Rarely has an event grown big enough that it has outgrown Walt Disney World.
But in its 14th year, the Allstate Tom Joyner Family Reunion has taken up practically the entire Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, drawing tens of thousands to Kissimmee for what it calls a “party with a purpose.”
“In the black community, families get together and have family reunions every year,” said spokesman Jason Gregory. “What’s better than families getting together with other families, and mingling and having a good time, and talking about issues going on within the black community.”
The massive four-day event featured events ranging from ancestry seminars to a NASA robotics camp to comedy routines and sports clinics.
Guests could choose from gospel performances, spoken word and jazz, a “beats camp” and an Afrofunk dance fit class, all while making time for a tag relay, a comics course, a teen summit, and a whist tournament.
In addition, NBA great Dominique Wilkins, “Good Times” star Bern Nadette Stanis and gospel singer Kirk Franklin all made appearances, and the next generation was represented by the child stars of the ABC show “Black-ish”.
“(It’s) the magnitude of the event,” said Oscar Joyner, president of Reach Media and son of radio host Tom Joyner. “Think of the thousands of people coming to Orlando for this, and going home and spreading the message.”
On Sunday morning, the last day of the event, the main convention center ballroom was almost packed to capacity with hundreds of guests attending “The Gospel Explosion” show, featuring gospel singers Deitrick Haddon and Yolanda Adams.
The show also featured comedy, including Adams’ morning radio show co-host Marcus D. Wiley.
“I pray in my own voice,” Wiley said jokingly. “(People) who get up here and pray in another voice scare me.” He imitated the deep cadences of a preacher — “Our father, who art in heaven …” — and imagined God saying ” ‘Who is this?’ That’s why God’s not answering; he doesn’t know who’s praying.”
Dee Davis, who came all the way from Little Rock,