There is so much excitement in the months, weeks, days and hours leading up to camp. Filling out activity forms and packing duffels inevitably has me chomping at the bit for summer to start. As the buses roll in, campers and counselors cheer. It’s an incredible scene for returning and new campers alike. The nerves leading up to camp melt away with all the high-fives and hugs that happen instantly!
Songs and Cheers
They’re silly. They’re fun. And they’re catchy. Camp songs are stuck in my head all year long. I don’t realize I’m humming Where I Wanna Be while doing homework. The Kennebec and Kennebago Songs, Saco Train, Baxter Slide all make me smile at random. The energy and enthusiasm in the melodies around camp make me smile all year long.
Silent claps, snaps and ‘making rain’ set the campfire mood. Singing No Place Like Camp, arms around your friends is the best. Campfires showcase some of Laurel South’s best talent. Campfires and camp go together like sun butter and jelly. And, of course, we end each campfire with All My Life’s a Circle and House at Pooh Corner.
Nothing beats the Maine night sky. The first time I saw a shooting star was magical. It was also surprising because a cabinmate knew SO MUCH about the solar system. I knew who to sit by when we went stargazing every summer since. Not only did the stars light up the night, but they helped develop a new friendship.
As long as Spirit Days has been a tradition at Laurel South, so too has the campers trying to predict the exact day and time that it will break. Every session of every summer, Roger brainstorms with the CITs to come up with just the perfect opportunity when no one will see it coming! And the larger the CIT group, the harder is it to keep all of that information secret. Well we can tell you that this session’s incredible CIT group did just that! Any camper who tells you they knew exactly when Spirit Days was breaking are trying to pull a fast one on you! It was an amazing break during a Social, followed by a late night Tug of Ohana!! All day yesterday and today, the Green Trains and Blue Planes are competing in a spirited but friendly competition. Games are being played, cheers and songs being written and practiced, plaques being constructed. And while we try our very best to win, we know that at the end of Spirit Days, we’ll all be winners for having shared such a fun and exciting time. We look forward to our Closing Ceremonies tonight which will officially reunite us as one camp family…and the fireworks show tonight will be pretty cool too!!
So here we are, right at the halfway point. We’re psyched for Wednesday’s Carnival. Thursday our 8th Graders depart for North Conway, NH. And have we mentioned we still have 2 Theater Shows, a Moose Bowl, a Katahdin Cup, a 7th Grade Day Trip, plenty of intercamp games and tournaments, and so much more time to create lasting memories with our friends? As we’ve been known to say, “Laurel South…the way life should be!”
Every summer seems to fly by, and this one is no exception! Seems like we just arrived, and OMG, we only have 2 weeks left! The fun hasn’t slowed at all, and camp is in full swing. Seeing children playing sports, building rockets, creating art, enjoying nature, challenging themselves at adventure, splashing in Crescent Lake, riding horses, practicing for upcoming theater shows…all unmistakable signs the 2019 summer will be another one for the ages!
One early highlight was our Katahdin Cup team scrimmaging another camp, under the lights, in front of 100 cheering fans. What a night it was! Our ladies made the entire Laurel South family proud. We are sure this special night will become an incredible tradition. Yesterday was the 4th of July, and our traditional BBQ dinner was followed by the most epic fireworks show around! Today the entire camp traveled to Canobie Lake for a day of rides, games, food, and (most importantly) spending times with our camp family, creating memories and forging friendships that will last a lifetime.
With only 2 weeks to go, we will continue full-steam-ahead, making the most of every moment we are together in Maine. Still to come: Spirit Days, Theater Shows, Carnival, Moose Bowl, Katahdin Cup and so much more! Stay tuned for future blogs, and – as always – it’s a beautiful day in the state of Maine!
Can it really be that we are officially half way through the session? It seems like just yesterday we arrived, but the sounds of cheering and laughter from the ballfields to the Theater, Crescent Lake to the Equestrian Center, Adventure to Culinary lets us know that we are having another truly spectacular Laurel South summer!
