Camp Laurel Blog

Monthly Archives: July 2013

Entering Week #6

The pace is pretty frenetic as we enter Week #6 of the summer. We’re well into Second Rotation programming and all departments look strong. Campers have acquired and honed skills all over the map from the athletic fields to the waterfront, adventure course to the metals studio, equestrian center to the fitness center.

Our Bec and Bago campers returned from extended trips to Boston, Montreal, Sunday River and the White Mountains of New Hampshire with over-the-top reports.

Lake Swim prep culminated this week with the annual Echo Lake Swim and 6th period specials are a hit all over camp.

From Davis Cup Tennis to Record Your Fastball to Rocket Launches, Extreme Spin Classes and more, everybody loved their special late afternoon “try it “ programs. Rehearsals for the big Acadia and Apache musical Mulan are in final stages for Friday’s afternoon matinee performances.

As we enter the last 10 days of camp, its so great to see cabin and group relationships so strong. Friends, cabinmates counselors, cousins, camp sisters, camp brothers: everyone’s immersed in the Laurel spirit.

Last Fridays all-camp campfire was spectacular. The songs, stories and even alumni musings from United States Naval Academy’s Ben Berkey (Super Senior 2007) were amazing.

We look forward to what is sure to be a fantastic and memorable next 10 days of camp!

What could be bad about camp?

What could bad?  At camp, we get up with our friends ….throw on some shorts and a t-shirt….go to breakfast where we have choices of what we want to eat, clean up our cabins for a  few minutes, get together with out friends and counselors at morning Cove and head to program.  We swim, ski, play ball, have a theatre rehearsal, waterski, ride a horse and have a mid-morning fruit break.  We may than have a tennis lesson, lacrosse team practice or learn how to stand-up paddle-board. After another activity, say climbing, fitness or crafts, we have some lunch outside with our friends, cousins, brothers, sisters, camp brother or sisters, and enjoy our meal overlooking a lake that’s 9 miles around.  We take a 50 minute rest hour because we’re tired from all this activity, and then head out to more afternoon program.  We may take a zip line ride over camp, play some hockey, take out a catamaran, play in a soccer intercamp or
create a masterpiece in ceramics.

Its almost time for dinner.  We have a choice or of a 14 item salad bar, pasta bar, main course and its all kid food, but pretty healthy and really good.   Evenings activities are always awesome.  Leagues, campfires, shows, Sports Night, egg drop, sunset cruises, talent nights and more.  Then its probably one of the best times of the day, hanging out with your fiends and counselors again as you review what happened during the day, grab a snack and head to cabins for come chill time before lights out.

We love camp.  We love our friends.  We love the activities.  And it’s a great place to be.  What’s bad about camp?  Absolutely nothing.

Week #5 Begins…

It’s been an amazing first four weeks of camp and we now enter the second phase of camp 2013.  Visiting Day this past weekend was fantastic — great times, great weather and great families coming from all over the United States.   We were so thrilled to receive so many wonderful comments about our staff – the backbone of our camp.  What a thrill it was for parents to see everything in action and for campers to show off their summer home.

Program is back in full swing with sports, activities, intercamps, trips, arts, waterfront, riding and more.  Extended trips to Montreal, Boston and Sunday River departed yesterday and early reports are that everyone is having a blast.   The younger campers love having camp to themselves for a few days….but they miss their camp brother and sisters and wished them a great bon voyage before they headed out. Rehearsals are well underway for the Acadian and Apache Musical:  Mulan. It should be a phenomenal show!

There’s so much more to look forward to…we can hardly wait.  Tonight is the Acadia Video premier and Apache ASN.  Baxter and Sequoia were at the waterpark today for all the thrills and spills of Funtown/Splashtown.  We can’t wait for the next three weeks of  summer together.


Elasticity is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the quality of being adaptable.” By definition, elasticity is not merely a description of successful campers and staff, but a description of summer camp itself. Summer camps have existed for over a century and are generally considered a piece of Americana.   With well over 12,000 summer camps across the United States (and a collective enrollment in the tens of millions), however, summer camp is anything but a thing of the past. It’s a strong “tradition” that continues to attract families from all over the world.

