By Todd Mitchell
There’s a place among the pines, a place where something amazing happens that cannot be explained.
One of the many mantras at Camp North Star is that “it’s more than just a place, it’s a feeling.” It’s even on the sign entering camp. At first glance, it may seem like a poignant advertisement for those arriving, but it means so much more.
This is my second summer at Camp North Star which is one of the top-rated Maine summer camps. Last year, I tried as hard as I could to fully embrace the thought of camp. It’s all about letting camp take hold of you and making it part of who you are. This year, I again am fully inviting camp into who I am, but I am also looking at how the campers embrace this as well. It’s more subtle of a transition, but it’s still very visible. I am realizing now that what was once originally a place to work, is something much more. When you first get here, camp is just a place but by the end of the summer it means everything.
Camp is summer. There is no way around it. From the waterfront, to the dining hall, The Village to The Bunkhouse, camp is the essence of summer. Though, it is not the place as much as it is the people, camp is nothing without the campers. It’s this little oasis in a world that is volatile. Somehow through the experiences of the campers and the counselors alike, something profoundly magical happens. It can’t really be explained but a visible change occurs. The weight of the world leaves everyone’s shoulders and smiles spread across faces. Camp becomes more welcoming than a home and more tight-knit than a family. It’s a place where playing in the mud is a completely acceptable thing for a 22 year-old to do as much as it is for a 10 year-old to do an interpretive dance to Single Ladies. It a place where individuality it exulted and happiness is the way of life.
Camp for me has become this beautiful place full of beautiful people and experiences. The feeling can’t really be described but the best way I can explain it is through example. On a sunny day, you step out of the main office, you look across to the main field which is full of campers. The feeling of camp is in each joyful smile that spreads across a campers faces. It’s that moment where you completely lose yourself and all troubles melt away and pure, unfathomable bliss runs through you with each excited heartbeat. As the summer comes to a close, there are points of sadness but the feeling is still there and will stay with you until next summer when it bubbles back to the surface and grows stronger with every passing year.
By Niamh Whelan
I was excited when I found out I’d be working for the Sea Dogs’ trip. As an international counselor, I have never even been to a baseball let alone do I understand any of the rules. I was lucky though, not only did I get to go to my first baseball game, I got to go as a counselor.
At breakfast on Sunday morning, they played ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’, and from that moment on I, along with all the campers, were giddy with excitement. As we piled onto the line of yellow school buses, the atmosphere was electric and the short drive to Portland felt like a year. When we arrived in Portland we took a pit stop lunch in the park by Hadlock Field before finally making the long awaited walk to the game.
Once we were in our seats, we looked around at the seas of other camps which surrounded us. Campers from all over Maine had taken a trip to support the popular Boston Red Sox affiliate. We met people from other camps, and it was so interesting to watch the campers interact with each other. The inter-camp competitiveness soon began to creep out. Despite all camps cheering for the same team, there was clear competition between them, who could cheer the loudest, who could support the Sea Dogs the best. When one camp would finish their cheer, another would start the next but the volume would be doubled. When cheering for Sea Dogs finished, the camp songs began and so on. One of the highlights of this camp competition was when on the big screen, all of the special groups or birthday parties got a shout out. Of course all of the camps present got a mention and the enormous cheer that erupted from the Camp North Star campers from the Maine sleep away camp was deafening.
The whole day was a resounding success, from the sun splitting the stones, to the token fried dough that was enjoyed by everyone, to the group of campers I had on either side trying to explain the rules throughout all the innings. Unfortunately the Sea Dogs weren’t as successful, however Camp North Star had a truly awesome day!
By Noa Billick
The Queen of Hearts told Alice that she once believed six impossible things before breakfast: Camp North Star’s Alice in Wonderland theme day would not have been an impossible thing to believe in.
I watched Alice in Wonderland when I was a little girl – since the age of about six years old, this classic Disney film has stuck with me. Little details like singing flowers, letters made of smoke, mushrooms that look like cheese, eating a plate like a cookie, and exactly half a cup of tea have stayed with me.
Our morning was spent watching the 1951 Disney version of Alice in Wonderland while enjoying breakfast. This put us into a thoroughly dream-like mindset, ready for a whimsical day filled with Alice’s adventures in wonderland. After some camp cleanup, we returned to the main field and ate lunch on an incredibly long picnic table similar to the tea party table in the animated film. Our lunch was followed by a very merry un-birthday celebration, where each cabin had their own un-birthday cake to share.
