Monthly Archives: July 2011
“Hear ye, Hear ye! The Kingdom of North Star has proclaimed this thirty first day of July as Camelot Day!”
In the spirit of the medieval festival and all things royal, Camp North Star has transformed into a scene from King Arthur’s court. Overnight, our crew of soldiers erected a castle, a jousting arena, a banquet hall and a slew of medieval themed booths. Our head counselors, Nick and Michelle, have even transformed into the mighty Lancelot and fair Guinevere. King Arthur, who oddly resembles our program director, Dogzy, will preside over the day’s ceremonies.
Campers have taken on their own roles as knights, jester, maidens, and ladies and gentleman of the court. The entire main field is covered with medieval booths and the royal community is happily trying their hands at archery (arrows through apples perhaps?), fortune telling, merlin hat and wand making, calligraphy and a daunting and exhausting Quest for the Excalibur Sword. As campers complete the various activities and challenges, they are earning tokens that can be traded in for prizes or a trip to the stocks for their counselors.
Today’s festivities will conclude with a massive feast sans silverware!
Not every camp boasts its own private lake, but here at Camp North Star we are happy to say that all 55 acres of Worthley Pond are ours to enjoy. This means that we never have to contend with unknown boaters or vacationers sharing our beloved Poland Spring water-filled lake. Here’s a quick list of the many ways campers and staff utilize our lake:
-swimming (lessons and just for fun)
-relaxing on the dock
-water sports (water polo, water basketball)
-brand new giant inflatable waterslide
-free swim and water games
-special events like luau closing ceremonies
(note: waterskiing is offered on a larger lake just five minutes down the road)
In order to make sure we can provide all these fun activities, we have invested in waterfront upgrades each year. The giant waterslide is our most recent purchase and has been a true hit with everyone. We also purchased a whole new stock of life jackets, keeping camper safety our number one priority. Overseeing our waterfront activities are our Waterfront Directors, Ben and Emma, and their staff of highly qualified lifeguards.
Here’s a photo tour of the lake and waterfront:
After dinner our campers return to their cabins, but their day is certainly not done. With a quick change of clothes and a few squirts of bug spray, they are off again to a nightly activity called Evening Program. Evening Program changes each night and activities range from whole camp scavenger hunts, dances, outdoor movie nights, and even trips to watch the Sea Dogs minor league baseball team. The beginning of each session focuses more on Evening Programs that build intentional relationships amongst different members of the camp community. Here’s a quick snapshot of the first several Session 3 Evening Programs.
Welcome Show and Bunk Time: This year’s welcome show featured a movie that introduced each of our staff members. We think it is important for campers to immediately recognize each of the adults at camp. This ensures that campers know where to turn if anything comes up. After the welcome show, campers and staff headed back to their cabins to do cabin introductions, get to know you games, and go over the basics of camp.
Opening Campfire: Jason, owner/director of North Star, really got things heated up with a story that culminated in the lighting of our first Session 3 campfire. Using some secret techniques, Jason magically ignited the fire with a rare and precious stick only found here on our property! When the stick was plunged into the piled up wood, it immediately generated a huge and powerful fire. Other acts followed and included skits, songs and a whole camp sing-a-long of Wagon Wheel.
Division Night: Campers split into three groups, juniors, middies and seniors. This gives campers a chance to get to know other kids in their age group and do an activity of interest. This year, the juniors made a Star Wars video, the middies made cookies, and the seniors played Family Feud.
Family Night: Starting with dinner, campers and staff split into families of 6-8 people. This family unit gives campers another opportunity to connect with other counselors and kids in the camp community that they might not otherwise bump into during the day. Last night, each family group challenged all the other family groups to some type of contest. These events included some “Minute to Win It” type challenges: move a graham cracker from forehead to mouth, keep three balloons afloat and blow a Ping-Pong ball across the stage.
Once evening program is over, campers either return to their cabins to get ready for bed or have a few minutes of social time. Our oldest “Villagers” are allowed to gather around a small fire in the village and stay up the latest. Our seniors and middies on the line sometimes get their own quick chill-out time called “Grove Time.” Juniors usually get tucked in and settled with a bedtime story. By 10:30 the whole camp is asleep and dreaming of the next day!
Senior Village campers Brooke and Christie are today’s special guest reporters
At Camp North Star, some moments of friendship and togetherness are bittersweet. Two of our most treasured and cherished traditions are closing campfire and the goodbye line, where all campers say a farewell to one another regardless of how close they are as friends. Both events bring tears to the eyes of campers, counselors and even the directors, but the sorrow is only due to the love for camp we all share. Sue believes that saying “goodbye” to friends is inappropriate for the occasion because “goodbye” is forever. Here, the phrase “see you later” is a far better choice.
