Playing GaGa Ball at YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park CO

Playing GaGa Ball at YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park CO

By Eileen Ogintz

ESTES PARK, CO (Day 3) — What’s the best part?

“All the space and the views of the mountains,” said Kyle Robertson, 15, who doesn’t have anything like the Rocky Mountains where he lives near Houston.

“Horseback riding!” said his cousin Ella Brogger, 13, who is also from Houston.

“Kick ball!” said Walter Hayden, who lives in Topeka.

“Eating with all of our cousins,” said Jack McQuillen, 15, who lives in Fort Worth, TX.   “Part of the fun is joking with each other… we don’t get to see them that often,” he explained.

We are here at the YMCA of the Rockies for a big family reunion—100 people ranging in age from infants to late 80s, the fourth we’ve held here over the last 20 years. Just this week, there are 36 reunions here at the Estes Park Center and another 19 at the YMCA’s Snow Mountain Ranch. Some have as few as five people; some have hundreds. Most average 30-45.

Mini golf at YMCA of the Rockies

Mini golf at YMCA of the Rockies

There are lots of milestones at our reunion—25th and 35th anniversaries; 80th, 70th, 60th, 50th and 30th birthdays.  One of the grandmothers tried to give the family a quick family history lesson but of course the kids couldn’t care less.

Twenty years ago, when our kids were little, they loved the reunion here for the same reason the young kids in the family do today—so much to do! So many cousins to play with!

The girls gravitate toward the crafts center. “I made five things, including a unicorn and a cup for my grandma,” said MaKenna Brogger, 8, and hoped to go back to the craft center one more time.

There are lots of organized games run by young staff including “Ga Ga Ball,” a version of dodge ball inside a small fenced area and “Bubble Soccer,” where the kids get inside giant plastic balls and play a version of human bumper cars on the lawn.

Pond fishing at YMCA of the Rockies

Pond fishing at YMCA of the Rockies

For the kids in the family – more than 30 under 18—it’s more  about the fun they are having in a giant natural playground than about the family.

But for the college students and millennials in the bunch, that’s as important as to the older generations.  “This is the only time I see the extended family,” said Ben Afflerbach, 25, a grad student at the University of Wisconsin.

“I want to reconnect,” added Allie Dennis, 19, from Minneapolis.

There couldn’t be a better place!