(My paternal grandmother is in the striped dress.)


Dear Diary,


Summer is officially here, so what better way to  celebrate the summer season than to gather with friends and family.  Although July is family reunion month, the Hopson-Stephens clan got a jump-start!  We’ve already attended two gatherings, and we’re weeks away from a third!

The first event kicked off Memorial Day Weekend in Columbus, OH.  My paternal grandfather’s side hosted a picnic at the park.  Nothing like meeting people with your same last name!  The organizers gave everyone color coded name tags, so we could easily see which Hopson we descended from.  The kids were instructed to bring their water guns and when they arrived, they launched a full-fledged battle with super soakers, sprinklers and balloons.   We didn’t dry off, because we stayed at a resort with an indoor water park, where Baby C made a splash with her first swimming pool experience.


On the Fourth of July, my paternal grandmother’s side held another picnic in the park.  To get relatives ready, the lead planner created a Wright Family Facebook Page, where you could find directions to the venue, purchase tickets to the Boat Ride and post pictures—some dating back to 1890!—of our ancestors.


Before the excitement dies down, we’re on the next event in Deep Creek, Maryland for my maternal grandmother’s side.  Grandma Clara and Stump, our pet name for our grandfather, met and married as teenagers.  They stayed together 65 years and welcomed 15 children into their home!  My mother is heading up the planning committee.  Highlights will include a pig roast (sorry to those relatives who don’t eat pork!), a beach day, a Welcome Party and a Kids Party at a fun zone.  Although I love all sides equally, this reunion weekend will hold a special place in my heart.  Baby C will celebrate her first birthday on the Friday.  I think I’ll order a Princess and the Frog cake.  (Stay tuned for the Very Hungry Caterpillar Very First Birthday Bash report.   Until then, you can check out my planning ideas on my Pinterest page.)


Here are Five Ways You Can Organize a Family Reunion of Your Own

1.  Use Social Media:  Nowadays, even Grandma Betty has a Facebook page.  My friend’s grandmother even asked her to set up a Twitter account and add a text messaging package to her cell phone!  Create a family page, and reach out to your relatives who may live in different zip codes.


2.  Vote on a Venue:  At each event, my maternal grandmother’s side votes on the location of the next reunion.  We hold reunions every other year.  In the past ten years, we’ve travelled to Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee and Maryland.   But you don’t have to go far to get together!  Call your local parks department, and book a pavilion.


3.  Contact the Tourism Office:  In some cities, a designated staff member will help you plan your reunion for free!  You’ll also receive coupons, sample products, family reunion checklists, hotel information and sample itineraries.  You can work with the department to put together a program, which includes a dinner, a tour or a musical performance.  Here in Pittsburgh, I received a hundred Mister Roger’s tote bags!


4. Create a Family Tree:  From now through July 8, www.ancestry.com is offering free access to the world’s largest online family history resource.  You can retrieve birth, marriage and death certificates.  There are also searches for military, immigration and census records.   Visit your older relatives, dust off their photo albums packed away in the attic and put together a pictorial history.   There are also services to analyze your DNA.  Howard University labs can trace your blood back to specific tribes in Africa!


5.  Make a Proclamation: If you decide to hold your event at the same time and same place each year, go down in history!   You can ask for a proclamation from your city for many reasons, including the date of your family reunion. You could ask that the day be declared, “Smith Family Reunion Day.”   Typically, you can call your mayor’s office or log online to fill out a form.


What family reunion activities are you participating in?  What ideas do you have to keep your little one busy in the car if you’re taking a road trip? 

About The Author

Vlog Mom/DFTM Creator

Not long ago, Heather Hopson hosted a television show in the Cayman Islands. Today, she's back home writing a different kind of story as a new mom. In her 15 years working as a professional journalist, this by far is her best assignment! Growing up, she dreamed of becoming Oprah Winfrey. She was the features editor for her school’s newspaper and a teen talk show host for her city’s most popular radio station. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Michigan State University. After graduation, she worked as a television producer and reporter at CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates throughout the U.S. Instead of heading to Chicago to join Ms. Winfrey on her set, she bought a plane ticket to the Cayman Islands instead. She arrived five days before a category five hurricane! She lived in paradise for seven years, hosted an award-winning television show and traveled the globe with a government delegation. She also served on the board of directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters and spearheaded a Send a Kid to Camp campaign. Then, she relocated to Washington, D.C. to obtain a teaching certification and instruct 8th grade reading at a high needs middle school. She later returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA to raise her daughter Caitlynn, now 4-years-old. During her 10-month-stint as a stay-at-home mom, Caitlynn inspired her to create this blog, and Diary of a First Time Mom was born on Mother’s Day 2012. Two years later, she expanded the family to include 20+ writers. Currently, Heather serves as the communications director at Allies for Children. In addition, she is the owner of Motor Mouth Multimedia, which ranked #49 in Startup Nation’s Home-Based 100 Competition sponsored by Discover Card and Sam’s Club. Recently, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments selected Heather to receive an Emerging Black Artist award to develop Diary of a First Time Mom.

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