We returned from our cabins to the main field for some mystical activities, such as knocking the teeth out of a giant Cheshire Cat, taking photos with props in front of a giant mushroom, decorating top hats, and playing croquet, amongst many other things.
Counselors and campers alike dressed in Wonderland-esque outfits and celebrated the beauty of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland. I felt like channeling my inner Queen of Hearts, so I decided to paint the middle of my lips like a red heart, along with a few other counselors.
I was stationed at the photo booth, armed with a digital camera, a box of props, and some incredible Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum cardboard cutouts. The kids I took pictures of had particularly big smiles! The campers really enjoyed this theme day, as they got to dress up and spent the day as though they were in the classic Disney film. As someone who has attended Camp North Star for six years, this is one of the absolute best weekend activities I have ever experienced. There was so much thought, effort and consideration put into making this theme day the best it could be. Specifically, as a counselor, Camp North Star’s Alice in Wonderland day was one of the most incredible and fun activity days to have been apart of.
Eco Captain Summery
My time as captain of Earth Team for CNS Eco Challenge 2015 was incredible. Never have I been pushed to my limit like that. Being kidnapped at 6am, asked to write a song, a chant and design costumes was challenging enough. The fact that I was required to build a 5ft fire from scratch was a whole other story. Eco challenge began a week ahead for all captains, most morning involved waking up at 6 to practice fires, compose lyrics and talk strategy. While the two days were exhausting and involved a very swollen sprained ankle, they were without a doubt my highlight of the summer so far. To see every single camper rally together, cheering each other on – despite being on opposite teams – to ensure that all competitors felt supported and loved was, for me, the reason this summer camp is so special.
Four burnt ropes, eight outstanding performances and 100+ lost voices. How does one even begin to describe Eco Challenge 2015?
Although the games began on the 16th and 17th of July , for the eight captains it was a rude awakening almost a week before hand.
6 AM, I wake to a noise in my cabin. I roll over, still half asleep to see the smiling face of Jewels O’Brien holding a pillow case. Groggily I try to ask what’s going on but she interrupts me with three words, ‘I’m kidnapping you’. Only at camp does this thought not terrify me, probably just another crazy evening program or wacky Wednesday I thought to myself. I had no idea what was actually in store for me. After being led through camp with a pillowcase on my head I was finally brought to a stop on the dining hall porch and asked to sit down. I could hear other voices but was still unclear as to what was going on.
A few moments of intense silence, our blindfolds were whipped off to reveal a sheet of paper with the name of an element on the table and a fellow counselor sitting opposite us. In my case EARTH was written in front of me, and Barry McDaid was facing me. Things began to take shape. Looking around at the other pairings, the level of excitement exploded. The teams were clear; Amos Armoni and Izzy Garcia for Fire, Bea Durston and Gonzalo Chacon for Air, Jesse Litvin and Maria Hall for Water and finally Niamh Whelan and Barry McDaid for Earth. The challenge was explained to us and we were sent back to our cabins to pretend nothing had happened. How could we conceal what had just happened, our camp lives had been changed forever.
Our task was simple; write a team song, create and choreograph a team chant, design costumes, a banner and learn how to build a fire from scratch. Not to mention keep it a secret from every camper and counselor for seven days, before finally leading a quarter of the camp through an ambitious series of relays, games and challenges.
Barry and I woke up at 6 am most mornings to prep for the challenge. We researched a dozen fire techniques and listened to countless pop songs. We spent free times, off periods and flex times discussing tactics. We were going to be ready for ECO 2015, or so we thought, until we found out the games had to be pushed forward 2 days because of inclement weather. Tension levels reached an all time high and after a late night of finishing details to costumes and props we were all set for the next two days of madness.
Thursday 16th of July we had another early start as we donned our earthen costumes, painted ourselves with green body paint, gathered all necessary props and took to The Line for the ECO Wake up. Singing, chanting and beating drums, the eight captains were reunited again to wake up campers and raise the energy levels to the height they would be kept at for the next 48 hours.
