family group.

There are 6 children in my husband’s family.  They are all over 60 years old now and have adult children of their own.  For most reunions, each family group receives an assignment to do an activity and plan and cook a meal.  When my family is given an assignment my children help with the planning and implementing of that assignment.

The theme of our last reunion was, “Game On”.  Every family group  was in charge of a JUMBO sized family game.  Our game was one of 6 games we played at the reunion and one of 6 activities the reunion planner didn’t have to worry about.

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Many years ago, we planned a “Cruise” themed reunion.  Each of the family groups choose a port of call and planned activities and a meal that represented the culture of that port.  Because there was six families, we sailed to six countries including Mexico, Alaska, Africa and Paris, France.

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 Stop spending your own money

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No matter how much you love each other, it still costs money to hold a family reunion.
You may charge reunion goers a fee for attending their reunion or you may ask them to donate food or other supplies but if you are a reunion planner I guarantee that you are spending your own money (Probably more than you think) to make your reunion  successful. 

For many families, putting someone (or a committee) over managing the money is a huge help.  This person should be  responsible  for all things money including any fund raising that takes  place.

Our family does a family auction to help with reunion expenses.  The responsibility for the auction including encouraging family members to bring donations  to  be auctioned  off  is up to  our reunion financial  guru.  She keeps track of all winning  bids and  collects the money.  She  also deposits the cash in  our family reunion bank account and  pays all the  bills. It’s one last thing the reunion planner needs to worry about.

Every reunion organizer needs a notebook to  record every purchase they make for the reunion. Glue an envelope in the back of your notebook for keeping receipts and at the completion of your reunion, review your purchases and submit your receipts to the money manager. 

Keep in mind that the purchases you make are made with  precious funds and  take care to spend wisely but if there doesn’t seem to be enough funds for one  of your activities unless you pay for it then it’s  time  to cut it from  the list. 

Stop worrying About Those that don’t attend the Reunion

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When you’re the  one  that  has  worked so  hard to plan  and implement  a reunion  it’s pretty hard to not take it  personally when someone tells you they can’t  attend.

Over the last 40 years of family reunions I have heard  some   pretty ridiculous reasons /excuses that someone can’t attend a family reunion but I’ve also learned that if someone doesn’t want  to come to the  reunion they’re just  not  going to come, no matter what you say  or do to change  their mind.  The reason they give you for not attending may have nothing to do with the  real reason  they’re not coming.

Focus instead on all  the wonderful people that come to the  reunion- cousin  Toby that planned his wedding so that his  anniversary would never  fall on the reunion weekend and Aunt Jean and Uncle Mack who save their work vacation every year so that they can attend.  Those are the people that need your attention and perhaps you’ll see some of the non-attenders next year when they hear how much fun everyone had at the reunion  they missed.

To encourage attendance at the next reunion, send out a nice,  personalized email or text to those that didn’t attend letting them know that they were missed.

have very strong memories of being around my extended family while I was growing up. It was so meaningful to the older generation to sit around talking and spending time together. Seeing someone’s child, the extension of your family play and run with other family members was a joyful and celebrating occasion.

There was a time when people felt such a connection to their family that even though they may have moved to another city or state, they still longed for home.

In past years, when I attended family reunions we end up divided into groups of people that we associate with on a regular basis anyway, and never get to know distant cousins and other relatives who have traveled great distances to be here, so what’s the point?

11. (Enter name) will be there and I refuse to be in the same room, let alone city with that..

I can’t justify spending (enter amount) dollars to travel across the country to spend time with people I will not see or hear from again until the next family reunion.

To have a strong family, we have to be a strong family member. We can’t sit back and say what someone else isn’t doing when we aren’t doing those very things ou

reunions can be an opportunity to solidify or even create important boundaries that have been ignored or neglected in the past. One way to do that in advance is to remind a spouse, sibling, in-law or parent if you’ve told them something you want kept private from other family members.  Another is to set ground rules with your spouse about maintaining a united front in discussions about your marriage, child-raising, financial status, or any sensitive topics that are just between the two of you.

They may come next year when  they hear how much everyone else had.

Don’t Reinvent the wheel

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We live in an age when everyone is sharing their expertise and experiences on the internet. 

AmazingReunion.com is a simple free online service helping people plan their next family reunion. They can help with registration, hotel reservations and collecting fees.

Familyreunionhelper.com is a website that offers reunion theme packages that are packed full of reunion ideas- activities, games, recipes, printables and templates that take a lot of the “planning” out of reunion planning.

Glean from  the experiences of others when organizing your reunion.  Talk with friends and work associates,  find out what their favorite family reunions are. The  experiences of others is a great jumping  off  point for creating the  perfect reunion for your family. 

Planning a family reunion is a huge responsibility for reunion planners but as you work through the reunion process keep in mind the reason you’re having a reunion.  Don’t wait for a funeral to get together, plan a reunion where your family and  play and have fun together. The work you do will assure  that children will get to know their distant cousins and is a way for families to reconnect with their roots and find a sense of belonging.

Pirate & MERMAID Family Reunion Theme

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Ahoy there, Pirates and Mermaids! We’ve just completed a major overhaul of our pirate family reunion package and now it’s a Pirate & MERMAID Family Reunion.  This reunion theme package is now perfect for everyone that attends your family reunion.