Yesterday was our first In-Camp “S” Day, and Brad once again hit it out of the park with our now annual Resort Day! After a delicious continental breakfast and elective morning (including those awesome Bumper Tube rides on the lake) our campers had the opportunity to compete in the Tough Moose Obstacle Race (similar to a Tough Mudder competition), and everyone who participated had a blast! The afternoon was filled with Saco/Kineo berry picking, a Baxter/Allagash Waterfront Party and special events for Rangeley and Katahdin, followed by boat tours of Crescent Lake. Our CIT’s spent the day on their Magical Mystery Bus tour, and visited sites all around Portland. They had such an amazing day, and they were thrilled to be back home.
At Laurel South, we always accentuate the positives, so we choose to not look at the session as being half over; we look at it as being half full of amazing experiences: Spirit Days…Theater Shows…Funtown…Carnival…Moose Bowl…Final Banquet, etc. We’ve got so many things left to look forward to, especially making new friends and building memories that will warm our hearts all year long.
Actress Jami Gertz, a summer camp alumni, once said, “There is something very special about being away from your parents for the first time, sleeping under the stars, hiking and canoeing.” Although on the outset this seems like just another quote about summer camp, the use of the word “special” makes it standout. “Special” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “distinguishable,” “superior,” or “of particular esteem.” Every camp, when planning the summer, strives to create an experience that sets it apart from other camps. To those whose exposure to summer camp is limited to Hollywood’s interpretation of it, there may seem to be little that distinguishes one from another. However, to those who attend or have attended summer camp, each one is unique from others. For campers and staff alike, to think of the more than 12,000 summer camps throughout the United States as a collective summer experience is to think of all pizza as having the same flavor. Sure the basic ingredients are the same. Most pizza pies even look similar. But, depending on which toppings you add, one pie might taste very different from another. It’s that special flavor of each camp that gives it that “esteemed” place in the hearts of those who have called it their summer home. Choosing a camp is more than simply deciding to send your child. The values, traditions, activities, facilities, staff, and even the duration all play a role in deciding at which summer camp your child will find the most success.
In a couple of weeks, another summer will start, and thousands of young campers will taste summer camp for the first time. They’ll spend their first night sleeping in a bunk/cabin with fellow new campers. They’ll bond with favorite counselors. They’ll try at least one activity for the first time. They’ll make new friends, learn new songs, and, for the first time, experience life away from their parents. As Jami Gertz said, it will be “special” as they begin gaining the independence, self-reliance, and self-confidence that are all-important ingredients in creating a life that is “distinguishable.” Ultimately, however, the role that summer camp plays in the successes of the lives of campers as children and, as they mature, in helping former campers meet the challenges of adulthood does not simply come down to experience but also in the choice of summer camp. So whether you’re just starting to consider summer camp, have begun searching for a camp, or will be one of the thousands of prospective families touring summer camps this year, be on the lookout for the right mix of ingredients that will create that “special” experience for your child.
One of the biggest parts of the summer at most traditional summer camps and nearly as big of a tradition as the concept of summer camp is the color war. For several days, campers and staff members parade around camp in their team colors. Body paint, capes, mismatched socks, colored hair spray, pom-poms, and tutus are the en vogue accessories, and enthusiastic demonstrations of team pride via spirited cheers are infectious.
Although an emphasis on friendly competition geared toward giving campers an opportunity to put their camp skills to the test while exhibiting exemplary sportsmanship has prompted many camps to change the name to such things as Challenges, Tribals, College Days, and Olympics, the concept remains the same: Campers are placed onto teams and, for several days, engage in a host of activities designed to re-cap the summer—a sort of “best of” replay.
Whatever the name, the competition is often full of traditions regarded as sacred by campers and staff alike. The beginning of the games is invariably a surprise to campers and much of the staff with the reveal being is a closely guarded secret about which there is quite a bit of discussion and speculation in the days leading up to it. The breakout is unquestionably, one of the biggest events of the summer and always on everyone’s list of favorite moments from the summer. Counselors are included in the action as team leaders and coaches.
