Jul 14, 2010

Lichi-Vitale Famiglia Riunione - July 10, 2010

My father's side of the family has a reunion every two years. Our first one was back in 1987, then we had a big birthday party for my grandma's 90th in 1990...and ever since we've gotten together bi-annually. How do you like our family logo? The pizza man was drawn by my father years ago and he just kind of stuck around. The other part of the logo was just officially added this year, designed by my cousin, John Fullerton. Two years ago we actually had a "new logo" contest with several designs entered. There ended up being a "tie" between a new design and keeping the old one...so this new logo is a combination of both. I love it, and I love what it says about the spirit of cooperation in our family to honor the past while embracing the next generation.

Back in April, my hubby and I hosted a committee planning meeting at our house. This year was the first time the "second generation" Americans -- me, my siblings & cousins, were totally in charge of planning the reunion. My mom attended to help us in the transition, so there were 12 of us altogether.

One of the unique things that we have is a Family Information Book. One of my aunts, Coni Lichi, started this years ago, and she has faithfully updated it for every reunion. The way it works is when a family member turns 18, they get their own book, and bi-annual updates. The looseleaf book contains names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. It also contains an almanac with interesting family facts such as "youngest bride", "most grandchildren", "most popular middle name", "longevity in marriage", a special page noting all who have served in our country's military, and so forth. Everyone is also encouraged to provide updates on their families since the previous reunion, such as births, graduations, passings, or just what your kids are up to. One of the changes the next generation has brought to the table is putting all this information on a CD.

After the initial planning meeting each reunion year, a newsletter goes out to everyone with basic information about the upcoming events. In this transition year, we tried sending it as an email attachment to those who do email, and continued to send it by snail mail to those who don't. We have a few bugs to work out before the next reunion, but we are pressing on to do as much electronically as possible to save time and money.

We traditionally hold our reunions on even numbered years, the first Saturday after the 4th of July. We rent a lodge at a park in our home town which is air-conditioned and also has plenty of room on the grounds for games and it also has a supervised wading pool for the kids.

Something new we added for the first time this year was an adults-only wine-tasting party on Friday night of the reunion weekend. It was held at my sister Barb's house and everyone brought their favorite bottle of wine or a non-alcoholic beverage to share, and a snack or appetizer.

About 30 of the family members came. Youngest in attendance was my niece, Sarah, 21...pictured here with my mom, 81.

and oldest in attendance was my aunt Angie, 91! She and my daughter-in-law Ellie are puttiing out some snacks.

The rain let up just in time for us to be outside and enjoy my sister's lovely yard...

See those huge leaves? That is a fig tree, and not just any fig tree! Clippings have been preserved from my grandfather's tree from decades ago, and several family members keep the trees alive through NE Ohio winters by bending them down and burying them in leaves to protect them. They produce good figs every year. Once the trees get too large to bend and bury each winter, they will die...so we just keep taking shoots and replanting them, keeping the trees relatively small and manageable.

Some of the fun things we do on reunion day are:

Spaghetti sauce contest! This is the second time we have done it and it is a big hit. Whoever wants to enter simply brings their sauce in a crockpot, and we line them up in the kitchen of the lodge. There are little pieces of bread to be dipped in the sauces for tasting, and a place to cast your vote. Last reunion, I won the Boss of the Sauce award, but this year my brother Bob beat me out!

Dessert Contest! My sister Barb and my niece Sarah have been sponsoring this for a number of years. They randomly pick judges from attendees, who at the appointed time don their aprons and walk around sampling the dessert table. (Nasty job, but someone has to do it!)

From left: my brother, Don Lichi, cousin John's wife, Mindy Fullerton, and my cousin Dave Scichilone.

I mean, how could they possibly choose?? The first place winner was that peach pie in the front of the photo, made by my second cousin, Dave Vitale. Second place went to the 4th item in the front row, which was a lemon raspberry cake made from scratch by my cousin's daughter, Jillian Fullerton. Third place went to Joanna Stager, my daughter-in-law, for her raspberry tiramisu, the third dessert in the front row.

My sister, Barb Jochum, announcing the dessert contest winners!

Here's Dave with his 1st place ribbon and empty pie plate!

Children's crafts! This year, my cousin's daughter, Jessica Chalk, (who happens to be getting married this Sunday in Washington State!) provided crafts for kids under age 12. Here they are, painting light weight back packs...

Jessica and my granddaughter, Elylah, demonstrating how they can paint their hand prints...

Janaye and her second cousin Samantha, working on their projects...

