17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

From the Tales Inbox: Planning a Famiy Reunion

Ladies, I am looking for some help. This time, it's with family reunions. My mom and I are trying to figure out where/how to do a family reunion for my Dad's side of the family. We haven't been all together since right before we moved to Maryland in 1996 :) I'm guessing it will probably have to be in Utah, since most every besides us is there.

Where have you done family reunions? If you have names of specific places in Utah, that'd be awesome. Did it work? Even if you weren't in Utah, how did you figure it out? Were you in hotel rooms somewhere? If so, how did you do food? How did you do "group" time if you weren't all staying in the same place? Who has tips for me? We will have people that range in age from 90something to infant - mostly a bunch of grandparents, adults, and younger grandchildren (the oldest grandchild will be 9) :) Maybe 50-70 people.

Can you tell I've never planned a multi-family gathering before? Any help would be appreciated!


  • I did a family reunion for 50 in McCall, Idaho. We camped by the lake for 4 days.
    For big venues you need to plan about a year in advance. Some places like national parks and camping take reservations only a certain amount of time ahead, like 6 months. I made reservations for the maximum amount of time possible as soon as I could and then I was able to change my reservation for a small fee. You may have to work the system a bit to get what you want. If you have to get a hotel sometimes they will give you a discount if you are booking multiple rooms. Call the hotel you want directly, and see if they can give you a better deal then you could get from their corporate res. line.
    Also look into renting a large house if you can fit everyone in. Sometimes they have limits on numbers. It may be difficult to make everyone happy with cost. (That is why we ended up camping.) we had a few families that were really tight on their budget, so we went cheap, but still had a lot of fun.
    I made all the reservations, bought all the paper plates, cups etc, and then charged everyone a per person fee.
    I made a meal schedule, and assigned each family a meal to provide, and cook, for the group.
    I ended up combining smaller families to even out the cost, compared to some of the larger family groups. It was up to them to decide what to make.

    I sent out reminder letters and a packing list along with pamphlets on activities in the area.

    If you can I would plan the location close to an area that has ready made activities, like a lake, hiking trails, etc. It makes your job so much easier.

    If you have to plan a bunch of interactive games I would ask someone to help you.

    I hope that helps. Best of luck.
    posted by Blogger theabby at 10/11/2007 08:49:00 AM  

  • I have lots of experiences I could share with you! My mother's side of the family gets together almost every year, and I've recently (in the last few years) have been recruited on a number of occasions to host and help out.
    However, could you answer these questions first?
    When are you having it? (winter, summer, holidays?)
    How long? (one day, four days, a week?)
    I think I could help you a little better with these details.
    P.S. Every one I've helped host had been in Utah. ;)
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 10/11/2007 09:13:00 AM  

  • recently attended one in Midway/Heber where there are numerous houses to rent that can easily sleep 10+ but also nearby campsites for those so inclined.

    Way back in the 80s did Aspen Grove.
    posted by Blogger a spectator at 10/11/2007 11:39:00 AM  

  • We've done some big 200+ people and some smaller ones with just our immediate family (which is now almost to 80) reunions and here is what I have always liked at the big ones:

    -A talent show
    -Name tags that have the picture of who you "decended" from. So you know who belongs to who.
    -Some free time and some structured time.
    -structured time included soccer game, craft activities for the kids, reminisce time for the adults.
    -free time included being able to check out local tourist sites wherever the reunion location happened to be.
    -dinner (and some lunches) were always provided by the "host" family (the family that was in charge of the reunion that year and families in the area of the reunion also helped to bring food.
    -I remember one reunion, we divided into our smaller family groups and had to create a family banner and then each family had to send a representative to compete in each of a variety of different competitions. There were baby crawling races, hula hoop contests, best facial hair, etc. it was really fun.

    Good luck to you. It is quite an undertaking but well worth it in my opinion.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 10/11/2007 04:51:00 PM  

  • We did a fabulous family reunion at Aspen Grove in Utah. It's run by the BYU Alumni Association, and you can find out more on the website, but it's great. They have camp leaders for all age groups of kids so they are taken care of all day (or they can stay with you if you'd like), and the adults actually have time to talk or do games and activites, even lectures and classes. All the meals are made for you and they have great family activites. It's tough to get into the family lodges (need 1-2 years in advance), but you could get into the cabins at a later notice.

    We loved it so much that we agreed that we will do it every 5 years.
    posted by Blogger wendysue at 10/11/2007 08:30:00 PM  

  • We have gone to the Reid Ranch which is in the mountains beyond Fruitland. We tried once to just do an "area" reunion in the valleys of SL and Provo but found that the people who lived in the area skipped out on a lot of the activities which caused some resentment from the people who had traveled from far away. We found it was much better to be somewhere where you were "stuck". :) the Reid Ranch had pools, horses, a lake, archery, stuff like that. They fed you but other activities were totally up to you. Our reunions were always about 3-4 days long. This next time we're going to Durango, Colorado since more people are now outside of Utah than in for the first time!
    posted by Blogger Liz&Meg at 10/12/2007 04:34:00 AM  

  • Island Park Idaho. Rent a few cabins, plan to play outside. Yellowstone is right up the road. Lot's of fun activities, golf at the resort. River to canoe, tube, etc. Good fishing. Bonfires. I like unstructured family reunions. The only structured activities we do are dinners at night. Each family hosts for a night.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 10/12/2007 09:51:00 AM  

  • These ideas are SO HELPFUL. THANK YOU.

