Family reunion advice, sites wide-ranging

Some of you are fighting winter by planning for summer. Smart strategy. This is the time to snag your first choice of location for a family reunion.

I’ve been asked to recommend good places for Wisconsin reunions, and much depends upon your budget, interests, need for privacy and the composition of your group. Go to www.reunionsmag.com, the online home for Milwaukee-based Reunions Magazine, to get ideas about how to organize reunion details, weigh options and turn your event into something that satisfies multiple generations (not an easy trick).

Want more advice? Temple University’s Family Reunion Institute (www.temple.edu/fri) organizes the annual National Family Reunion Conference, this year March 15-18 in Philadelphia. The institute, around since 1990, exists primarily as a resource for families who have reunions.

“We see the family reunion as a catalyst for carrying out critical extended family functions such as providing a sense of belonging and concern, transmitting a sense of identity and direction, and strengthening values,” Temple University says online.

And you thought it was just a way to size up your cousin’s newest husband or guess how many pounds Aunt Edna has gained since last year. Hah!

This event can be about figuring how to divide the menu, to produce a great potluck. It also can delve into the preservation of family treasures, be they material goods – like heirlooms or photos – or a relative who is in an emotionally fragile place.

“How to Organize a Family Reunion,” on Temple’s website, is free advice about activities – talent shows to recognition ceremonies – that can build egos while strengthening family bonds. Reunion invitations and souvenirs can be clever, but if relatives are holding grudges or bored with each other, why bother?

A few years ago, I asked newspaper readers to share family reunion advice. They wrote about organizing a family Olympics, raffle, quilting project, baseball and card games. They got recipes for the family favorites brought to potlucks, then created a cookbook.

Some choose a different person to roast, or toast, every year. Others reminisce and educate younger generations about family history and ethnic traditions as they put together scrapbooks and cook.

Where can you go to reunite? It can be the local park for an afternoon, or another country for a taste of a foreign culture. That’s where budget, preferences and time constraints are factored.

Any place is fair game, but here are a handful of unusual choices that are close to home:

Minnesuing Acres
, near Superior, was built for the family who started the Radisson hotel chain. Accommodations are private and upscale; just one group reserves lodging at a time, so you have the place to yourselves. Check out the Guest and Island houses; together, they’d give you 11 bedrooms, plus loft sleeping space. Add the main lodge, and there are 28 additional rooms for rent. For more: www.minnesuingacres.com, 218-727-1328.

Inn Serendipity Woods, an environmentally smart A-frame cabin near Hillsboro, has a private swimming hole and room to sleep six people. Have a bigger group? Guide them to lodging in nearby Reedsburg, or camping at Wildcat Mountain State Park, then make this your base for group activity. The cabin owners are nationally known for their energy conservation and “green tourism” work. For more: www.inserendipity.com, 608-329-7056.

Dillman’s Bay Resort, on the Lac du Flambeau reservation, provides basic to deluxe accommodations in a pretty and tranquil setting. It is pet friendly, too, in case anybody has a dog. Minocqua and its touristy elements are nearby if you get tired of the peace and quiet, fishing and sunbathing. Proprietors also schedule creative arts workshops during much of the year (Family Art Week is Aug. 12-17; instructors lead classes for children to adults.) For more: www.dillmans.com, 715-588-3143.

Heidel House Resort, on Green Lake, is a lovely summer resort with all the amenities. A friend has rented the Stable House for family reunions for many years – she loves the location and set-up. It has four bedrooms, three baths, two fireplaces, two whirlpools and a full kitchen. Also for rent, besides conventional hotel rooms, are the A-frame Carriage House (seven guest rooms, including small lofts) and the Bungalow (has six beds, including two sofa sleepers). Both have kitchens. For more: www.heidelhouse.com, 800-444-2812.

Also, as I mentioned last week: www.vrbo.com is Vacation Rentals By Owner, a database that may be helpful for lavish to budget travelers. I have used it and been satisfied with the results, although your experience will depend upon the particular property owner with whom you do business.