For eight decades, descendants of Felix and Olivia Wood have celebrated the importance of faith, family, friends and the future.
This year will be no different, but may be more memorable, as relatives reach a special milestone in their unique tradition.
The three-day gathering in Newnan this May will mark 90 years for the “Wood Family Reunion.”
“I haven’t missed a reunion since I was born,” said Alma Geter-Woods.
“It shows that our family is very important to us,” added Betty Melson, Alma’s niece. “This was something that was started long ago, and we’re still doing it 90 years later. We hope some of the younger members will find the same joy in our gathering as we do.”
Betty and Alma, both of Newnan, are members of the Wood Family Reunion planning committee. The group meets once a month to prepare for the upcoming affair.
This year, the event will include a variety of activities in Newnan and Atlanta.
The Wood Family Reunion is no small feat - each year, between 200-250 folks attend the special gathering.
Every other year, the families take the reunion on the road to a new destination, such as Myrtle Beach, S.C., Chicago, Ill. and Memphis, Tenn.
“We were in Miami last year. Everyone loved it,” said Alma.
While the location of the reunion may change from year to year, the date does not. The gathering is always held in May, during the Mother’s Day weekend.
It’s the same weekend the 13 children of Felix and Olivia Wood hosted the first family gathering in 1928. The children organized a “Mother’s Day Dinner” to honor Olivia, said Betty and Alma.
In the following years, the dinner would be held at the home of one of the children. People would dress in their Sunday best, bring plenty of food to share and fellowship with each other.
The youngest members of the family were also required to perform.
“We had to dress up in our Easter dresses and recite our Easter speeches,” Betty remembered. “People wore a red rose if their mother was still living, or a white rose if their mother was deceased. My mom had a rose bush, so we always went out and made sure we got our rose.”
The annual Mother’s Day Dinner continued to grow as more family members joined the tradition. In 1991, instead of hosting the event in someone’s home, relatives decided to find a venue large enough to accommodate everyone.
That was the first year the group held the gathering at Georgia Power Park.
They also renamed the event to the “Wood Family Reunion.”
Despite those changes, the significance of the homecoming remains the same, said Alma.
“We love our family and know the importance of family. We come together and are genuinely happy to see each other. We don’t skip a year because a lot happens in 12 months,” she said. “It’s fun to introduce each family and have them tell us something new. There may have been a marriage, a new baby, or someone is graduating… little babies are now attorneys, doctors and pastors.
“Our faith is what keeps us together,” Alma continued. “Whatever we do, we always start with prayer and songs of praise.”
“We also teach children about their roots. We want them to know their family,” added Betty.
The reunion has some serious moments, but light-hearted ones, too. Children get to showcase their talents and prizes are awarded for accomplishments, such as the “oldest member,” “youngest member” and to the person who traveled the farthest.
While this year’s reunion will set an unprecedented benchmark for the Wood family and their descendants, both women hope the annual gathering will be record-breaking for years to come.
“My prayer is that the young ones will want to take over, come to the planning meetings and keep the tradition going,” said Alma. “We don’t ever want it to go away. It’s important our family stays together.”
This year, the Wood Family Reunion will be held the weekend of May 11.
The three-day celebration will begin with a “Meet and Greet” in the Fellowship Hall of St. Smyrna Baptist Church on Friday, May 11. The group will host a banquet dinner on May 12, at the Doubletree Hotel in College Park. The reunion will culminate with a gathering at Georgia Power Park on Sunday, May 13.