Closing campfire was a flurry of emotional acts. Several cabins performed songs that were near and dear to their hearts. The final act this year was “One Second,” a song that has been sung at closing campfire for over ten years. Former counselors Andy Verostek and Aaron Price wrote the song. The entire camp sung along while holding their candles.
This year, the goodbye line was slightly altered in order to go past our scenic lake at camp after each cabin sent off a Chinese lantern into the water following a cabin reflection of the session. The Villagers—North Star’s oldest campers—led the way for the rest of camp, lighting the path with candles and smiles alike.
Though the first four weeks of camp are now finished, the feelings are not all sorrowful. Here in Poland Spring, the wonderful community of Camp North Star does not cry because it is over (much), but they smile because it happened.
Today I spent some time with a long time camp friend, Jolie. Jolie holds the Camp North Star record for most consecutive years at camp as camper or counselor! This summer marks her 10th summer here at CNS. We chatted about why she keeps coming back to camp, her camp favorites and what it’s like to move up through the ranks over the years.
CNS: Jolie, let’s start with the basics. What was your first year at camp and which cabin were you in?
Jolie: My first summer was in 2002. I was ten years old which meant I was one of the youngest campers (CNS has now expanded to include campers as young as 7). My first cabin was Copenhagen.
CNS: Ok, run us through the rest of your years in terms of which cabins you were in.
-Copenhagen (first year)
CNS: How did you decide to come to camp all those years ago?
Jolie: I was looking for something fun to do. Well, actually, my parents were looking for something for me to do, so we went to a camp fair at my school. It was really love at first sight. I knew right away that I wanted to come to CNS.
CNS: How did that first year go?
Jolie: I was nervous at first, which most new campers tend to be, but I was also so excited. I only stayed for two weeks my first year, but every year after that I stayed for four weeks.
CNS: What types of activities did you like as a camper?
Jolie: My favorite activities were ropes, water-skiing, and pottery. I think my favorite activity was guitar, though. I learned to play when I was 15. Now I play several instruments and minor in music in college. I think I really got my start in music at camp.
CNS: Why do you keep coming back year after year?
Jolie: Camp North Star is the one place I can really be myself, have a lot of fun, and not worry about anything…I love this place, it’s like my second home!
CNS: In your expert opinion, how would you describe camp?
Jolie: It’s definitely a friendly environment where kids can have fun without worrying about typical life stressors. It gives you the space to find yourself.
CNS: What did you learn about yourself at camp?
Jolie: I learned to have confidence and not worry about what people think, really accept who I am. I think a lot of that had to do with learning the guitar and performing at camp.
CNS: Tell me about your first camp performance.
Jolie: Actually, I think that is one of my favorite camp memories. The first time I performed was at the closing campfire. I played Waiting on the World to Change with now fellow counselor, Morgan. It was fitting—we were CIT’s and so full of energy for camp and for what was next.
CNS: So we have our first session closing campfire coming up in just a few days. Do you plan to play anything?
Jolie: My girls and I are going to play Here Comes the Sun. I’m also deciding between the camp song I wrote, Find Your Way, and Maybe by Ingrid Michaelson. It will have to be a surprise!
CNS: Well, I vote for all three! So with the closing of Session 2, brings the opening of the second half of the summer. What advice would you give to our new campers?
Jolie: Come to camp with an open mind, ready to have fun and make a lot of great friends. And, come prepared to stay forever.
What is it about North Star that makes the public and our local community love us as much as our families? Well for one, we take a great deal of pride in how we interact with the public, it’s one of those things that we have always done, and always done well. Very well actually.
Tonight is one of our biggest trips of the year and one that would make most camp directors shake. In fact when we first told Sue five years ago that we took all of camp, into the public to go to a baseball game she was perplexed and I think she would be ok with me saying, thought we were all a little crazy up here in Maine. But this is something that we do well. It makes other nervous, however, I get excited because I know we will get compliments about how well behaved our kids will be.
For us, a trip to SeaDogs is a military operation timed with precision and executed with flare; we have taken the saying, “leave no man behind” and put a North Star twist on it, “leave no man, OR TRASH behind”. Yes, when we go to the SeaDogs we bring our own trash bags and collect it and pile it for the ball park staff. It’s our way of teaching the R.I.C.H.S; be respectful, clean up after yourself. We cheer the loudest, both for the baseball but also for our camp. We bring a t-shirt to our usher Tom who looks after us every year. We have thrown out the opening pitch at the game before, we have had the public, rather embarrassingly moved to accommodate us and our large needs. And why do we get all of this special treatment? Well simply put, manners cost nothing, but get you everything.
