Harrisons of Imlay City celebrate 100th year reunion


IMLAY CITY — When the siblings of the late Don and Virgia Harrison get together, they do so in a big way.

That’s no surprise, as Don and Virgia raised a big family at their home on Blacks Corners Road north of town. The Harrisons had 12 kids throughout the years. As is common with families large and small, the siblings spread out as they became adults and despite the distance, they remain closeknit, a tradition they continue to this day.

Eighty-five descendants of the late Don and Virgia Harrison of Imlay City gather for their 100th family reunion over the Fourth of July holiday.

Some 85 descendants of Don and Virgia Harrison gathered over the 4th of July to celebrate a tradition that began in 1923. Granddaughter Amy Hart was among them.

Amy, the daughter of Carol (Harrison) Westbrook and Ben Penzien, is a 1989 graduate of Imlay City High School. She and her husband Pat also raised their kids—David, 23, and Virgia, 19—in Imlay City. Like their mom, both graduated from Imlay City High.

Amy says the 100 year old 4th of July reunion has changed over the years—but the love and kinship remains the same.

“The reunions were originally held at one of the 12 siblings’ homes for a day of fun and family time,” she says. “As the families grew larger and larger, we decided to gather at a park with a large pavilion to accommodate everyone.”

This year’s gathering took place at Krystal Lake Campground in Vassar. Family members as young as 10-months-old on up to age 79 met to catch up with each other and have some fun. People came from as far as North Carolina, Virginia and Kentucky, as well as across the state.

Along with a potluck picnic, a softball game, Chinese auction, 50/50 raffle and old-fashioned ‘throwback games’ were part of the amusement.

“The ‘throwback games’ were the kinds of things we enjoyed when we were kids,” Amy says, “three-legged races with a burlap sack, eating the donut off of the string and those types of things.”

The auction and 50/50 raffle raise funds for the next year’s gathering—and the family has devised a way to help keep track of each other.

“We all wore t-shirts that were a different color representing each of the 12 siblings,” Amy says. “So along with our nametags outlining who we were the descendant of, we had 12 different colored t-shirts to help identify everyone.”

The color-coding—as well as the volume of people at the reunion—caught the eyes of many campers at Krystal Lake.

“So many people stopped to ask about the party and they were amazed that this tradition has been going on for 100 years,” Amy says.

At 51-years-old, it’s a tradition she hopes to continue attending well into the future.

“I’ve been around for about half of them,” she says. “My family enjoys attending as much as I do. We look forward to it every year.”