Reunion Groups (Adapted from The Meeting Magazines September 2017 Article)

Article has been adapted from Meeting Magazines 2017 Article:

Many smaller cities, which may be considered second- or third-tier destinations, can be ideal for military reunions, says Ted Dey, founder of Armed Forces Reunions Inc. in Norfolk, Virginia. He points out that, as is the case with many other SMERF markets, his participants pay their own way, so the lower room rates and other expenses typical of smaller cities can be a plus.

At the same time, another factor adds an interesting dimension for military groups that may be less applicable across the board. “They like to congregate and share stories; they prefer to have function space where they are allowed to provide their own refreshments, including alcohol — which can be problematic,” Dey says.

But a number of other needs are more common across the different types of SMERF organizations. “Cities must have good airport access and attractive day tours, and the hotels must offer good rates and allow groups to provide their own refreshments,” Dey says. Other discounts also are important, he adds, including breaks on standard banquet menus and reduced costs for audio-visual equipment.

Obviously, some locations may be more attractive, or conversely less so, to specific groups depending on how they match with a given group’s interests. Proximity to museums or monuments may be attractive to military associations, for instance. Transportation is another part of the equation, so locations with ready access to interstates and rail or bus transportation is optimum. Having meeting venues, dining options and accommodations within easy walking distance is desirable.

Dey affirms that reunion groups are highly motivated by discounted pricing. “They will alter their dates and arrival/departure pattern to get lower rates,” he says. “And hotels can fill need nights by being flexible with rates.”

Dey recalls a successful meeting at the Hilton Minneapolis Airport where things went very well. There were 400 people in his group, a size larger than the restaurant could handle by serving only off the menu.  “At my request the hotel put special lunch and dinner buffets in the restaurant, with reasonable prices inclusive of service charge and tax,” he says. “The wait staff was not overwhelmed and folks could charge to their room and eat quickly.”

To ensure successful meetings, Dey focuses on effective negotiation. “Understand your members’ needs and negotiate everything into the hotel contract upfront, including banquet pricing and all the concessions such as AV discounts or comps,” Dey says. “Also ensure that the restaurant will accommodate by offering special buffets, and remember that groups like breakfast included in the rate.”

 

Reunion Recap: US Army Chaplain Corps Regimental Association

img_0347The United States Army Chaplain Corps Regimental Association hosted their 8th biennial Family Reunion in San Antonio, Texas last week. The event was hosted at the Historic Menger Hotel in the heart of downtown San Antonio right next to the Alamo.

img_0857The event officially kicked off on Wednesday, October 26th with registration. That evening attendees donned their coat and ties (for civilians) or dress uniforms (for active duty members) for the reunion’s reception dinner.

Thursday morning began with Devotionals across the hotel, followed by free time. That afternoon many attendees took a tour to the various San Antonio Missions, now UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The tour began with Mission San Jose, established in 1720 and considered to be the “Queen” of all the missions. That evening attendees had the opportunity for a once-in-a-lifetime, private, after-hours tour of the Alamo. Established in 1718 as San Antonio de Valero, the Alamo was the first of the five missions established in San Antonio by the Spanish government and the site of the famous battle of 1836 where 189 men gave their lives for the freedom of Texas.

On Friday afternoon, following morning Devotionals, attendees took a tour of the San Antonio City Tour. Points of interest on the tour included a stop at San Fernando Cathedral, the original church of the Canary Island settlers, a tour of the Main Plaza, a visit in the King William District, and the Japanese Sunken Garden. Following the City Tour, attendees met in the Menger’s beautiful ballroom for a Fiesta Dinner Buffet! The association decorated the banquet space with bright fiesta colors and a Mariachi band serenaded the group for over an hour! The association generously gifted AFR’s Event Planner, Allison Clark, with an American flag that flew over the Alamo in her name.

The reunion wrapped up on Saturday, October 29th beginning with a Business Meeting and moving into the Association’s Memorial Service.

This was AFR’s first year working with the US Army Chaplains Corps Regimental Association, but we are looking forward to planning their 2018 reunion in Washington, DC!

 

Reunion Recap: USS Memphis

14707953_10207540641741844_5222373591106074826_oEven Hurricane Matthew couldn’t keep the crew and guests of the USS Memphis away from their reunion in Norfolk, VA.  Concerns were discussed with the reunion committee and AFR, but based on forecasts and a determined spirit, the group decided, “The show must go on.”