The end of the competition often involves some sort of bonding activity designed to bring the teams back together as one camp family to finish out the summer because, in the end, the emphasis of a color on color contest is not whether one is on a winning team when all is said and done, but that each and every camper has had the opportunity to demonstrate what he or she has learned over the summer and, thus, gain an understanding of how each person brings something different and valuable to the camp family. Such a focus makes these types of camp activities a valuable lesson in diversity and teamwork. Everyone has a unique role on the team that directly affects the team’s overall performance. For anyone—camper or staff—who has ever been a part of camps, it’s the part of the summer that is undoubtedly one of the most memorable.
The holidays are around the corner. During that time of year, the word “tradition” gets thrown around a lot. But how many people actually understand what tradition is really? Perhaps it’s the emphasis on forward thinking and constantly in-motion global community that has caused many to confuse “tradition” with “routine.” They’ve both become something that we do on a regular basis in order to establish or maintain a consistency or pattern in our behavior. So what really distinguishes “tradition” from “routine”?
First, routine is something that one person does but might not necessarily have in common with others. Most people brush their teeth at some point in time in the morning. Few people do it at exactly the same time. Some shower first. Others eat breakfast. Eventually, everyone brushes their teeth but the experience is, for all intents and purposes, individual. There is no shared significance.
Tradition, on the other hand, is by definition community oriented. It’s a shared custom, belief, or activity with a common understanding of the reason for its practice. Many of us eat turkey at Thanksgiving because we symbolically associate it with that first meal between the pilgrims and native Americans. It’s a tradition.
Second, routine, unlike tradition, is not necessarily multi-generational or even long-term. It’s something done for a specified length of time. While we maintain some routines for all or much of our lives, others are short term. If one gets the flu, for instance, one might temporarily take up a routine of antibiotics. But once the flu subsides, so does that routine.
On the other hand, tradition is something that is a common bond between multiple generations. It’s an acknowledgment that an event or action was significant to someone tied to our past, and the observance of traditions our way of paying tribute to that event or action as well demonstrating our understanding of it.
Finally, routine is task oriented. We take up routine in order to accomplish a goal. There is an intended result in routine. Tradition, however, is an observance. Routine is a way of moving forward, whereas tradition pays tribute to the importance of the past.
By now, you’re surely asking yourself what any of this has to do with summer camp. Simply this: in a culture that places a significant amount of importance on the establishment of routine, the value of tradition is increasingly less understood and appreciated. Summer camps, however, are grounded in tradition. They’re a place where campers and staff members alike get refresher courses in the power of tradition. Whether it’s at a campfire, a sing along, or an activity specific to the camp, there are literally hundreds of opportunities every summer for those at a summer camp to bond through tradition. Many former summer campers and staff members actually name “tradition” as one of their highlights of summer camp. So if tradition has become an element of holidays past, consider giving your children a future opportunity to enjoy tradition at summer camp in 2013.
Every year around this time we pause to reflect on those aspects of our lives about which we are most thankful. To celebrate this turkey day, we thought we’d share what makes us most thankful for summer camp:
Our camp families: Without our campers, there would be no summer camp. We’re thankful you value your summer camp experiences so much that you return every summer, and that you continue to build and carry on the traditions that make America’s Finest Summer Camps so special.
Our camp family: The unique family we are all a part of each summer. The bonds that campers and staff create truly do last a lifetime. We love every moment of the summer when we are laughing, playing, singing, and sharing together.
