Black Meetings and Tourism

September/October 2014

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B M & T ••• September/October 2014 ••• 23 BY RUFUS MCKINNEY R eunions are a gift bestowed upon us to reconnect with friends, family, and co-workers. In this hyper speed age, it has become even more essential to not lose track of the bonds that made us who we are. As the nature of the world changes, so has the nature of reunions. Although the traditional reunion is still a popular event, things are changing. Destinations not normally associated with reunion travel are embracing this market. The birth of African-American family reunions can be traced back to Emancipation. Former slaves began the search for distant family members, by placing ads in newspapers or simply asking those who toiled on nearby plantations. For those able to reconnect, the reunions were glorious celebratory affairs. Today, global economic conditions are accelerating the growth in family reunions, as family members leave the nest to find employment in distant states or even foreign countries. Several studies suggest that an estimated that 90 percent of all family reunions are held by African-Americans. REUNIONS PROVIDE GROWING SOURCE OF REVENUE TYPES OF REUNIONS The most common reunion is a family reunion. These joy- ous events tend to attract any- where from 100 to 400 family members looking to reconnect and have a good time. Family reunions generally last about three to four days, primarily in the summer months. More often than not, family reunions take place on the weekends, beginning on a Thursday or Friday and ending on Sunday. Most family reunions are sim- ple affairs that will incorporate some sort of outdoor picnic or barbeque. A banquet or dinner event is also standard and allows the family to gather in a more formal setting. A variety of activities are also scheduled to keep things busy and excit- ing for the duration of the reunion. Military reunions have a much wider range in attendees with some reunions attracting thousands of participants, but as with family reunions gener- ally take place over three days during the weekend. Whereas family reunions usually occur in the summer months, military reunions are spread throughout the year with many being held in the spring and fall months. The major difference in the mil- itary reunions is in the activi- ties. They will usually include a formal banquet as well as tours of local museums and military attractions. Organizations such as the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. and the 369th Veterans Association, Inc. would fall into this category. Class reunions are similar to family reunions in terms of numbers, attracting between 50-200 people in most cases. The activities tend to be simi- lar as well, usually incorporat- ing a daytime picnic of sorts, a dinner event and excursions to local attractions and sites.

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