Ten Ways to Keep The Next Family Reunion Fun

So, you’ve been tasked to host your next family reunion, and you’ve got to come up with a fantastic plan to make it an enjoyable experience for all ages and interests. Impossible? Not necessarily. Here are ten activities to make your next reunion a hit with everyone.

New Year’s in July

New Year’s Eve is a special evening for lovers, but you can recreate the magic of New Year’s Eve any time of the year and make it a family affair. Imagine staging the perfect New Year’s party on a sunny afternoon in July (or any month).First send out holiday invitations for family members to “bring in the ‘New Year’” together.

Next, get set for the big event by buying streamers, noisemakers and party hats. If you plan well enough in advance, you can purchase them on sale in January. On the day of the party, plan when you will count down to the “New Year” and set the clocks in the party area so that “midnight” occurs during the course of your reunion.

If you are savvy when it comes to creating videos on your computer, you can even create a countdown video timed for your “midnight,” interspersing it with images of dearly departed family members. Everyone can enjoy ginger ale toasts in plastic champagne glasses to usher out the “old year”; and after the group sings “Auld Lang Syne,” the family can settle down over coffee and cake and talk about their personal New Year’s resolutions.

Potluck dinners

Even planning the meal menu for a family reunion can produce a precious family keepsake. Send out invitations requesting that each family unit bring a covered dish, prepared from a special family recipe passed down to them by their parents or grandparents. Also, ask them to bring a copy of the recipe with them to the party. Collect he recipes at the party and desktop publish them as a family cookbook that can be sent out to each family unit in your family. It’s a great way to make sure treasured family recipes are handed down for generations to come.

Family trivia contest

How much do you know about your cousins once and twice removed? How much do you know about your ancestors from three to four generations in the past? Create a 100-year poster starting backward from the current year with blanks next to each year. Invite family members to bring scrapbooks, baby books, wedding albums and family Bibles to fill in important dates on this poster from their lives with fine-point markers attached from ribbons and hanging from the poster.

Mystery weekend

Everyone has heard of murder-mystery weekends, but you can add a little mystery to your next family reunion that has nothing to do with murder. Here’s how: Enlist the help of your family historian or the eldest member of your family to talk about a little-known incident or person in your family’s history. The party then becomes a kind of scavenger hunt to find out more about the person or incident, with clues to find scattered around the party and other clues mailed out with the party invitations. Break the hunt into family groups where parents and grandparents can direct the kids to chase after more and more clues.

Family Olympics

If you are planning a summer reunion in a public park or at the home of someone with a big, beautiful yard, why not add a little excitement to your cookout with a family Olympics? Create competitions to suit your surroundings, like swimming meets if there’s a pool or free-throw competitions if there’s a basketball net nearby. Have the kids design gold, silver and bronze medals with crayons, paper cake plates and red, white and blue ribbon.

Let’s make a movie

All you need is a camcorder, a tripod and a quiet room with lots of available light to set up a recording studio during your next family reunion. Then send out invitations asking family members to bring photo albums with them to the party. On the day of the party have one person circulate and bring people to your studio and film them. Be prepared with a few questions for each family member. Then, film pages from each family’s photo albums.

Family talent show

We’re not talking American Idol, but every family has its share of untapped talent: from tissue paper-and-comb musicians to karate kids and ballerinas. Encourage your family members to show up prepared to strut their stuff. There have to be some family members with keyboards and guitars. Ask them to bring these to the party and serve as the house band. Choose a master of ceremonies to introduce each act, but don’t choose a winner. Everyone is a winner in this competition. And don’t forget to videotape each act and take lots of pictures.

Costume party

Dress-up is not just for kids. Adults love to play masquerade, too. Spice up your family reunion by asking invitees to wear a costume, just as for Halloween. You can suggest a theme for the party such as the Roaring Twenties or the Wild West or let everyone choose what they want to wear. Maybe some will decide to dress as other family members or famous ancestors. Set up a trick-or-treat basket with sweet goodies for kids to enjoy. Give prizes for the best and most creative costumes.

Card party

Forget the green eyeshades and Texas Hold ‘em. This card party is all about greeting cards. Buy boxes of Christmas, Hanukkah, birthday and anniversary cards for the party. Give them out to family “captains” at the party to address each card for all family occasions for their wing of the party. On the unsealed outside envelope flap, the occasion and date is written so everyone knows when the card should be mailed, for what and to whom.

Then, the cards are circulated around the party and everyone signs each card. Each family “captain” takes a stack of cards that are not addressed to their family unit. Their job is to seal the envelopes, place stamps on them and mail them at the appropriate time of the year.

Karaoke night

If you are looking for something a little less organized and more spontaneous than a family talent show, crank up the stereo, print up some lyrics and have a karaoke party. Once you get the ball rolling, you won’t be able to keep the crowd from singing along. Many party stores have cassette tapes or CDs especially made for karaoke with instrumental versions of popular tunes in various styles—from country to rock to easy listening.

Originally Published on GRAND Magazine in January-February 2007 Issue.

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