Family reunion in Roswell draws hundreds

Members of the Strickland clan take their familial connections seriously.

No matter where in Georgia they live, each one knows that on the third Sunday in August, they have to be in Roswell for the annual reunion. It’s a gathering that this year marked its 73rd anniversary.

With more than 300 attendees, the Strickland celebration has become such a remarkable annual event that this year the city of Roswell proclaimed Aug. 15 as “Strickland Family Reunion Day.”

“Having 300 show up is the norm,” said family member Veronica Ellis. “Most everybody is still in the metro area -- Lawrenceville, Marietta, Decatur, Lilburn. No one’s out of state. We are still pretty close. We don’t have name badges because just about everybody knows everybody else.”

The gathering has long been held on a piece of land owned by one of the Strickland aunts. Tables set up on the property are usually jammed with food, as they were this year when members showed up with home-cooked dishes of chicken, macaroni and cheese, greens, potato salad and more to share.

“For the longest time, our family has lived in Roswell’s historic district, on Webb Street near Smith Plantation,” said Ellis. “At one time, we lived in Forsyth County, then we moved to Alpharetta, but we’ve been in Roswell since 1944. We always come back there for our reunion.”

The tradition of reconnecting with relatives every summer began as a birthday celebration for Ellis’ great-grandmother, Rosa Lee Strickland. When the matriarch passed on in 1975, the family decided to keep meeting.

“It’s a way to do something in remembrance of her,” said Ellis.

This year marked the first time the planning took a serious turn.

“We had an official reunion committee meeting in early August, and 60 people showed up just for that,” she said with a laugh. “We talked about what we wanted to do during that day -- announcements, entertainment, that sort of thing.”

The committee organized an event that started at 2 p.m. and ran until after dark. In between food courses, the crowd celebrated new babies, new jobs and the past year in school graduations. Some sang. Others talked about their new business ventures. And at some point, everyone posed for an official family photograph.

Ellis’ cousin Charles Grogan, who lives in Ellenwood, is the family historian, and he’s counted seven generations of Stricklands attending through the years. He estimates that the 2010 gathering brought at least four generations to Roswell. But many of the family members don’t wait for the official reunion to see one another.

“Many of us get together for holidays or whenever there are reasons to celebrate throughout the year,” said Ellis. “If there isn’t a reason, we’ll create one.”

Regardless of how often they may visit one another, they all know they’ll be in the same place on the third Sunday of each August.

“We don’t send out invitations,” said Ellis. “Everybody knows that in this family on that day, Roswell is where you need to be.”

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