Equity Welcome Back Week
A New Way to Celebrate
By Holly Houser, Ocean Reef Press Manager
Since its onset, the Equity Welcome Back Party – The Gathering has marked the beginning of a new season at Ocean Reef.
This year, the Coronavirus posed a challenge for the way we traditionally recognize this annual welcome-home event. As a large reception with food, drink and more than 600 Members in attendance, the usual format is far from compliant with social distancing. In response, the Club found a way to keep the Welcome Back Party’s spirit alive, while ensuring Members can remain safe and socially distant. Before we talk about what this year’s festivities entail, let’s go back to where the tradition first began.
Back to the Beginning
When it made its debut in November 1993, the Equity Welcome Back Party was known as “The Gathering!” Chaired by the Social Committee, the inaugural Gathering was the Club’s first big social event of the new era of Member ownership, followed only by “The Celebration!” – an end-of-season parade and party honoring the Member Buyout. The Gathering quickly became the unofficial kickoff to the winter season and a way to welcome Members home and increase excitement for the coming months.
Many Members, like Terry Ferrarone, Board Director and Chairman of the Club’s Social Committee, and her husband Ned, return to the Club every year in time for the celebration. “We’ve come back for the party every year since 1993,” said Mrs. Ferrarone. “We catch up with folks we haven’t seen over the summer. Friends return from Europe, Bermuda, Canada and all over the country. Club Associates are there, too. It’s a great way to touch base with absolutely everyone.”
In its early years, The Gathering was held on Buccaneer Island on the first Saturday following Thanksgiving, and featured slides, a petting zoo, food and drink, and other family-friendly activities.
The Gathering has since become the elegant reception of recent years, recurring on the second Sunday of each November. The Saturday following Thanksgiving still features an annual Beach Party on Buccaneer Island – a nod to the original 1993 Gathering.
Over its 27-year history, the Equity Welcome Back Party – The Gathering has become something special for everyone at The Reef. While Members look forward to reconnecting with friends and enjoying good times at their Club, Associates also relish in welcoming Members to another exciting season. Each Club outlet prepares samplings of new menu items and returning favorites. Members listen to live music, enjoying a taste of what they missed while they were away and a sneak peak of what lays ahead during their time at Ocean Reef.
“The Equity Welcome Back Party has evolved into a stellar culinary experience as each dining outlet struts their stuff,” Mrs. Ferrarone said. “There is always a lot of buzz about the party and everyone has so much fun just being together.”
Facing Challenges & Finding Solutions
It’s disappointing that the Coronavirus has hindered us from enjoying the traditional celebration this year, but the Club has seized the opportunity to arrange new ways to welcome our Members home. Spanning over a five-day period (November 16 – 20), this year’s Equity Welcome Back Week offers Members even greater opportunities to meet Associates from various departments, reconnect with fellow Members, have fun, family-friendly experiences, and more – all while maintaining the recommended safety and social distancing guidelines.
“While we are in the midst of a pandemic, there is no safe way to conduct an event the size of the traditional Welcome Back Party,” said Mrs. Ferrarone, who agrees maintaining the health of our Members and Associates is most important. “Replacing one big event with many smaller, outdoor events is an ideal way to adapt to our current situation. Despite the circumstances, it will be good to see everyone again during the Equity Welcome Back Week.”
For a full schedule, click here.