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Maine and the Great Outdoors

People always ask me about my favorite aspects of summer camp. That list could go on forever: community, independence, friendship, activities, teamwork, facilities, personal growth. Staying unplugged and tuned into the world is a key ingredient for all those benefits. Children (and counselors) spend so much of their year in classrooms and their free time plugged in. One of the things camp people look forward to so much is a change in their environment. And there’s no better place for this switch than Maine.

Camp Laurel is in one of the most beautiful areas of the country. Tucked among tall pine trees nestled on gorgeous Echo Lake: Maine is the definition of natural beauty. The views of the surrounding forest are a welcome change to the skyscraper backdrop of the big cities from where our campers come. Breathing in the crisp Maine each summer is an amazing experience. The acres and acres of lush green fields give our campers a connection to the nature around them. Campers are also able to take advantage of day-hikes and camping excursions to state parks, Acadia National Park and local spots we’ve been frequenting to for decades.

When campers reminisce about their time at Camp Laurel they always talk about their “experience” rather than specific activities. They mention that distinct mix of friendship, community and nature. It’s a life-changing experience and one that Maine provides in the best way.

Echo Lake: Like Nothing Else

I consider myself very fortunate to spend my summers at Camp Laurel on Echo Lake. I remember thinking the name of the lake was something really special my first summer. Many of my favorite camp memories are traced back to the time spent in the water: jumping on the trampoline, passing a level in swim and waterskiing for the first time all rush through my head.

As I look back on those memories they come into a greater focus. I can picture one of my favorite counselors giving me instructions from the boat while I put on my skis. I can hear the lifeguard reminding my friends and I of the waterfront rules while she strapped on my life vest. I still feel nostalgic about getting out of the lake for the last time as a camper, wishing I had one more summer with the friends I grew up with.

It’s only in looking back now that I realize the magic of Echo Lake is tied to the people as much as it is to the location. The waterski counselors were so excited when I first got up skis. My friends and counselors were always ready to have a great time. As a counselor now, it’s through that lens that I’m reminded of the magic of Echo Lake.

Camp Laurel: My Summer Home

Before my first summer at Camp Laurel I was reminded of all the things my parents used to tell me: brush your teeth, try new things, make friends…As my bus ventured toward Readfield I remembered my tour of the camp the year before. I thought about the activity selection form I completed, all the things we packed and sent, what the cabins were like. I couldn’t help but be excited (and a little bit nervous.) What I wasn’t ready for was how much Laurel was going to impact the rest of life, and how quickly it would feel like my summer home.

Stepping off the bus I noticed the counselors cheering and smiling. It seemed like hundreds of them were there to welcome me! The energy that met the campers on that first day left a lifelong impression on me. Over the summers I spent at Laurel, I realized the most important thing is the people. My summer connections gave me confidence, taught me about myself and encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone. (Not to mention that my counselors were always there to remind me to brush my teeth and encouraging me to try new things.)

Obviously, the best part of every summer is that camp is FUN! Each day is packed with swimming, songs, tennis, waterskiing, laughing, basketball, art and everything else Laurel has to offer with the amazing backdrop of Echo Lake. I’ll always cherish the memories created, the skills I learned and the friendships gained. And I’ll always love my summer home!

Keeping the Laurel Spirit Alive

When camp comes to an end, we pack-up your duffels before you head home to get ready for another school year. You leave camp with a lot more than you came with (like ceramics projects and bracelets — and more bracelets!) But more importantly, you leave with a treasure-trove of memories, lifelong friendships and a renewed sense of confidence and independence that camp fosters.

There are different ways campers bring the Laurel Spirit home with them. Humming camp tunes, exploring a new athletic or artistic passion, a newfound ease when making new friends…there are many ways that camp affords us the opportunity to be the best version of ourselves.

Camp Laurel has a special way of revealing a new side of campers even they may not normally have seen or even knew existed. Even campers who return year after year come home with something new each summer. They understand how fortunate they are to spend seven weeks on Echo Lake. They feel a profound connection to Maine. They realize they don’t need to be “plugged in” to feel connected. Campers take something extra home with them: the stories, shared experiences, inside jokes and memories. Luckily, the Laurel Spirit won’t take up any space in your duffel. And that will stay with you for life!