Camp Memories: Every year we bring home new memories that motivate us to make the next summer even more special than the previous. Talking with our families and camp friends about our summers and sharing in each others’ unique experiences while at summer camp are some of our favorite times during the winter months. They help us get over our “camp sickness” and carry us through those months between summers. Speaking of camp friends…
Camp Friends: Every camper knows that camp friends are friends for life. Our camp friends share some very special memories that one can only get at summer camp. Our camp friends are also great at helping us get through those ten months that we’re not at camp by reminding us of just how special summer camp is, whether it’s through the distance that makes seeing each other at camp every summer so special or the closeness of having a camp pal who “gets it”.
Amazing Staff Members from all over the Globe: Summer Camps are only as good as their staff, and we’re thankful that we have some of the most amazing staff anywhere in the world. Each summer, you come from all over the world and commit yourselves 24/7 to insuring our campers have a safe, amazing summer. We know it’s hard work, and we are grateful that so many of you find the experience so gratifying that you return year after year.
The Breathtaking Scenery of Maine and Northeast Pennsylvania: We love where our camps are located almost as much as we love our camps. The beautiful woodlands of Maine, the mountains of Northeast Pennsylvania, hiking paths, the lakes that are such a big part of our camp experiences and traditions, and the wildlife all make the perfect backdrops for our amazing campuses.
The Beautiful Campuses that are our Summer Homes: Just like the houses we live in the other ten months of the year, each of our summer homes has its own energy, homey feeling, and special places for gathering, playing or contemplating. We’re proud that ours are some of the most awesome facilities in camping and look forward to continuing to build and improve them each summer. We know our campers eagerly await opening day when they finally get to see how camp has changed since the previous summer and what new additions might be waiting for them.
Our Year-Round Staff: Yes, even summer camp requires a staff to work year-round. After each summer, they go back to their offices and immediately begin planning the next, thinking about what new programs we might add or how we might make existing ones better. They begin traveling, recruiting new staff members. They create newsletters, Tweets, and blogs. They answer the phones when you call. They plan the menus. In short, they tirelessly build each amazing summer day by day.
Being a Part of Such an Iconic American Tradition: All over the world, American summer camps are an icon of Americana. They’re unique to America and so many have found them inspirational that there have been movies and television shows that feature them, as well as books and songs written about them. We are also grateful that many of our international friends are beginning to see the value in the American summer camp experience and, increasingly, are joining us from all corners of the globe.
We hope this holiday season that we’ve inspired you to contemplate what it is about camp that you’re most thankful for and how it has enriched your life. We encourage you to share those thoughts with us. We’d love to hear them!
If you have children who attend sleepaway camp, work at a sleepaway camp, or know anyone who attends or works at a sleepaway camp, chances are that you’ve heard this at least once in your life: “It’s a camp thing.” For those of you wondering what that means, here’s an exclusive look inside the world of sleepaway camp and exactly what constitutes “a camp thing”.
We’ll begin with a definition. “A camp thing” is an experience or tradition that is unique to summer camp. It’s also actually “camp things” rather than a singular “thing”, since there are a host of experiences exclusive to the summer camp environment. For instance, have you taken part in a competition, spread over several days, that divides the entire camp into two teams and requires contestants to do such things as cover their heads with shaving cream so that a teammate can attempt to make cheese curls stick to it, dress in team gear that includes crazy garb such as tutus, mismatched socks, and face paint, or passed buckets of water down a line in a race to see who will fill their container first? Nope? Do you know why? It’s “a camp thing”. Ever sat alongside several hundred other people around a campfire while you watch friends and staff members perform crazy acts, sing songs or participate in games? Nope? Yeah…it’s another “camp thing”.