The first contest began at 10am on Thursday morning and it was nonstop from there. Obstacle courses, GAGA and Kickball tournaments, Water relays and Natural Disaster had all four teams worn out by the end of the day. A good night’s rest meant the camp was ready to take on the final day of the challenge before the infamous Apache Relay at 3:15.
As earth captain, heading into apache I couldn’t have been prouder of our team. They had rallied together, keeping spirits high all day whether winning or losing. The final stages of ECO are a blur to me. Lighting a fire at the end of the apache relay was one of the craziest things I have ever experienced. And even though ours was the last to burn through the rope, the spirit and love shown by all campers and staff cheering everyone on in the final moments made the blood, sweat and tears entirely worth it.
Huge congratulations to Bea Durston and Gonzalo Chacon and all on Air Team on being crowned champions of ECO 2015.
By Noa Billick
Camp North Star is the most wonderful place on Earth. With welcoming, caring, and fun people at every corner, it is nearly impossible to walk onto the campgrounds and not feel right at home.
As someone who is attending Camp North Star for her sixth summer in a row, it is quite common to hear stories of the difficulties when changing camp roles at one of the best summer camps for kids.
Last year, I was fortunate enough to come back to camp as a junior counselor, or JC. I helped out in classes and cabins and had a total blast learning my new role. Within that role, however, I struggled a little bit to figure out whether I fit in with the campers or counselors. Since our JC group was so small, we were able to be a counselor and always have someone to turn to for questions, comments, and concerns. Throughout the summer, I bonded with campers and counselors alike. I learned about the importance of always being available to campers, preparing for classes ahead of time, and learning to be ready for anything and everything at all. As a counselor, I have reflected on these experiences whenever I am questioning a situation or whenever I am looking for the right thing to do.. There are often some difficulties adjusting to walking into North Star with new responsibilities and not knowing what to expect as a result. With that in mind, it is very important to know that it is all worth it.
This year, I was hired as a counselor. With last year’s group of JC’s being so small, we were able to step into counselors’ shoes for a short while which has been extremely beneficial, as we have essentially had a summer camp counselor experience under our belts. I would strongly suggest being a JC before a counselor: it is such an incredible and useful experience. Based on my experience this summer, I have put together a short list of necessary to-do’s to make the shift a little easier:
- Put on a smile as soon as you wake up in the morning, and greet your campers with excitement;
- Be ready to rock & roll by 7:00-7:15;
- Do what you need to do to wake up as quickly as possible – take an early shower, go for a swim in the lake, etc;
- Eat lots of fruit (they are energizing and total pick-me-up’s!)
- Take all sort of criticism as a way to improve. Ask how you can improve!
- Make sure that you have some way to get rid of all the negative energy that may accumulate over the summer – you don’t want to have that in the way of taking care of kids;
- Be sure that the classes you teach are classes that you are passionate about – kids will pick up on your enthusiasm and mimic it;
- Make the most out of any situation, and most importantly:
- HAVE FUN!
By Niamh Whelan
The list of activities offered at Camp North Star stretches from art classes to zipline, with anything and everything in between. We all love to cook with Frankie in the Cantina, learn guitar with Brooke in the Jam Factory, or chill out and paint with Nora in the Bunk House. But what we love even more here at CNS is learning new, sometimes unusual skills. Under the creative juices of the counselors, the vast array of classes becomes even more endless . Every year we add a few new classes to the list and soon they become an old camp classic, like quidditch brought by David Fox in 2012. This year we see even more new and exciting classes trickle into our schedules, Bollywood Dance and Sketch Comedy to name a few. These new classes add a certain vibrancy to camp that lends to the sensational atmosphere we experience on Verrill Road.
This week, Cailley Lapara, Amos Armony and Jesse Litvin bring some excitement to the week with an exhilarating new sketch comedy class, casually known as Saturday Night Camp. The three counselors at our summer sleepaway camps have long recognised the hilarity and creativity that we see everyday in all of our campers here at CNS and came up with this class to channel that talent!
Based on the long running sketch show Saturday Night Live, the aim of this class is to teach campers the basics of comedy writing. They are given the opportunity to get a few sketches written, recorded and then uploaded to youtube channel every week. In this class, campers learn the different types of comedy sketches, from escalation comedy to insane versus sane man.