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The Pirate and Mermaid reunion is for everyone who has ever dreamed of sailing or swimming in the seven seas in search of excitement and adventure. This reunion includes everything the Pirate Themed reunion has plus tons of Mermaid printables and ideas. It’s a treasure chest full of step by step instructions, templates and printables to help you plan a family reunion.

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Pirates and Mermaids are so popular right now and there is no shortage of swashbuckling fun with this family reunion theme. Use the over 50 pages of pirate games, decorations, activities and good things to eat to help your family set sail to their favorite Mermaid lagoon or Pirate cove. Your families’ eyes will be filled with visions of gold and jewels as they discover the real treasure in life is family.

You can find the Mermaid and Pirate family reunion theme package here

https://familyreunionhelper.com/products/products.php?ProductID=33

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Our Favorite Halloween Treat

Peanut butter Eyeballs!

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We love peanut butter eyeballs.  My daughter found  the recipe several years ago  and it has  since been a Halloween family favorite.  The little kids in our family like them because they’re kinda scary, Grandma likes them because they don’t look very realistic and everyone likes them because they’re delicious! The saying, “bet you can’t eat just one!” certainly applies to these delicious treats. 

What you will need:

2 cups confectioners’ sugar, divided
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 pound white candy coating (in small pieces) or white chocolate chips
24 milk chocolate M&M’s
1 tablespoon water
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red food coloring

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Directions

  1. Mix together 1 cup of the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter and butter. Roll into 1-in. balls; place on a waxed paper-lined pan. Chill for 30 minutes or until firm.
  2. In a microwave, melt white candy coating; stir until smooth. Dip balls in coating; allow excess to drip off. Place on waxed paper. Immediately top of each eyeball with an M and  M to make the pupil.

Make squiggly lines to make the eyeballs  look “bloodshot”. 

Makes about 2 dozen eyeballs.

Jelly Bean Bracelets Ice Breaker

Ice breakers for all kids

Whether planning a family reunion or party, I always like to  provide an activity that gives family members an activity to do while waiting for the organized activities to begin.  For instance, in the Caveman reunion, reunion goers decorated dinosaur sugar cookies.  This is a great way to get family members reconnect with each other and shouldn’t require hands on attention from the reunion planner.

Here are fun idea that fit the bill-

Jelly Bean Bracelets

What could be better then jewelry you can eat?

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Purchase lots of bags of Jelly beans (Try buying these at after Easter sales), sewing needles, Jewelry cord that is stretchy and scissors.

Cut the jewelry cord about 7″ long. Tie knots about 1 inch from the bottom of the cord. Thread the cord through the sewing needle. Tip- be sure the the cord you use will fit through the  eye  of the needle.

Push the needle through the center of each jelly bean to thread them, then push them down to the bottom of the cord. Continue to add jelly beans, about 15- 20 depending on your wrist size, until the bracelet is long enough. When your bracelet is long enough, tie the two ends together securely using several knots.

Tip: If the needle gets sticky give it a quick cleaning with baby wipes to clean off your needle.

Working on this project will kids talking and help them get reacquainted.  I think you’ll be surprised at the fun color combination your family will come up with.  Have I mentioned that this is a fun idea for your Easter celebration?

How to Light Up Your Family Reunion

Or… how to say reunion thank yous with candy light bulbs

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My son is an electrician and for his birthday my daughter came up with these cute light bulb favors for everyone that came to his party.  It was  the perfect idea for an electrician’s birthday but I couldn’t help but think about how to use these bulbs for a family reunion.

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We purchased our  “light bulbs” from Amazon.  Follow this link- https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00X66WJBI/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1They are about a dollar a piece.  We filled them with Skittles candies.  It was kind of a pain separating the candy into different colors but it looked cute when we were done.  I liked how the yellow ones looked best so if I ever did this again I would probably fill them  with Lemonhead candies.

Although I haven’t used this idea for a family reunion, though I will, here are some ideas I came up with:

If you have a contest and want to give a prize to the person that gets the most answers correct, you could say, “You’re the BRIGHTEST bulb in the box”.

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To say thank you-

Thanks for sharing your BRIGHT ideas. 

Thanks for being a LIGHT to our family.

You LIGHT up my life! Thanks for all your help with our family reunion.

Thanks for making our family reunion BRIGHTER

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Encouragement-

Be BRIGHT share your LIGHT

You’re future is looking BRIGHT

Let your LIGHT so SHINE

I’m sure there’s a lot of ideas out there- if you have one you’d like to share, please comment and let us know.  SHINE on!

Pudding Painting

The delicious way to paint.

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What can I say- pudding painting is a very messy, very fun activity.  It’s perfect for days that you have  planned a water slide or sprinkle under the trampoline activity because it makes clean up super easy!

The first time I did pudding painting was in the 80’s when I had a cousins party for all my nieces and nephews and they still talk about how fun it was. Most recently, I had a pudding painting party with my grandkids and they had a ball.

There are a couple of ways you can do pudding painting.  You can mix up your own pudding (vanilla is great because you can add food coloring to make different colors) or you can buy the already made puddings in the single serving containers.

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This was an activity I did outside on a table covered with a plastic table cloth.  I gave each child a large sheet of paper (like teachers use on their bulletin boards) and let them paint away. 

Over the years I have found that some children do not like getting their hands messy so I like to provide other “tools” for them to use.  Things like spatulas and larger paint brushes work well.

When kids are done painting you can let their paintings dry in the sun and if you have planned a water activity,they’ll be all cleaned up in a splish and a splash.

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