The threat of a thunderstorm couldn’t stop the festivities at the Haugabrook family picnic, the culmination of the Haugabook, Haugabrook and Haugabrooks family reunion on Sunday.
More than 200 members of the Haugabrook family, all matching in bright blue T-shirts, arrived by car and charter bus to the picnic at Virginia Key Beach park. Some explored the beach while the littlest Haugabrooks played on a nearby playground. Many sat and chatted in the shade at tables decorated with palm leaves and coconuts. The picnic menu included hamburgers, hot dogs, deep fried fish, baked beans, corn on the cob and sweet potato pies.
The picnic celebrated the final day of the 26th annual Haugabook, Haugabrook, Haugabrooks family reunion. Family members from Georgia, New York, Florida, and Michigan traveled to Miami to see the family for the weekend.
Lessie Reid, a Miami Gardens resident, attended the reunion with her husband, five children, 12 grandchildren and 14 great-grand children. Reid, 73, said she loves the opportunity to see her family every year.
“I enjoy being with the family so much because I don’t have a chance to see them every year by traveling to all the cities,” Reid said. “So by us all coming together, I get to see them every year.”
Elsie Drumb, 74, traveled the farthest, coming from Buffalo, N.Y.. Drumb said she looks forward to the reunion every year.
“I enjoy being with family because I think [family] is very important,” Drumb said. “The love that they show is what keeps me coming back.”
The jam-packed weekend also included a tour of Miami, a family church service, and a dinner cruise in Biscayne Bay. This year’s Miami reunion host James Davis, a 1991 graduate of Hialeah Miami Lakes Senior High School, said the cruise was the highlight of the weekend.
“This year we decided to think out of the box, and instead of being confined to a hotel ball room, we decided to take a private family dinner cruise,” Davis said. “The family was still allowed to dance, there was music on the boat, and we just had a wonderful, wonderful time.”
Judy Rice, who traveled from Michigan with her husband and daughter, also said the cruise was her favorite part of the reunion.
“The young people were dancing with us more seasoned members,” Rice said. “It was a common ground where we were all in the same spot. And just seeing Miami was spectacular.”
Judy’s husband, Darryl, is the youngest of 16. Fourteen of his siblings also attended the reunion with their children.
“I haven’t seen my brothers and sisters since last year,” Darryl said. “This is a good time to catch up on what they’re doing and what’s going on in their life.”
The first reunion was held in 1990 in Macon, Ga.. The reunion founder, Joseph Haugabrook, said he wanted a large reunion where the entire family could get together in one place.
“We wrote letters and called family members,” Haugabrook said. “From that we got about 100 people for the first reunion.”
Joseph had another interesting reason for starting the reunion.
“I discovered that it’s so easy for a family member to have a romantic relationship with a family member and not know,” he said. “That’s one of the things that really stirred this reunion.”
Joseph also researches the family history. He has tracked the Haugabooks to 1796 when the first family members came to America. Joseph is still working to find out where in Africa the original Haugabooks emigrated from, but he said they came to America in two different waves. According to Joseph, one group of the Haugabook family came on their own. The other Haugabook group was brought to America as slaves and worked in Macon County, Ga.
Joseph’s research also helped the family understand the three different spellings of their last name.
“’Brook’ got added when a lot of the census takers in earlier times just decided to put an ‘r’ in it. That was way back in the late 1800s,” Joseph said. He said the ‘s’ at the end of the name was added by family members in California who decided to change their names when joining the military.
Each Haugabook, Haugabrook, Haugabrooks reunion has a theme, chosen by the reunion host. Davis said he adapted this year’s theme, “Remember, Celebrate, Act!” from The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (The King Center) in Atlanta, where Davis now lives.
“I was so inspired by their theme from this past year’s King holiday observance,” Davis said. “So I decided to adopt that because I thought this is exactly what I want our family to do: To remember, to celebrate, as well as to act.”