Guessing games! This tradition has been around for quite a while. Whoever wants to brings a guessing game and they are all layed out on a table. Whoever guesses the the number of items in the jar wins the jar of goodies. Usually it is candy or peanuts, but sometimes it is coins!

My cousin's daughter Janaye won this container of M&M's for making the closest guess as to how many there were. She's in her bathing suit because she was swimming in the wading pool.

The raffle! Our reunions are funded by our raffles. The raffle has grown in volume and quality of items over the years and the drawing for winners is a really fun part of the day. This year, I made decorative and disposable bags with a slit in the back for raffle tickets, the tickets having been made by my cousin John. Family members voluntarily bring items to go into the raffle, mostly hand crafted things or theme baskets, such as home canned goods from the garden, or an inspirational basket with candles, tea, books, etc. Folks have plenty of time to purchase the tickets at 6 for $5.00 and write their names on them, then place them into the numbered bag by the item that want to try to win.

My cousin Jodi Jones and her daughter Madison scanning over the items. Gulp! What's Uncle John doing with a knife in his hand??

My sister, Marcella, putting a ticket in the bag as she hopes to win Rita's basket of home canned sauces from her garden, as well as home made bread. Here's a better picture of the items:

We also include a raffle for the children. Here is a madras belt made by my daughter-in-law, Ellie...and won by my grandson Ethan!

That's my dad's cousin's wife, Jan Vitale, showing the belt before the winner was called.

Jan and her daughter-in-law, Rita Vitale, take responsiblity for setting up the raffle items and calling the winners. My cousin's son, Braxton, is a helper.

I am about to win this beautiful Christmas throw, hand made by my sister-in-law, Lynn Lichi...

My mom got a little emotional as she was winning just about everything her heart desired...

And here is Aunt Angie,

who just won this!

a beautiful hand quilted bedspread made by my mother-in-law, Olena Stager (left), who is 84 years old.

We have so many items to raffle off, that this year we decided to intersperse some entertainment with the drawings...here is my older son, Andy, playing and singing...

Uncle John telling some jokes...

And 12 year old Dominick playing keyboard...

Outdoor games! A big part of our reunions has always been outdoor games, both for the children and the adults. Several reunions back, we had to move from a different park we used to rent because the shelter house got too small for our growing family. But the grounds were more private and for a couple reunions, one of the family members brought their pony and the kids got free rides! We also had outdoor ping-pong tournaments. Before that, we had a few reunions at our parents'/grandparents' church, and at that time the reunions were held in the fall, so there were organized football games on the grounds, which we called "The Spaghetti Bowl". The park we use now is more in the city, with lots of shady trees, but there is still room for bocce and cornhole. These tournaments are organized and come with creative home-made "trophies"!

Here's my brother-in-law, Rodney and nephew, Michael...

from left: Dave, Marcella, Mike...

And the champs, holding their golden bags, Bob & Lynn...

Now bocce is quite the serious sport...Here's my brother, Don, his wife Marcie, and my sister Cindy looking over the grass court...

My cousin John ready to roll, while my nephews Adam and Robby look on...

Hubby Bob in action:

Sam and his dad were a team...

This is the part that always cracks me up...

And the winners are...

Brother Bob presents the trophies to winners Cindy and Connie, while father and son
look on...I think it was great they made it all the way to the finals!

My dad made this bean bag toss game for the kids years and years ago. I did my heart good to show it to my grandson, Deacon, and show him how to play!

Freebie Table! My dear Aunt Josephine who passed away not long after our last reunion in '08 at the age of 90 started a white elephant table many years ago. Family members bring in items of all kinds that they no longer want but that someone else might. Aunt Jo was an avid garage sale shopper, specializing in books, so it was only natural for her to establish a way we could trade stuff with each other! Anyone is free to take anything from the table. Can't get much more of a bargain than that!

Cotton Candy/Popcorn/Snow Cones anyone? We've done all of these at various times for the kids. There's just something extra exciting about being able to walk up to one of these machines and get a carnival-like snack for "free"...Here I am with Deacon, getting ready to set up the popcorn machine this year...


In addition to the spaghetti sauce (and spaghetti to go with it) and the fabulous desserts, we always have some really good fried chicken. Those are the staples! Then there are tables full of casseroles, veggies, salads, fruit...all those wonderful homemade picnic style foods that always seem to taste better when someone "else" makes them! Trust me, no one goes away hungry!

Memento! For many reunions now, if not all of them, we have had some kind of commerative item that folks can purchase to take home. We've had things like T-shirts, ball caps, decorative plates, printed plastic mugs, etc. (I actually had a collection of every item at one time, but I boxed them up and put them into the raffle a few years back!) This year we had a choice of these mugs with our new logo on them...The ceramic mug and spoon set was only $6 and the stainless steel travel mug was only $7.50.