In case it’s not obvious, “camp things” happen every day at camp, from that first moment when you get off the bus and see your camp friends and your new counselors holding your cabin signs for the first time to the last when you’re saying ‘goodbye until next summer.’ Camp things are being part of a league sports team, whether it wins or loses, going on a special trip out of camp to get ice cream, performing rituals and eating s’mores around a campfire, sitting with your friends at cookouts, taking part in the traditions that are unique to each and every summer camp, and understanding the feeling of being part of a camp family. Camp things are having sleepovers with your cabin or having a venue in which you and your camp friends can pretend to be a rock band, DJs, or magicians. Camp things are that special inside joke that your friends share all summer, end-of-the-summer trips out of camp, sing-a-longs when you’re arm-in-arm with your camp friends. And hugging some of your best friends while singing your camp alma mater and watching candles burn or fireworks explode, knowing that you might not see them again until next summer, is definitely the most precious of “camp things”. If only everyone could experience “a camp thing”…
Routines. Everyone has them. For some, they encompass everything that takes place from the time we wake in the morning until we go to bed at night. For others, they come in short bursts throughout the day, such as at mealtimes or bedtime. However, establishing routines as daily parts of our lives is important, especially for children. Childcare experts agree that establishing regular routines for children is essential for healthy development. The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning reports that “Studies have documented that schedules and routines influence children’s emotional, cognitive, and social development.”
It’s no secret that summer camps provide loose routines that allow room for healthy creative development through structured daily programs and schedules that maintain consistent meal, activity, and bedtimes. Maintaining a routine throughout the summer is also valuable in easing the transition from summer to fall and back into summer again. However, one special aspect of summer camp that is often overlooked is that it helps children learn to understand the difference between routine and ritual—what makes one necessity and the other tradition.
Barbara H. Fiese, Ph.D., Syracuse University, defines routine as something that “involves a momentary time commitment so that once the act is completed, there is little, if any, afterthought.” However, she defines ritual as “symbolic communication” that has “continuity in meaning across generations.” Rituals take place within the home family setting. However, for children, it’s not always clear how to tell the difference between what is done simply to be done and what is done because it’s significant to their heritage. This is where the summer camp ritual takes on a special significance. Even executives such as Michael Eisner have publicly recalled the important role that summer camp rituals have played in their lives.
Summer camp often draws a distinct line between routine and ritual. Campers understand, for instance, that cleaning their bunks or cabins everyday is part of a routine. That following an activities schedule is part of routine. That hearing TAPS in the evening to signal bedtime is a part of routine. They, too, understand that campfires, however regular, are rituals. They are more than just a fire that they gather around to eat s’mores. Campfires have meaning that goes far beyond the fire itself. The same can be said about opening night shows, closing, and fireworks. Campers understand that these are not just routines done merely to achieve a goal. They’re rituals that make their summer camp the place that it is and them a part of it.
By being able to tell the difference, children are able to accept routine as something that needs to be done and prevent rituals from simply becoming routine by understanding the value in them. Dr. Fiese says that children will often revisit memories of rituals in order to “recapture some of the positive.” experience.” This perhaps explains why so many camp rituals remain sacred to campers far passed their camping years. Some of America’s Finest Summer Camps’ rituals hold special significance for campers and staff members. At Camp Laurel South, Coves are definitely a tradition and time honored ritual:
“Coves” are an important and exciting Camp Laurel South tradition. Each day begins with a Morning Cove at a campus “Cove site.” Each group meets at their own Campus Cove location, where the Campus Leader reviews information for the day: special activities, upcoming inter-camp games and tournaments, birthdays, cove-calls, cheers, sports scores, and many other special announcements. Each Campus Leader has his or her own style and flair which makes each morning Cove unique and fun. Cove is always a special time for the campers and staff and a great way to kick-off the camp day.
Every night…just before dinner…the entire Laurel South family gathers for Evening Cove, led by our director, Roger. Evening Cove takes place at the Main Cove area, just above the magnificent shoreline of Crescent Lake. Evening Cove has been taking place at this very site since the first campers came to Laurel South decades ago. Once we hear the words: “What a beautiful day in the state of Maine!,” the tone has been set. Campuses may have a cheer to present…a birthday may be celebrated…Inter-camp results and special achievements or accomplishments are recognized…Evening programs are reviewed…special accolades are shared…Whether in the morning or evening, Cove is a coming-together, a celebration and recognition of how lucky we are to be at Laurel south in the beautiful state of Maine!!!