It’s the Great Outdoors for Us

Magazine Features, Planning Tips

Outdoor reunion themes for your next gathering

Considering the unique period we’re living through, it may be time to give up your hotel, cruise ship or church rec hall reunion and hold your next family get-together in the great outdoors.

In 2020, when the pandemic happened, we had two reunions scheduled, one in June and one over Labor Day weekend. At the time of our reunions, our state was allowing groups of 50 to gather.

Our June reunion was for approximately 35 people. We found a large vacation rental near Bear Lake, Utah that fit our needs. Renting made our reunion so much easier, as everything was provided except the food, our clothes and the boat.

Our family came and went during the reunion so we averaged 25-35 together at one time. We planned all of the activities outside with water skiing, playing on the beach and volleyball. A Sun and Sand or Beach theme are one of the easiest themes you can choose. Your family can entertain themselves in the sand and water for hours without a lot of supervision or planning. Decorate with beach balls, brightly colored sand buckets, dollar store sunglasses and sea shells. Plan some DIY activities such as sand art, decorating flip flops, sea shell painting or making giant bubbles.

There was a wonderful deck on our rented cabin that made it possible to eat outside for those who wanted to. Our vacation rental was so large that we were able to divide the sleeping areas into family groups. For example, my family group of 17 had the entire upper floor to ourselves.

The cabin rental was the perfect solution for us. It allowed us to be separated, but we were still “together.” It was shortly after our reunion that the state of Utah really cracked down on large group gatherings, so this was the only get-together we did with extended family all year.

A Reunion in Space

Some reunions have out of this world themes.

Some reunions have out of this world themes.

Since we had to cancel our Labor Day reunion in 2020, all of the 120 Stewart family members were ready to gather together in 2021. We reserved two large group campsites. Family members brought tents and trailers, and we camped out for three days in the beautiful outdoors.

Our theme for this reunion was “My Family is Out of This World,” a space theme. Every activity and meal was outdoors. Family members received a personalized “Astronaut in Training” name badge and lanyard when they arrived at the campsite and had to complete astronaut training to earn their certification. They participated in Alien Avoidance Training, Solar System Training and Hand/Eye Training, to name a few.

We ate Man in the Moon pancakes and hot dog rockets. We launched water bottle rockets, hunted for moon rocks and competed in an obstacle course while wearing tin can moon boots.

The most popular activity at our space reunion was hunting for a large “alien” egg. It was a jumbo Easter egg, large enough to hold a full-sized bag of potato chips. We let families know in advance that they needed to come prepared with a prize to put in the giant egg before they came to camp.

Our alien egg rules were:

  1. If you find the egg, refill it with treats, money, a small stuffed animal, etc. and hide no longer than 60 minutes after you find it. The sooner you hide the egg the more chances it can be found.
    2. Hide within the boundaries of the campground.
    3. Be considerate of private property, no trespassing.
    4. Egg needs to be hidden, but visible.
    5. When you find the egg, post pictures of the egg and where you found it to the Stewart Facebook page showing the egg has been found.
    6. Take picture of a refilled egg in its new hiding spot and post it to the Facebook page with a clue.

The finale of our space reunion was a “rising star” talent show. It was a little tricky to do a talent show in the great outdoors but with the help of a generator, blue tooth speakers and gymnastic mats we were able to make it work.

Theme Alternatives

Whatever theme you choose, don’t forget to have delicious food for your family.

Whatever theme you choose, don’t forget to have delicious food for your family.

You can get away from a boring sit-around and “just visit” family reunion by having an Olympics-themed reunion. Just as the Olympics brings people together from around the world, an Olympics reunion brings your family together to celebrate, cheer and honor its members. We’ve hosted several Olympics reunions through the years, winter, summer and silly.

We like to start our Olympics reunions by providing markers and poster paper so that each family can make a family flag for the opening ceremony. Activities that get your family members up and moving are the best options for an Olympics- themed reunion. Have a soccer or volleyball tournament, go bowling or hold a family 5K. If you’re feeling silly, plan water balloon volleyball, egg on a spoon relay, slip and slide baseball, a javelin balloon throw or other twists on popular events.

The most popular competition at our Olympics-themed reunions is the tug-of-war event. It can be difficult to find a tug-a-war rope, but we like a rope that is 75 to 100 feet long. It should be a thick, sturdy rope (1 to 1.5 inches in diameter) and 100 percent cotton. On our invitation, we always remind family members to add gloves to their list of things to bring.

Don’t forget paper-and-pencil games such as a crossword puzzle or word search for family members who aren’t able to participate in the physical sporting events.

Serve smoothies, “Breakfast of Champions” or “Long Jump” hoagies to keep with the theme. Don’t forget the medal ceremony and give out candy bar medals for awards.

Other reunion themes that work well in the outdoors are a Western, Bootcamp or Caveman theme. If a two- or three-day reunion isn’t an option for your family this year, try an afternoon at a park, group picnic site or another outside venue.

One of the things we’ve learned these past few years is that it’s not really important where or when we gather as a family, it’s just important that we gather. The great outdoors is the perfect place to make that happen. For more fun reunion ides, our Fun and Games at Your Next Reunion guide will help you budget, plan, and brainstorm for games.

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