This week I had the pleasure of sitting in on one of these classes, led by Amos and Cailley. The group, whose ages ranged from 8 to 13, were challenged by the adrenaline-racing, high-pace nature of improvisation. Starting with basic improv games and working up to full scale sketch creation was entertaining, all the campers got super creative and it was an awful lot of fun to watch unfold!
By Poonam Narotam
The flats were standing. The props in their places. The kids were a quiet wave of energy, buzzing with excitement. Lynn O’Leary played the first notes of the show on the piano, and the spotlight switched on. Devin Wright’s strong voice rang through the auditorium. We were in business.
After four grueling, fun-filled weeks of rehearsals, Camp North Star put on its eighth musical last Thursday night: Wilma Wonka Jr. For me, this musical was the first show I had ever directed.
I turned 22 in April, threw my cap in air in May, and came to Maine in June for my very first summer of camp. I had no clue what to expect, but I can tell you this: I was not expecting a Jake Hoffman to be so eager to play Veruca Salt (“I Want it Now”), or to see Roald Dahl’s Mike Teavee be turned Russian by our Vasily Semenov. Nor was I expecting to be so deeply charmed by these 18 kids.
Auditions took place the first week of camp, and, with a huge smile on my face, I looked at my roster to see…six names on the list.
“There’s no way”, I said to my co-director, Izzy Garcia. “Unless we live in the land of Harry Potter, there’s no way we can make six kids play 12 roles.”
And so began the process of literally singing and dancing to recruit kids to the play. I can’t remember how many oompa loompa numbers we created to perform at breakfast, lunch, dinner, campfire, camp meeting, and wherever else we thought we could entice these kids to paint their faces orange and dance around in overalls for an hour on a stage. By mid-week, I’m thinking to myself, Aren’t the kids supposed to be the performers?
Casting brought with it a bundle of nerves that confirmed one thing: I have the mom gene. I sat at the drawing board with Izzy going, “Does this kid have enough lines? Will that one feel left out if he’s not on Act Two? Are you sure he’ll be okay playing a girl?” And it wasn’t until the cast walked into the Recreation Hall that first Thursday morning talking about all the things they wanted to do with their characters that I let out the breath I’d been holding.
Four Thursdays later, I pull into the parking lot of Poland Regional High School, our performance venue, ready to face a 12 hour day with my munchkins. There was pushing and prodding, suggesting and, when they still didn’t know their lines two days before opening night, some yelling, to prepare them for this show. I choreographed and designed sets and freaked out when we didn’t think the sets would be painted in time, while Izzy sang and rehearsed lines and freaked out when we didn’t think the sets would be able to stand. And all we wanted was for them to be happy with their performance. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t hold their hands through the final run. Instead, Izzy gave them one last speech, and I blew kisses and doled out hugs. With my heart in my throat, I listened to Devin start off the show.
So when the audience began to cheer for the cast during curtain call, I jumped and whooped and fist-pumped along with them. The feeling I felt watching these kids achieve a goal they had set for themselves four weeks prior was like nothing I had ever felt in my life. And when the kids ran backstage after the curtain was closed for good, laughing and cheering themselves, I just began to envelop them up in giant group hugs. I couldn’t ask for a better group of kids to direct in my first musical, a better family to be a part of my first summer at one of the top-rated sleepaway summer camps.
The campers are here! The campers are here!
It has been an exciting week at camp. The first few campers started trickling in on Saturday, and by Sunday evening camp was in full swing. The session started with Bunk Night. Bunk Night was a way for campers to bond with their cabin. There were team building activities, card games, even a bout of Dungeons and Dragons, all for the purpose of breaking the ice and forming a family within the cabin.
The excitement was palpable as campers began their first week of classes and evening programs at our sleepaway camps in New England. Some classes of note this were: rocks and ropes course, canoeing and kayaking, water skiing, even nature art found its way into the schedule. North Star was teeming with campers going this way and that to get to classes and, based on the smiles on their faces, they are already having a great time.
Evening programs started with opening campfire. Opening campfire was a time where campers, counselors – even directors – showcased their talents. There was everything from theatrical skits to musical performances.
The next evening program was Color Night. Color Night was a huge mix of activities all involving, you guessed it, color. There was body painting, archery with paint balloons on the target, a music video involving paint splatter, and a bunch of other activities that got campers in tune with color, art and, of course, getting messy.