On a side note, we found a great article here which is well worth reading about the struggles that a modern summer camp experiences throughout the year.
Having spent the last nine summers in Poland Spring Maine at Camp North Star there is one place that you would think everybody would hate to go because it conjures images of scraped knees, poison ivy and maybe even a runny nose or two. However, when I think of our Health Centre I think of two hilarious nurses, great food, and some of the most caring people on camp.
Being a rather hands-on person at camp I’ve definitely been to the Health Centre more than my fair share; burnt thumbs, cut fingers, the occasional poison ivy rash and much, much more. But recently I’ve found myself going there more for the entertainment and mothering than any injury I’ve inflicted on myself. At the moment, Nurse Susan and Nurse Gretchen are with us and will be for another two weeks. An evening with them can be more entertaining than spending it at a stand up comedy show; both of them certainly bring a smile to a sad face or can turn an already happy face to an even bigger smile.
Having spent last night in the Health Centre with a camper who was feeling a little bit homesick it made me realize that the Health Centre is everyone’s first port of call when something just doesn’t feel right. Didn’t like the spaghetti and meat balls = a “sore” tummy and a Klondike bar. Didn’t like fitness = a “blister” and a Gatorade. Missing home = a Klondike bar, probably some Gatorade and definitely a hug and a tissue.
What separates our nurses from nurses at an ER or a doctor’s office is that they are parents to their kids, and are even temporary parents to our campers. They know exactly what our campers need: band-aids and ice-packs or maybe it’s just a 10 minute break in with the nurses who have air conditioning, and the un-limited supply of love, care and Klondike bars.
Last night marked the opening ceremonies of Camp North Star’s annual Eco Challenge. Eco Challenge is a camp-wide event that takes place over the course of two days during Sessions 1 and 2. Four teams, Earth, Water, Air and Fire, compete in a series of contests from silly obstacle courses, to fire building to banner making. At the end of competition, one team is named the year’s winner.
Eco challenge is not your typical color war. Spirit earns top points throughout the competition, so even if your team doesn’t run the fastest your team can wind up taking the cup. This is intentional—Eco Challenge is not just about winning or losing, it’s about coming together as a whole camp community.
How is camp community forged through competition? Different levels of community are layered throughout the Eco Challenge. First, this is one of the only events at camp in which everyone participates. This common experience gives everyone something to look forward to, to talk about—it builds shared language and memories.
Second, each camper and counselor is assigned a team. The team transcends the usual separations of gender, cabin, age or activity preference. Kids that might not other wise connect at camp are given the opportunity to make strong bonds. Once joining a team, a camper is a member for life. Campers feel accepted on their teams—win lose or draw, kids know that their team will always cheer them on.
Third, though Eco Challenge is highly competitive, an emphasis is placed on sportsmanship. Eco Challenge provides a safe atmosphere to help kids understand that losing is part of any competition. Did you have fun? Did you try hard? Those are the questions our counselors ask to help our campers explore how they feel after a tough race, relay or basketball game. On the flip side, winning is celebrated, but never at the expense of another team’s feelings.
At the end of the day, the whole camp community shares in the celebration of the day’s successes. The positive camp energy radiates through cheers, high fives and hugs. Through friendly competition, our community grows stronger.
1. Opening campfire: What better way to kick off the summer than with a traditional campfire. Head Counselor, Nick, told the legend of Camp North Star as kids turned their heads to the sky in search of the night’s brightest star. Many brave campers, new and veteran, took to the campfire center circle to share songs, skits and stories. Long time counselor “Downtown Adam Brown” rounded the evening out with a great performance of the buzzing mosquito skit.
2. The RICHS were introduced: Respect, Independence, Caring, Honor and Spirit. At Camp North Star, these are our guiding words. The RICHS help us each make good choices about how we interact with others at camp (and at home, of course!).
3. Awesome first rotation classes! This week campers really jumped right into all the elective classes that Camp North Star offers. One of our senior campers reported that her schedule included waterskiing, pottery, rocks and hip-hop, while one junior boy reported that he took basketball, studio art, ropes, water games and video.
4. White water rafting and junior trip: All our middie and senior campers got off to an early start Saturday morning as they headed out to the Kennebec river for a day of rafting. The weather cooperated and kids had a great time battling the waves. Our junior campers had their own special day of banana boating in the morning and Fun Town Amusement Park in the afternoon. Needless to say, everyone was tired after such a long day!
We couldn’t have asked for a better start to camp: smiling faces, busy kids and lots of new friends! Keep checking back for more updates from summer 2011!
P.S. Happy Fourth of July to everyone! Our Fireworks at the Poland Spring Inn have been rescheduled for Tuesday evening.