Estes Park, in the Rockies, is an ideal place for a family reunion Taking the Kids

September 12, 1993|By Eileen Ogintz | Eileen Ogintz,Contributing Writer

ESTES PARK, Colo. -- The brothers, all in their 30s and 40s, nabbed the oldest one just outside his lodge room, smearing shaving cream all over him, themselves and anyone else who got in the way, just as they had as boys.

That's one family tradition that surely will endure, I thought, as a glob of shaving cream hit me smack on the neck.

The six siblings in my husband's family, their parents, spouses and children -- 23 of us in all -- were gathered at the YMCA of the Rockies' Estes Park Center, just outside Rocky Mountain

National Park, for a weeklong family reunion to nurture the family connections . . . dumb traditions and all.

Like most American families, we're spread across the country. It had been 15 years since everyone had managed to be in the same place at the same time. We wanted to give the cousins -- who range from teens to toddlers -- a chance to get to know each other.

But where to go? Someplace centrally located. Somewhere where none of us would have to cook for 23 people. It couldn't be too expensive. And there had to be plenty of activities for kids.

The 840-acre Estes Park Center had all we needed. And it was a relative bargain, too: less than $1,000 a week for a family of four, including meals and most activities.

We didn't realize until we arrived that we had stumbled onto the quintessential family-reunion track -- the fastest-growing segment of their business, according to YMCA of the Rockies' marketing director David Thomas, who noted that some reunions are booked two years in advance. (Details: [800] 777-YMCA.)

So many reunions are held here and at the YMCA's Snow Mountain Ranch in Winter Park, Colo., southwest of Estes Park (600 this year, YMCA officials said), that a family program coordinator is now in place to oversee activities for such families.

"I get calls all the time from people planning reunions a year ahead, who discover that places are already booked," says Edith Wagner, editor of the magazine Reunions. (A subscription is $24 a year: P.O. Box 11727 Milwaukee, Wis., 53211. Send the magazine a note about your reunion and $2 for handling, Ms. Wagner said, and the editors will send you a sample issue.)

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