The following night was Division Night, which was a host of different activities split up by age group. Village Campers played a competitive game of House of Cards Dodgeball (this involves the normal dodgeball rules but in order to end the game, a house of cards must be built amidst the chaos). Seniors played a host of fields games, many of which were created by counselors. Middies and Juniors met in the Dining Hall for a game of Castle Wars. In Castle Wars campers construct castles out of cardboard that would withstand an onslaught of dodgeballs from the opposing castle.
Thursday night was Counselor hunt. Counselors from each cabin were given locations around camp to hide while their co-counselors and cabins searched high and low for them. There was a twist though, running around were “bandits” with water guns were trying to soak campers. If a member of a cabin was hit, the entire cabin had to go back to the basket ball court before they could continue searching. Stockholm cabin came out as the most successful seekers and will receive one extra dessert from the directors as their reward for finding all the counselors.
Friday night was Fireworks! We all went to Poland Spring Resort and watched one of Maines best fireworks shows. Kids started their evening with laid back activities including frisbee, football, cards and Ladder Ball and as the sun set we got settled
This past weekend, campers enjoyed participating in some good ol’ historical fun on Colonial Day and wrapped up the week with a trip day relaxing down the Androscoggin River on tubes or a hiking up Grafton Notch followed by some fun at beautiful Step Falls. This week we are looking foreword to new and exciting activities as we head towards the end of session 1!
By Beth Lester
One of the aspects of camp that we at North Star focus on is that there are parts of camp that are unknown to the outside world. There are experiences at one of the top-rated summer camps for kids.
Recently developed classes include fencing, world cuisine cooking, innovative sports, Muggle Quidditch, and the Hunger Games. Counselors spend hours, or even days, planning these classes. We make sure that they will run smoothly and be fun for the campers, but that they will also have an intentional aspect to them. We consider the 21st century skills that are involved in the class, and what campers will gain from being a part of the activity – whether that be physical skills, such as learning to fence, or social skills, such as working together to develop something as a group.
Some of these experiences are fairly basic – going to the beach for a camper who lives inland, going to a baseball game, etc. Other experiences, however, are far from ordinary. Have you ever played Muggle Quidditch – a non-magical version of Harry Potter’s favorite game? Did you even know that existed? Or have you ever invented your own sports with a group of friends? These are two experiences that are offered through some of our counselor-created classes. that one just cannot, or is unlikely to, have while at home. While some of these experiences are social or developmental (i.e. being in a place where your parents are not there to care for you), some are physical experiences.
Every year new counselors come to camp, and with them bring new skills and ideas. We can’t wait to see what interesting, different classes will come around next summer! What would you like to see?
By MaryClaire Schulz
A summer at camp is always filled with smiles, laughter and days of fun, but the most unfortunate part of summer is that it always comes to an end. Though saying goodbye (or “see you later” as we like to here at Camp North Star) is undoubtedly the most difficult and saddest part of a session, we believe it is still a meaningful time for reflecting on the ways campers have grown and changed and all of the great times they’ve had during the summer.
The beginning of the end of camp always begins with a fun-filled day. Whether it is spent on a trip off-camp or just having a relaxing day of fun activities on camp (like Carnival Day this past session), campers get to spend extra time laughing and having fun with their friends and counselors.
That evening, campers get fancy for a banquet dinner served in the dining hall. Amidst a delicious meal, campers will view a slideshow of photos of them and their friends taken during the session. After dessert, camp director Sue will award RICHS to six special campers who have demonstrated camp’s core values (Respect, Independence, Caring, Honor, Spirit, and overall RICHS). A time-honored Camp North Star tradition, the RICHS ceremony at one of the premier camps in Maine is always an emotional time for campers and staff alike.
After dinner, campers are sent back to cabins to change into warm clothes and then head to the campfire ring for Closing Campfire. The acts that campers and staff perform at Closing Campfire are usually sentimental and reminiscent, and there’s no shortage of tears during this final evening program. From Closing Campfire, counselors will lead their cabins to the waterfront for a lantern ceremony. Each cabin receives a small lantern that they send off into the lake in remembrance of the great times they spent together. The campers end the night by gathering on their porches for a goodbye line, in which campers walk down the line of cabins and wave “see you later” to their friends.
Though the end of camp is always tinged with a little bit of sadness, the time spent fondly remembering all of the awesome memories made that summer never fails to bring the session to a happy end.