Reunion planning expert Jeff Mills from Mills Marketing Group will lead a workshop hosted by the Albany Convention and Visitor’s Bureau on Feb. 1 at Merry Acres Inn and Conference Center on Dawson Road. (Special photo)
ALBANY — Family reunions are becoming big business for some cities, and Albany is among the leaders having played host to more than 105 reunions last year.
In order to help families plan for a reunions in the community, the Albany Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB) is hosting its fourth annual Family Reunion Workshop Feb. 1 at Merry Acres Inn and Conference Center.
The workshop, hosted by hospitality entrepreneur and event planner Jeff Mills of Mills Marketing Group, will provide individuals that are planning a family or class reunion with important information on how to make the event a success.
Mills, who started a program for people planning reunions while he was working with a CVB in the Atlanta area, believes reunions are important for both helping families reconnect and for helping the economy of many communities.
“It helps the local community,” Mills said. “It’s an important market to help grow a local economy. It also brings people back to their heritage. There are also a lot of families that can’t go on vacation due to the economy but if it’s family, they can sometimes find the money and then the reunion turns into a vacation for them. It’s a very touching time to get with family.”
The program, which is being offered at no charge, will cover a variety of different subjects pertaining to planning and executing a reunion, said Mills.
Topics covered will include how to build a computer data base for keeping track of family members and activities that can be used each year regardless of the planner or the destination, how to stay in touch with family, how to work with hotels and attractions to get group rates and discounts and how to build committees within the group to share some of the burden for planning, setting up and cleaning up.
“It’s an all encompassing program,” said Mills. “It’s a fun hour and half, two hours. It’s a good time.”
In addition to learning how to properly manage reunions, the things learned in the workshop about record keeping end up being a good place for many to start developing a family tree, which helps to preserve family continuity through the generations.
To that end, following Mills’ workshop, Tommy Gregors, the executive director of Thronateeska Heritage Center, will conduct a presentation called Persevering Family Histories.
Representatives from area hotels, event facilities, caterer companies, photographers and other vendors will also be on site to meet with individuals who might be planning reunions in Albany.
Individuals will also have an opportunity to learn how the CVB can also assist in reunion planning. According to Rashelle Beasley, director of the CVB, it was the organization’s desire to further help individuals properly plan for reunions that prompted its leaders to initiate the workshops and invite Mills.
“We have always done services for family reunions, but we couldn’t offer to help people price the reunion and then sell the reunion to their family members,” Beasley said. “We brought Jeff in to educate everybody on those kinds of things and it has really helped. Since he’s gotten involved the number of attendees has grown and people are excited about the information they’re receiving.”
Beasley also reiterated Mills’ point that reunions are good for many communities’ economy, saying that the CVB hopes that in addition to helping local families plan reunions, groups from outside Albany will start choosing the area for their reunion destination.
“It’s an opportunity for us to reach out,” Beasley said. “We want to not only grow within our own community but bring other families here to have their reunions. We have great facilities and many of the things that larger cities have, but our price point is much more affordable.”
The event is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. and last until 4 p.m. Anyone interested in registering to attend can contact CVB Sales Manager J.D. Sumner at firstname.lastname@example.org or (229) 317-4760.