Monday morning brunch...Back in 1996 a new tradition started when I invited all the ladies who were still around after reunion weekend to my house for a brunch. This year, the brunch was held at Leslie Vitale's beautiful home. It is always a relaxing time to sit around and reminisce, and said our good-byes till next time!


So now, dear blogger friends, you know why I have been "missing in action" for a couple of weeks. It's been a very busy time, and my SC family was here for a whole week as well. There were about 80 in attendance at the reunion this year...a very good number though we were missing many family members who weren't able to make it. Family is such a blessing, and a real gift from God. My hubby likes to say we are all about fun, food, faith, fellowship, and fertility! He grew up as an only child without any real extended family around. I just can't imagine not having all these grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews enriching my life.

I would love to hear what some of you do for your family gatherings. We are always open to new ideas and suggestions. Please share with me!!


Nellie's Cozy place said...

Hi Jacquelyn,
What a wonderful time you all look like you are having!! So many fun things to do. That quilt your Mother made was unbelievable beautiful. So nice there is something for everyone to do. What a neat thing, our family was always too small for family reunions, the closest thing we had for one was when my grandmother passed away just before christmas one year. She was almost 92, so it wasn't a big shock, and we all really did have a nice time together. Sad reason, but a good thing!!
Very nice post and it will be a nice recorded memory for the whole family. Good going!!
Blessings, Nellie
Say Hi to Pastor Roland and Joan for me.

Jess said...

Oh Jacque, I have missed you and now I see how busy you've been!
Thank you for inviting us to share in your joy! What a feast of family, fun and food!!!
My heart sang as I looked at all the photos from your planning meeting to the popcorn machine with your grandson in your arms.
I would LOVE to be a part of something soooo special. My hubbys' Italian family seems to be content with the distance between us...or maybe since the siblings all live in NJ (except for us) it doesn't seem a necessity to gather for a reunion.
I am "fired up" to make it happen once before we are too old!

So glad your family has made it a priority all these years. Now rest and replenish my sweet friend.

Brenda said...

Wow! and Wow again! Oh my goodness. What a reunion and what a great job of documenting it. That is pretty incredible. We have family reunions but nothing like this. What a great way of keeping the family coming together. I am going to check and see if our family wants to copy one or two of your ideas.

Judy said...

You are SOOOO blessed!

(but you already know that!)

Pat said...

I could never add a thing to your reunion...it has to be the best I've ever seen! How amazing!
I want to be part of your family, and I volunteer to judge the desserts.

Dar said...

No wonder you were missing in action...and action, you had...WOW!!!I am amazed at the number of things you do for your reunion. It's just absolutely fabulous.
Last year, my mother wanted to get all of her cousins together, so my sisters and I helped her organize The Cous Buzz with a bee theme for decorating and invitations. Everyone brought a dish to pass and we had the most fabulous time. Next year we will do it all again., but I have to say, you are one very organized group. We need to incorporate something new to keep the interest and I love the idea of an auction to fund the reunion as well as the White Elephant tables.
What fun.

Rebecca said...

I think YOU wrote "the book" on family reunions! This is just fabulous. It certainly takes a lot of planning and organization. I can't imagine how you squeeze everything into one day.

Who came the greatest distance to attend (and how far)?

Wanda..... said...

You have really been busy with organizing such a large, fun, creative, successful family reunion! So many wonderful events and entertaining activities!

A Jim Vitale and his family owned and operated a supermarket in our hometown for years. They were originally from New Jersey I believe!

Jacquelyn Stager said...

Thanks all...it has taken me the entire week to recuperate! But I'm still on a bit of a high over the whole thing! It was well worth all the hard work. The surname "Vitale" is pretty common in the old country...something like "Smith" or "Jones" here. I'm sure we're all related :)

Pat, you are so funny. I do have a lady friend I used to work with years ago. She is 83 now. Though a devout Christian who doesn't believe in reincarnation of course, she always jokes that if she ever gets to come "back" she wants to come back as a Lichi. What a compliment!

Rebecca, well let's see. We had some come from the Seattle area of Washington State, and some from Texas, and some from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and of course the SC kids. We're trying to convince some second cousins (my generation) from Italy/Sicily to come some time. We also have some of my dad's cousins (in their late '80's) out in California who we correspond with but they've never made it to a reunion.

I am truly blessed with my heritage and with so many who desire to keep the family close-knit.
Thanks all for taking the time to read this and comment!