Shipmates and guests started arriving at the host hotel, the Norfolk Waterside Marriott on Wednesday, but most bannerarrived on Thursday in time to register and hang out in the hospitality room.  Friday, a bus took the group to the Norfolk Naval Base for a guided tour and lunch at the Officer’s Club.  Once back downtown, they stopped at Nauticus, a maritime museum on Norfolk’s waterfront.  That evening, most joined together for dinner at the hotel, featuring an Italian Buffet.  Despite concerns of the weather, about 60 went on the Spirit of Norfolk for a lunch cruise on Saturday.  Saturday night, close to 100 friends gathered in the hotel ballroom for the USS Memphis Reunion Banquet.  The committee does a great job with the plans – including a slide show, cake cutting ceremony, and honoring departed comrades with a special table.  The reunion wrapped up Sunday morning at the Farewell Breakfast.  Many made promises to see each other ‘next time.’

Armed Forces Reunions, Inc. was contracted to hold the group’s first reunion in Memphis, Tennessee in 2014 and was honored to be asked again to plan this reunion.

Reunion Recap: USS Missouri BB-63 Association

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The USS Missouri BB-63 Association held their annual reunion from September 7-11, 2016 in Washington DC at the Sheraton Pentagon City Hotel. The reunion kicked off on Wednesday with registration and free time to browse the ship store or swap stories in the hospitality room.
img_0084On Thursday, attendees saw the sites of Washington on a Memorial Tour. The driving tour included a guided history of the nation’s War Memorials with stops at the Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial, and Naval Heritage Center, built to honor the sailors of the U.S. Navy. The group had lunch at Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, which is the largest building (3.1 million square feet) in Washington, DC.
 
The group headed to Annapolis, MD on Friday morning. Starting by spending time and eating lunch at one of the many dockside restaurants along the waterfront area of Annapolis. After lunch, attendees had a special Military Reunion tour of the United States Naval Academy. Beginning at the Academy Visitors Center for a warm welcome and slide img_0152presentation, the group made their way through the grounds enjoying a personalized walking tour. Stops on the tour included the chapel, John Paul Jones Crypt, and Bancroft Hall. On Friday evening, the group headed up to the 16th floor of the Sheraton Pentagon City to enjoy their annual Beer Bash. A keg of Sam Adams was provided along with some warm cookies, and music – best of all was the beautiful view of the Washington DC skyline.
 
On Saturday morning, the association’s members joined together for their Executive Committee Meeting and General Meeting before heading to the Kennedy Center to catch a performance of Shear Madness that evening.
 
Sunday, September 11th began with a moving Memorial Service in the Stars Ballroom on the 16th floor of the Sheraton Pentagon City overlooking the Pentagon and Air Force Memorial. That evening wrapped up the reunion with the group’s Banquet Dinner. 

Reunion Recap: USS Turner Joy

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The USS Turner Joy reunion group met at the Holiday Inn Virginia Beach – Norfolk Hotel & Conference Center over reunion-cookiesthe dates of September 22-25.  Armed Forces Reunions, Inc. has been booking groups at this hotel for over twenty years because it’s truly reunion friendly and offers lots of complimentary items like airport shuttle and parking.

The reunion started Thursday with registration and free time in the hospitality room as people arrived throughout the day.  After dinner, the group enjoyed an icebreaker reception with various desserts, fruit, cheese, and crackers.  On Friday, two buses took the group to the Norfolk Naval Base for a tour led by active duty military and then to lunch at the Officers Club.  Once in downtown Norfolk, attendees entered Nauticus, the maritime themed museum and science center, also home to the Battleship Wisconsin.  A memorial-servicemoving memorial service was held onboard the ship.  Saturday’s outing was back to downtown Norfolk where folks enjoyed a two-hour lunch cruise aboard the Spirit of Norfolk and then a stop at the MacArthur Memorial, a museum and research center dedicated to preserving and presenting the story of General of the Army, Douglas MacArthur.   As with most groups, the banquet was held Saturday evening which featured a buffet and guest speaker, Cort Barnes.   After a complimentary breakfast in the hotel restaurant (offered each morning), most said their farewells in hopes of seeing each other next time.

Armed Forces Reunions, Inc. has been honored to plan several of the USS Turner Joy reunions over the years and hopes to be of service in the future.