Bringing your high school class back together is a combination of Martha Stewart planning and CIA sleuthing

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But pity the reunion committee — that dedicated group of people who make it all happen for your enjoyment. The planning, the decision making, the searching for lost classmates, the menu, the venue, the searching for lost classmates …

Meet Lewiston High School’s Class of 1970 Reunion Committee: seven motivated and energetic people who are determined to give their former classmates a great 40th reunion experience this summer. “Behind the scenes there’s a lot of work being done,” says Monique “Nicky” Hamann.

Guy Langelier, fellow committee member, attests that planning a reunion’s tough enough, but a 20-year reunion presents a few more challenges than a 5- or 10-year fete. Oh, where or where did those graduates go, or where or where …

Depending on the size of the event, planning typically should begin 12 and 16 months before the reunion, they say. “It’s time consuming,” says Linda Bussiere Beaulieu. “Start early. It may not be a formal meeting, but something needs to happen about a year before.”

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This committee met for the first time on Oct. 19, 2009, and continues to meet once a month. At this month’s meeting the group finalized the invitations and the accompanying event invite for a barbecue the night before at the home of two classmates. And, of course, there was the update on how the search for classmates was going. Certain challenges for a 20-year reunion committee are clear from the start. 

The date

But first, everyone says a fundamental decision critical to successful reunion planning is setting the date.

“We started off trying for August, and ended up with a date in July,” says Langelier.

“You really need to decide on a date and stick to it,” adds Denise Bonenfant Leifester.

Hamann and Carolyn Arenburg went to the initial reunion meeting on a whim to see which of their former classmates might be there. None of the committee members had been part of the class’ executive board back in high school, but Arenburg had been involved in planning a previous reunion.

“When they announced that they were having the meeting, I wasn’t planning to be on the committee,” says Hamann. “I just thought I’d show up to see who of my friends would be there. And we ended up becoming part of the committee.”

Location, location, location

Once the date was set, finding a venue was next. Bonenfant Leifester says that after shopping around and considering the venues for past reunions, they decided to go with The Carriage House on Lisbon Street.

“We wanted to stay in Lewiston,” she says. The group admitted this choice limited the venues they had to choose from, but keeping their business in the town they graduated from was important to them.

Having an approximate idea of how many people will be attending is helpful in choosing the venue, so the 865 e-mails that Langelier has received regarding the reunion gave him a roundabout guess of 75 classmates, some with guests. Arenburg suspects as many as 95 will attend.

Next up: the food, music and atmosphere. In order to keep ticket prices reasonable, says Langelier and Bonenfant Leifester, they shopped around for DJs and considered various meal options. And they tried to get ideas from past reunion-goers.

“We tried to get some feedback on what we had in the past,” says Bonenfant Leifester. “They wanted a lot more socialization; didn’t want the music too loud, so that they could talk.”

Bussiere Beaulieu says they also used the planning staff at The Carriage House to help them decide on the music and meal since they have quite a bit of experience with that type of function.

“We were thinking at first that we didn’t want a sit-down meal, but people do eventually want to sit down and relax a little,” says Bussiere Beaulieu.

While the planners all agree not everyone will prefer the end result, they think most everyone will enjoy the two-and-a-half hours of buffet-social time, followed by dancing.

Playing sleuth

But who will be there?

Langelier says tracking down long-lost classmates decades after graduation can be difficult. Especially when those classmates are all over the world. Contacting them requires research and time; having a reliable contact list is essential.

“It’s easier when you first get out of high school and still have ties with people around town,” says Arenburg. “Parents are still living and siblings are still in town.”

“We were fortunate to have someone like Guy (Langelier) who had all these names. He’s like an FBI agent,” says Bussiere Beaulieu.

“If you have a list, keep it up-to-date,” recommends Deborah Ouellette Simoneau.

The phone book and the Internet are by far the most utilized resources for tracking classmates down, says Arenburg.

Hamann says she was even planning to go three streets over from where her second house in Florida is located to where a classmate used to have a place, and knock on neighbors’ doors to see if they know where her classmate moved to.

Langelier says that any connections available should be utilized to find missing class members. “A lot of people got rid of their phones, but we were sure some of them still live here,” says Langelier. “So I used the city of Lewiston’s GIS site. So for people that also own property in Lewiston, but live somewhere else, that’s how we were able to find them.”

“Obituaries, too,” adds Bonenfant Leifester.

Arenburg and Patricia Dennis Turner say Web sites like Pipl and Zabasearch, as well as AT&T’s Anywho phone search, were helpful in locating those still missing on their list.

Facebook has been another helpful resource in more ways then one, the group said. Hamann says that through Facebook she has connected with former classmates that she didn’t know well during school, and she is looking forward to seeing them at the reunion.

“I think it’s stirred up more interest and I think more people are talking to each other. It’s creating a buzz,” she says. “Everybody is talking about it.”

“And 40 is big,” adds Bonenfant Leifester. “I mean, we don’t know if we will all be here for 45.”

As of last week, the committee had found all but 13 classmates.

More decisions, more details

Whether to have another social event on their reunion weekend, how invitations should be handled and where visiting classmates will stay were among the other decisions committee members faced.

Save-the-date postcards were mailed out to all classmates with contact information, and the group planned to mail the official invitations at the three-months-to-go mark to give everyone a chance to make arrangements.  The postcards will also hopefully stir up interest and serve as a reminder that a night of reminiscing is not far away.

And the committee decided on another event. “We have two activities going. We have the reunion itself, and then there is a barbecue the Friday before”at the home of two classmates,  says Bonenfant Leifester.

During their most recent meeting, members even discussed adding hotels that will be available to out-of-town classmates for a special rate.  Making sure everyone has a good time is all about the details.

The 35th reunion saw a classmate turnout of 105, and the group said they are excited to see who might show up that didn’t go to the last reunion, as well as more familiar faces.

“Just to see people you haven’t seen,” says Langelier. “We have people all over the world.”

“To me, the bonds you make in high school last a long time,” notes Bonenfant Leifester. “You might forget about it, but when you get together again, you just reconnect and it’s a lot of fun.”

Paul Caron

David Conner

George Corriveau

Joel Deschaines

Virginia Fetter Penn

Rita Girardin Girouard

Raymond Grenier

Patricia Johnson

Laura Lee Levasseur Deraps

Laurier W. Levesque

Linda Ann McKeon Gailor

Catherine Phillips

Clifford Spencer

Francine L. Tremblay Lachance

Rene Violette

William Cram

Contact Guy Langelier at 782-4425 or GRL1951@aol.com, and Denise Bonenfant Leifester at dleifester@leeautomall.com.

Planning your high school reunion? Here are some tips to help:

Start early. A year to a year-and-a-half in advance.

Research venues in the desired area, as well as lodging for out-of-town guests.

If the venue chosen has an event staff, utilize their expertise and advice.

Add activities throughout the weekend before and after the event to give classmates more time to catch up and reminisce if they’d like.

Send Save-this-date postcards.

Solicit donations from local businesses for door prizes.

Create a then-and-now slide show with photos submitted by classmates.

Visit these Web sites for more information and ideas:

http://www.ehow.com/how_8694_affordable-class-reunion.html

http://www.ehow.com/how_135373_organize-high-school.html

http://www.reunionannouncements.com/articles/3/Planning-the-Perfect-Class-Reunion.php

Welcome to the National Association of Reunion Managers Website.

http://top7business.com/?id=1403

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