    Cheryl, here are some answers:
    maybe 4-5 days

    Most of my family lives on the Wasatch front - Bountiful and Salt Lake, so we'd want it to be far enough away that they're "stuck" with us, as liz&meg mentioned, but probably not more than a 4-5 hour drive away (if that's even possible!)
    posted by Blogger Corinne at 10/15/2007 08:27:00 PM  

  • We do fam reunions in hotels, condos or cabins. I think it's better to stay in the same area, because my favorite parts are usually the late night girl chats, I know my husband loves to get up and hang with the men and the cousins ALWAYS love sleepovers.
    We just had one at the MountainSide Marriott in Park City. Park City is a little pricey, but a GREAT place with lots to do. I am sure you could get condos there too. It's great if you get places with a kitchen so people can do bfast and lunch on their own. (there are kitchens in the Marriott rooms - fyi).
    Here are some fun activity ideas:
    -the kids made puppets during the day for a craft activity then put on a puppet show at night for the family.
    -family skits
    -talent show
    -crafts (Oriental Trading Co. has so many good craft ideas)
    -go to a nearby park for games, BBQ, volleyball, and visiting (there are two great parks in PC)
    -have the patriarch and matriarch of the fam tell stories about themselves or some of the kids when they were younger...put together a guess who game or play the ever so cheesy but most of the time funny two truths and a lie...something you have done in the last decade
    Here are some things in Park City:
    -alpine slide
    -mini golf
    -Olympic Park - Sat there is a ski jump exhibition that is AWESOME for all ages
    -horseback riding
    -mountain biking
    -Park City is also very close to SLC so you could go down and do Temple Square, Farmers Market, Liberty Park, etc.
    For food I would suggest only doing dinners together. Assign different families to be in charge of different nights.
    Sorry this is all jumbled...it's late.
    Good luck!
    posted by Blogger Melissa at 10/15/2007 09:27:00 PM  

  • Corinne-
    Hey, thanks for giving me more info. What the other people have said is awesome, though, so I don't think I could add much more.

    I'll second Aspen Grove, though! I worked there for two years (with my husband) and I can't wait to take my family there for vacation someday.

    If you have 4 or 5 days and want to keep them all sequestered, then here are a few ideas:

    --Bear Lake has plenty of condos and even campgrounds.
    --Zion's would be a good place to camp, although it's hot in the summer.
    --Island Park (as mentioned before by anonymous) is GREAT! We did that once (just 2 days) and we had a great time in Yellowstone, going to a local acting theater, Jackson Hole, etc. There are places (either in Island Park or West Yellowstone) that have individual cabins as the hotel rooms; so you could divide into family groups.
    --If you're into camping, a lot of good places have already been mentioned; camping is so fun! And it really makes the family stay in one place, too --especially if it's far away.
    --Last idea: If it's feasible, get some houseboats and go to Lake Powell! :)
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 10/16/2007 07:25:00 AM  

  • P.S. The reason I don't have many details is because of all the fabulous advice that's already been written AND the reunions I planned were for only a day or two.
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 10/16/2007 07:27:00 AM  

  • I second the Lake Powell idea. Even if you can't afford house-boats-there are great places to camp on the beaches. If you shoot for September, the heat isn't unbearable. Cabins or houseboats would be much easier.

    We have a few traditional activities that we always look forward to at our family reunions.

    1. Sawdust dig. We bring a huge tarp and a bunch of sawdust (you can purchase this at any carpentry shop-very cheap). We pour the sawdust onto the tarp and dump in candy, money and toys. Then we take turns-youngest to oldest- digging in the sawdust for prizes. Each age group gets about 3 minutes. We add more age appropriate stuff as the kids get older. VERY fun.

    2. An auction. We all bring something to donate to the family auciton and the money we make goes to fund the next year's reunion. People usually pay the most for family mementos and such. There are a lot of hand-made blankets, framed copies of rare family pictures, family heirlooms, etc.

    3. Candy jar count. My mom fills many different jars with yummy candies and throughout the day people can stop by the table and make their guess as to how many pieces of candy are in the jar. The closest guess gets to keep the jar and the candy inside.

    The last few years we've gone to Scera Park in Orem. It's very close to where my 96 year old grandma lives. The kids can swim, play at the park or nap under the huge trees. We try to think of what grandma would be willing to attend before making any plans.
    Good luck!
    posted by Blogger Krista at 10/16/2007 10:29:00 AM  

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