One might be tempted to ask what quality of summer camp enables it to continue to thrive. Undoubtedly, that quality its elasticity. While summer camps are rooted in tradition, they’re also in tune with the contemporary needs of children. Summer camp was originally a place where parents sent their children to escape from the health hazards posed by the increasing industrialization of cities. Now, it’s a place where children are sent to escape the automation of society. Camp is no longer merely a place to reconnect with nature but with each other as well. Summer camps have expanded their activities to reflect this evolution. In addition to sports, camps offer activities such as outdoor adventure, which include rope and obstacle courses designed for team building.

Summer camps have also tapped into the rising de-emphasis of the arts in public schools and embraced programs that encourage campers to explore their creative sides. In addition to traditional arts & crafts, many camps now provide campers with options in cooking, music, magic, and even circus arts. The generous availability of these programs attracts families who want their children to have the opportunity to explore their artistic sides.

In demonstrating a clear understanding of how campers benefit from attending camp, summer camps have been able to adapt by translating the voids created by advancements in society into meaningful and timeless activities.

Free on Saturday?

So, do you have any plans for Saturday? Just kidding — we know you do. But at camp we like to downplay the approach of Visiting Day. Even though everyone at camp knows that it’s on Saturday, we don’t talk about it until Friday night. The emotions it stirs up won’t surprise you because you see them on Saturday: calm, anxiety, laughter, excitement, surprise. With more than fifty visiting days under our belt, we know how to prepare the children for your arrival and reintegrate them into camp after you leave. On Friday, we mention the schedule and the procedures at the evening Cove, and let our staff take it from there. Once Saturday dawns, it’s a calm and wonderful day. After you leave, we get the campers back into their camp lives with the always-popular pizza dinner on Saturday night and then normal program on Sunday. In this way, we let everyone enjoy Visiting Day without creating any unnecessary apprehension.

We encourage you to get to camp by 9:00 on Saturday morning as the gates open at 9:30. At that time, you can go children’s cabins, see the kids, and meet their counselors and Campus Leaders. During the day, see them participate in their favorite activities, all of which are open to them so they can demonstrate their accomplishments and introduce you to their program counselors. Enjoy lunch, either the buffet at the Dining Hall or the barbecue at the Field House. Go for a swim or play some tennis. Some parents chose to take their children out of camp; if you opt to do so, you can bring them back to camp by 4:00 or drop them at the Augusta Civic Center at 5:00. If you decide to stay in camp, you can take advantage of all the special Visiting Day events, then leave your children with their counselors when you head home.

As always, if you have any special needs or concerns, let us know. We look forward to a fun day on Saturday, rain, shine, or both.

Second Rotation Kicks Off

After a great First Program Cycle, Second Program Rotation kicked off with a bang this past weekend.  Campers had the chance to modify their electives while still focusing on our core activities:  Tennis, Swimming and Team Sports. Campers were excited to try some new program areas and refine skills developed in the first three-and-a-half weeks of camp.  We had a great Friday Night Campfire this past weekend as well as a phenomenal Dance Show featuring more than 140 campers.  We’re in final dress rehearsals for tonight’s production of Guys and Dolls and the music, scenery, costuming, and sets coming out of the Theatre seem phenomenal. We can’t wait to see the show!  We had more than 28 intercamps last week alone and continue to have fun, remain competitive and participate in baseball, basketball, tennis, lacrosse, swimming, climbing, soccer, softball and gaga competitions.

More than 120 campers are now members of the coveted Camp Laurel Five Year Club.  They donned their new, personalized  5 Year Shirts and headed out on their annual trip last night.  A great time was had by all.

Our tripping department continues to shine.  More than 100 campers have participated in overnight camping excursions through Maine and New Hampshire.  We’ve hit Bradbury State Park, Rangeley Lakes, Tumbledown Mountain, Three Rocks, Camden State Park, Acadia National Park, Baxter State Park and more.  Campers love traveling in small groups of 8-10 with three tripping counselors and always report it as one of their favorite summer highlights.

