Bringing Tradition To Today: Making Summers Extraordinary

Every day at summer camp is exciting and busy, but every camper looks forward to those special camp events and traditions that are unique to each camp. I still have vivid memories of our camp talent show and the wonderful skit our staff put together using a sheet, a bright flash light and their own shadows. It took place thirty years ago, but it still brings a smile to my face, and that one memory triggers a hundred others.

The AFSC family of camps each have their own special camp traditions that bring the entire camp together for friendly competition, unique bonding activities, wonderful gourmet treats, and a chance to show off talents and teamwork. Here’s a quick summary of each for you but be sure to check out the Camp web sites linked here!

Camp Laurel’s Quest is a tradition that goes back 60 years. During the first week of summer, campers are divided into 18 different teams and they compete in fun and zany activities all day long. The winners are treated to a gourmet Chinese dinner at the home of directors Jem and Debbie. We usually think of big all-camp activities happening at the end of the summer, but Quest brings campers together within days of their arrival, kicking off a summer of friendship and bonding, gathering force as the camp progresses.

Laurel also hosts College Days and Lobster and Steak Banquet. College Days (which lasts five days!) is Laurel’s answer to the camp color war and includes spirit, fun, games, tug ‘o war, swim meets, track meets, staff competitions, Apache relays, silent meals, treasure hunts, dance competitions and much more. Laurel then finishes camp with a flourish by hosting a meal with lobster direct from the sea. After all, who could come to camp in Maine and not love lobster? The campers finish their summer with speeches, traditional songs and a night sleeping under the stars.

Laurel South’s activities may have traditional names, but they go above and beyond the same old, same old. Every summer begins with an Opening Ceremony that includes a Keeper of the Flame, who delivers the first spark of fire to each summer. Mid-season, the entire camp breaks into two teams for Laurel South’s annual Spirit Days…an amazing two day event which is filled with relays, sports, songs, cheers and an all-camp Apache relay. After a full summer of fun and instruction, the Keeper of the Flame extinguishes the fire until the following season, when everyone joins together again for another incredible summer. During this very special ceremony, each cabin performs a song or skit highlighting memories of the summer gone by. Laurel South also ends each summer with a Lobster Banquet….

At Starlight, campers look forward to MTV Night, one of the biggest lip-synch competitions anywhere! Throughout the course of the summer, each bunk comes up with, practices and performs a live music video to compete within their division for a chance to make it to this big night. Twenty acts make it to the finals and the entire camp comes together to watch on the magical outdoor stage. At the end of the night, the winning bunk/act is presented with a trophy and a pizza party! Camp Starlight, which works on the brother/sister model of having separate boys’ and girls’ sides of camp, also hosts Spirit of Starlight, the best night on Girls side! Each division picks a theme to represent their age group and the feelings they have for camp. A song, dance, cheer, banner and cake are all created to show the spirit of the each age group. As each division performs, the others are cheering on their camp “sisters” in this friendly, energetic competition to show us what they are all about. Its fun, it’s loud and the spirit is out of this world. After we crown a winner, the entire girl’s side unites for cake, hugs and we sing our traditional camp song “Friends, Friends, Friends.»

As we said earlier, every camp has a take on the camp stand-by, the color war, and at Camp Weequahic, that event is Tribals, which takes place at the end of the first session. The campers are divided into four teams, each representing the four classic elements: earth, wind, fire and water. The previous summer’s winning team keeps the same name (i.e., Seneca) while the other three teams have new names. The events include everything from athletics to spirit events. Other events campers can look forward to are Ms. Weequahic – girls dress up male counselors who then put on a talent (or lack thereof) show; Ron Dagan has been performing at Weequahic for over 20 years; and enjoying different evening activities created over the years: Weequahic Goldrush, Panic, and others.

Such special events are the memory-makers of summer camp, and whichever camp you decide to send your children to, their staff, counselors and bunkmates will come together in friendships that will last a lifetime!