Kearney, NE contractor Paul Fredrickson said, “Dad and Uncle Bob for years and years and years talked about having a family reunion. Nobody ever did anything about it. So the first real family reunion was Dad’s funeral. I thought, that’s not the way to have a family reunion!
“Uncle Bob and I decided to start the family reunion, having it during good times and not during bad times.”
Taking it upon himself, Paul with his wife Lorene, organized the first “good times” family reunion for 1991. “We tried to figure out a place that we thought everyone would enjoy,” Paul said.
After visiting Estes Park in their search, Paul found a place that would house the family and reserved it. The first family reunion was a success with family arriving from Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, California, and Oregon. During the week the family ate, played, stayed together, and got to know one another.
With that first family reunion behind him, Paul immediately started looking for a location for the next family reunion two years away. He chose Jackson Hole. Most, but not all, of the original family made it along with some new faces.
But planning a family reunion for a lot of people isn’t easy. “There’s never a good time for everybody, and there’s never a place that will satisfy everybody,” Paul said. “You just pick a place and if it works, it works…”
He also learned over-scheduling is not a good idea, especially if the family reunion lasts for several days. “You don’t want to plan too much for them,” he said. “Leave some time for others to do things on their own.”
For all the hassle of getting things organized and then trying to get a head count and deposits, Paul believes a family reunion is worth the effort. “I think it’s worth it, but I think you can meet too often. Most people plan that as their major vacation for the year, and if every two years it’s going to be a family reunion, sometimes it dips into some of the things they want to do and places they want to go.
Paul organized the first two family reunions before handing the baton to a Minnesota cousin who planned the family reunion in Minnesota. His sister planned the family reunion in California and his niece the one in Arkansas. With the next family reunions, Paul once more took and has remained in charge of planning. He now plans the family reunions for every third, rather than every two years. There have been family reunions in the Black Hills and in Streamboat Springs, CO.
Paul cautioned, “One thing is, you got to have a place where it’s easy for everybody to get to if not by driving, at least by air.”
His final comment to anyone planning a family reunion. “Just don’t expect everybody to show up, and don’t expect everybody to answer your mail invitations because they won’t. Some people aren’t even interested in family reunions. The best thing is, don’t get discouraged.”
How to Plan a Family Reunion
1. Start early…two years is not too long to start planning and locating a place.
2. Choose a central location for the family reunion.
3. Find a resort or motel complex which will house the entire family.
4. Don’t try to please everybody, because you won’t.
5. Send out letters and brochures listing:
- What is expected
- What costs are for the family reunion
- Time factors for replying
- And any other pertinent information.
6. Don’t have the family reunions too often.
7. Don’t expect everyone to come to the family reunion.
8. Plan a few activities together.
9. Share at least some meals.
10. Leave time for the family members to explore, shop and do things on their own.
11. Provide a keepsake to every family that attends the family reunion.
Finally, don’t get discouraged if things don’t turn out the way you plan…just enjoy the time you have together with the family.