This Thursday night is Group Sing.  One of the summers best evening programs takes place under-the-lights in the Hockey Arena as each group writes, rehearses and presents an original song written “camp style.”  It should be another great night and we can’t wait!!

Healthy Competition

“Healthy Competition” is a term that is often used at summer camp. While they also offer a wide selection of niche and hobby type activities, traditional summer camps focus heavily on sports. The emphasis, however, is more about encouraging campers to be active and improve their skills. This is not to say that campers do not participate in sports matches. In fact, many camps not only facilitate game play through intra camp leagues, but inter camp leagues as well. Thus, “healthy competition”, as it is used at camp, is an expression to describe contests with positive encouragement, regardless of the outcome, and not merely a synonym for “no competition.”

Po Bronson, co-author of Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing believes that the camaraderie that results fromh healthy team competition encourages children to learn at a faster pace and alleviates the stress of learning a new skill or attempting to improve existing abilities on one’s own. Another aspect of camp competition that makes it healthy competition is that it’s limited in scope and time. It takes place only as long as camp lasts and does not extend beyond the camp environment. This, according to Bronson, is a key element of “healthy competition, “In finite games, you compete and then you let it go, and you have rest and recuperation – that’s actually really important for kids,” said Bronson. “It’s the continuous sense of pressure that is unhealthy for them.”

The stress of not making a team or of underperforming is not a pervading force in camp athletics. Says Bronson, “What kids do need to learn is losing is not that big a deal. They need to learn to lose and go ‘Oh, whatever,’ and move on and keep playing…You want to get them to turn up the work ethic in order to win.” At camp, losing is not a big deal, because every summer is a new summer–new tryouts, new teams, and new possibilities. The constant rearrangement of groups also helps campers shrug off losses. Another day brings another activity and a new group with which to compete. A loss in one activity does not translate to a closely monitored record that eventually defines a team and, sometimes, individuals. The teams are constantly changing and so are the competitions.

The break between summers also makes growth measurable for campers. When children constantly train and participate in a sport, it’s more difficultfor them to see themselves improving, even when they are. The ten month gap from one summer to the next provides campers with the time and distance necessary for improvements to be noticeable. The distinct parameters of camp that restrict it to a single season—summer—also remove the constant pressure of advancing skills as quickly as possible so as to always be able to perform at peak level. Every summer is a new summer–new tryouts, new teams, and new possibilities. As a result, campers tend to maintain a healthy attitude about camp sports, which makes them naturally receptive to the idea of genuinely healthy competition. At camp, it’s not so much about winning and losing as setting goals and measuring one’s progress from summer to summer.

“What kids need more than anything is not to win or lose but a close race, a fair competition where everyone feels like they’ve got a fighting chance,” says Bronson. “Where everyone feels like they have a fighting chance” is exactly what summer camp is, and why it’s an environment naturally conducive to healthy competition.

Camp Laurel Totem…

According to Wikipedia, a totem is “is a being, object, or symbol representing an animal or plant that serves as an emblem of a group of people, such as a family, group, lineage, or tribe, reminding them of their ancestry.”  Camp Laurel has had four different totem poles that have symbolized our camp spirit.  The first, “Herman,” looked over the camp in its early years and stood on the Acadian Lawn near the Whippoorwills’ cabin.  By 1978 Herman began to show signs of decay and was safely taken down at the end of the summer.   A part of Herman was burned in the Opening Campfire of the summer of 1979 and a new totem pole was commissioned.  Counselor Randy Watts from Colorado, experienced in wood working and 3-D design, was tasked with creating a new “spirit” for the camp.

