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How to Make Your Family Reunion a “Thriller"

Updated on September 9, 2014
"Dr. Death" and his brother, "Dracula"
"Dr. Death" and his brother, "Dracula" | Source

Jelling with “Old School Jam”

How would you like to have the Tempremes, Bootsey and the Dancing Dead perform at your family reunion? Now that would be the ticket -- better than parking at the picnic table, scoffing down hot dogs and potato salad while “chewing the fat” with folks you haven’t seen in a spell.

(Vote on "Thriller" and other "Old School Jam" videos below.)

Back to Life
Back to Life | Source

Raising the Dead for The OSJ!

About a decade ago, when we initiated our reunion, we started to think of ways to make it nostalgic without being lethargic, with a limited amount of bench warming. We knew we could add “Cupid Shuffle” in the mix, but we wanted to “Boogie on Down” to some funky music from uptown to Motown. To achieve that, we developed a dance competition among kin -- to stir up a harmonious recipe that would bind together everyone from the baby-haireds to gray-haireds.

AWEsome shakes up the OSJ stage!
AWEsome shakes up the OSJ stage! | Source

“No Parking on the Dance Floor”

My maternal grandparents, Rev. C.A. and Gertrude, had six children, whom we affectionately labeled “The Underwood Six Pack.” Why not call the family of each Six Pack a “tribe”, we thought, reminiscent of the TV show “Survivor”? For a tribe to reign victorious, each member would need to bring it!

Car Wash

Jamming in my powder blue tux
Jamming in my powder blue tux | Source

Belting it Out!

The tribes would select an “Old School” tune to lip-sync and choreograph. “Old School” could mean a song that was originally recorded as a ‘45 back in the day … even in the last century (such as “1999”). We specified that the songs had to have clean lyrics and content. After all, “It’s Family Affair.”

Trophies and medallions are the best medicine for a lively reunion.
Trophies and medallions are the best medicine for a lively reunion. | Source

“And the Hammy Goes To…”

The winner of the Underwood OSJ would take home not a Grammy, but a “Hammy”; an original trophy skillfully fashioned from a can of Underwood Deviled Ham. As the tribes became more competitive, we upgraded our trophy to a disco ball trophy, like the one used on “Dancing with the Stars.” In our efforts to make sure that everyone felt like a winner, we created medallions by printing logos on mini CDs. These were an instant hit and became a collector’s item for family members. Over the years, the medallions gave way to homemade ”backstage passes,” which were extremely popular with “Generation Z” (Learn how to make the medallions and backstage passes in an upcoming Hub.)

It's a family affair.
It's a family affair. | Source

Dance Panel Tapped

As the competition began to heat up, we started to search for an impartial panel of judges. We tapped local politicians such as the mayor, school board and city council members to rate our performances and award the trophy. This helped link our reunion to the community in Chester -- the South Carolina town where the reunion is held each year. We created a ballot for the panel that graded us on appearance, performance and lip sync ability.

An arresting family photo
An arresting family photo | Source

The Stage is Set!

In order to set the scene for our OSJ contest,we used disco backdrops, retro tablecloths and painted sheets to create be-dazzling backgrounds. Our reunion “stage” varied from a state park, to a local Victorian home to a community club house. When cousin D.J. John rolled out his bass-busting stereo, everyone knew that it was going to be a serious “throwdown.”

Partying with my hot pink boa
Partying with my hot pink boa | Source

Getting Decked Out

Each tribe came up with a group name. One was called “Loose Change”, based on the first song that they performed, “Money, Money, Money.” There were the Tempremes (a combination of the Tempations and Supremes), Quaytones, Arthurdelics and BK4 (named after family cousins).

Red, Hot Old School Brothers
Red, Hot Old School Brothers | Source

Salvation Army Chic

We all went salvaging for cool, psychedelic and vintage “rags” and “bling” from our relatives, thrift shops and party supply stores. We also used our own hand-crafted items to create throwback costumes and props for our performances.

During the early years when we performed at the state park, we put up canopies draped with sheets so that our OSJ VIPs would have their own “dressing rooms.”

Living In America

OSJ fans wait in great anticipation.
OSJ fans wait in great anticipation. | Source

“Come Big or Stay Home”

The very first OSJ Day was a blast and a gas! Kinsfolk began to arrive from all over the country. And even though most of us had precious little opportunity to practice, we were ready for the showdown. Tribes began to talk smack to each other, saying “ come big or stay home!” Disco Fever was “Bustin’ Loose.”

Mustache Mama
Mustache Mama | Source

Moovin' and Groovin'

During the day, anticipation for the OSJ challenge got hot and heavy. Some townsfolk would come just to see the OSJ. The party was “outta sight!” It helped unite families for a cause, ignited a healthy contest and created laugh out loud fun. It became so popular, it was eventually scheduled as the Family Fun Day finale. In retrospect, we can hardly believe we actually did some of the shtick that appears on the videos. But we like to think that the family that moves together grooves together!

You Be the Judge


What do you like best?

See results

Rolling on the River

What do you like best?

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Old School Medley

What do you like best?

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Night Time is the Right Time

What do you like best?

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Earth, Wind and Fire

What do you like best?

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I'm Gonna Make You Love Me

What do you like best?

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    • Your Cousins profile image

      Your Cousins 20 months ago from Atlanta, GA

      We had a blast creating lasting memories! Thanks for reading.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 20 months ago from USA

      Oh, this looks like a lot of fun. This year I am in charge of the family holiday party. It is a three-day event and I was searching for different ideas for each day. I want it to be memorable and your article has a lot of good and memorable activities. Thank you so much for sharing them with us.

    • Your Cousins profile image

      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks for your comment. It gives us a great opportunity to let our star qualities shine and live out our fantasies "onstage!"

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 4 years ago from TEXAS

      What fun! I've been involved in planning get-togethers in which there were talent shows, skits and a lot of foolishness and FUN. But your family reunion obviously brought together a lot of real talent! Very well done!

    • Your Cousins profile image

      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      The costumes were the easy part -- dancing and lip syncing at the same time is harder than you might think!

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 4 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      A great time was had by all! :)

      I especially loved the costumes. You're blessed with your family. Thank you for sharing.

    • Your Cousins profile image

      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks for reading -- be sure to vote on the performances.

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 4 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Great way to create good family memories! Fantastic YourCousin :-) Thank you for sharing and have a great week!

    • Your Cousins profile image

      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Yes, if you come complete with costume and choreography!

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 4 years ago from USA

      These look like so much fun! Will you adopt me!

    • Your Cousins profile image

      Your Cousins 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks Rebecca. Our family reunion is always thrillling!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      How nice! I'll bet you guys had a ton of fun. Cool family, best to all of you!


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