With a cedar tree trunk lying on sawhorses, wood carving wedges and a box of crayons and chalk, Randy began the project.  He sketched rough drawings on the trunk and instructed campers and staff how and where to cut.  Most everyone in camp that summer took a turn with the tools and there was a fair degree of uncertainty as to how the final product would look.  Incredibly, by the end of the summer, our new totem pole, “Allen White Cloud,” was standing on the beach looking up toward Tanager, the Dining Hall.  Randy named the totem pole after a camper from his cabin, Allen Pantuck, and a horse, White Cloud, that had been at camp that summer.

Randy returned to Laurel in the summers of 1980 and 1981 and with the help of the campers and counselors carved two more poles. “Excelsior,” (NYS’s motto – ever upward) shows a person climbing to the top of the pole.  Randy actually lay down on the pole and we traced his body to be carved into the design.  Excelsior has a riddle carved into it with the answer being the location of a time capsule prepared by the campers to be opened in the new millennia.

“Ralph” sits atop the camps’ Cove and watches out over all the camp meetings.  Ralph is a traditional totem pole with native animals in its design.  Again, campers and staff worked together under Randy’s guidance to carve the pole.  On his own Randy used an axe to carve an old tree trunk in cove into a face known as the “Spirit of the Cove.”

This past spring, Excelsior’s base was found to be rotten and it had to be taken down.  In keeping with tradition, we burned a piece of Excelsior in our opening campfire on the first evening of the summer.  Perhaps we will begin work on a new totem to let the “Laurel spirit live on, and on…”

A Whole New World

At one of America’s Finest Summer Camps, a first year camper, upon stepping off the bus on arrival day for the first time, immediately exclaimed, “I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole life!” The awe of that young camper at that moment was very reminiscent of the scene in The Little Mermaid in which the young mermaid Ariel finds herself on land for the first time and, with her new legs, begins experiencing a whole new world. She is mesmerized by the smallest human things—flatware, trinkets, and mirrors. For young campers who finally get to come to camp for the first time after sometimes waiting their “whole lives,” there is a sense of wonder in being in a new place with different people and things. They are surrounded by literally dozens of activities that perhaps they’ve never tried and, sometimes, of which they’ve never even heard. Like Ariel the mermaid, they sometimes hear about the world of camp from older siblings for years before finally getting to experience themselves. With that newness and the adventure of being in a place one has dreamed for a very long time comes a sense of openness and a willingness to try new things. New campers often want to try EVERYTHING!

And why not? What better way to discover which things one loves than at summer camp, an environment in which many new campers are away from their parents for the first time? There is no sideline pressure from over-zealous parents and coaches at camp sports. There are no teachers to mark right from wrong. Instead, new campers are surrounded by supportive counselors, staff, and friends, many of whom are also first time campers and that natural empathy creates an atmosphere conducive to bonding and the formation of lasting friendships.

As campers maneuver the new world of camp, they share like experiences. Whether big, like taking on a high ropes course for the first time as a cabin or small, like learning how to bait a fishing hook, learning what camp is all about becomes the foundation for the transformation of the new world of first time campers into the special world of camp. Because the menu of camp activities constantly expands and evolves, there is a perpetual newness to the summer camp experience.  Even though, for older campers, camp becomes a special place to which campers get to journey once a year, that essence of being a whole new world lives on summer after summer and is what drives campers to spend their winters counting down for that annual journey to experience it.

The Action Never Stops…

Paul Rabil. Swim Meets. Tennis Tournaments. Climbing Competitions. Bradbury State Park. Lake St . George. ChefCamp. Morning Marathon. Crack o’ Dawn Fishing. S’mores Sites. Bounty Social. Flag Football. Sports Night. Sailing Regatta. Bec Swim. Bago Sprint. Luau. Hoe Down. Davis Cup. ACFL. Rockport. APES. Baxter Hoops. Wakeboarding. Stand Up Paddling. Golf Plus. Fireworks. Ribs for Cookout. Metals. MYOS. One-on-None. Sequoia Hockey League. Funtown. Camden State Park. Freeport.

We’ve been at camp for two-and-half weeks and the action hasn’t stopped in Readfield. Hold onto your hats…the best is yet to come!!

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