Another Successful Summer

The sun is setting earlier, the nights are a bit cooler and camp is over. After living, playing, learning, laughing and growing together for seven weeks, we now reflect on another incredible season. The bonds that were forged at Camp Laurel are remarkably strong. Camp is a unique place where children and counselors wake up, eat, play and spend the days together with friends all summer long.

The magical thing about summer camp is that it goes far beyond seven weeks. Memories last a lifetime, and everything is more than it seems. Playing basketball isn’t just about gaining and improving skills, but also about learning to be a good sport and teammate. Finishing a ceramics project is about following directions and unlocking creativity. Campers conquer their fears and step out of their comfort zones at the Aerial Park. In the cabin they build confidence by celebrating each other’s achievements, supporting one another and living together.

The lessons learned at camp translate in the real world. Whether in the classroom, at extracurricular activities or in the community, camp helps us become better students, teammates and friends. Parents: We know you’ll have the chance to talk with your camper about what they learned this summer. As always, we want to thank our campers, camp parents and counselors for another amazing summer!

Final Ceremony

We had an incredible summer, amazing College Days, and we look forward with great anticipation to tonight’s Lakeside Final Ceremony.

This Final Ceremony has been the closing hallmark of Camp Laurel since 1947.

In addition to the traditional march, group songs and group fires, each group will feature a fire starter and speaker representing their campuses. 

 

As your campers return home, we hope you will allow them the time and space to recount and process their experiences. They may appear hoarse from cheering, exhausted from College Days, and slow to readapt to the norms of family life. Given the opportunity over the coming days and weeks, however, even normally tight-lipped kids may let you in on the summers many triumphs and adventures. 

Have a wonderful, safe and happy year. We miss your kids already!

College Days 2019

College Days is a classic Laurel tradition, and probably the most all-consuming one. For four days, pretty much every camper, every counselor, every venue, every program area plays a role. The event has changed over the decades, evolving to become even more exciting and engaging.

For the last few years, campers have been divided into two teams, which makes more sense logistically than the three we used to have, and is much easier than the four we tried at one point. The Super Seniors seek to pick two colleges or universities that have some connection, say geography or history. Fans of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament probably recognized that this year’s two teams, Davidson and Gonzaga, both gained national prominence through their unexpected success in March Madness.

Part of the fun of College Days for the campers is to guess when it will start. The break from normal activities involves the appearance of something unexpected at Camp, whether a hot air balloon and a motorcycle club, like this year, or announcements dropped from a plane. Because the break has become such an anticipated event, we sometimes stage a dramatic event around the time when campers expect the break, just to kid around. This summer,  a professional team of fire-twirlers on the upper fields at dusk was just a cool evening program (and “fake break”), not the start of College Days!

Almost every full-season camp has a color war or other departure from the norm near the end of the season. The Laurel version diverges from the ones seen at many other camps in two key ways. For one, our team competitions extend to every activity, so campers can show their stuff not just in basketball and soccer, but in checkers, and not only in water-sports but in the arts, through competitive lip-syncing, cooking, and painting. In addition, Camp friendships are paramount at Laurel, and remain so during College Days.

Right now, Laurel campers are enjoying College Days as Laurel campers have for many decades, throwing themselves into team competitions while upholding Laurel values. While they play to win, we always come together as one big Laurel family at the end.

Something’s In The Air…

Everyone knows it’s coming, we just don’t know when. The chants of “Ketchup…Mustard…Mayonnaise, We Want College Days” can be heard everywhere. First, Saturday night’s dinner, “Pizza in the Pavilion” threw everyone for a loop. Then the Super Seniors not attending the Bec and Bago movie trip was another mis-clue. And now, tonight after the Dance Show, everyone is sure it’s happening. Only time will tell!

 

As regular program comes to a close, we slip into Sports Night Championships tomorrow morning and, sometime after that, the beginning of our five-day culminating event: College Days 2019. We’ll have regular updates on social media and daily on “Laurel Today.” For now, stay tuned and enjoy!!

Culminating Program Week

It’s very, very hard to believe there are only four days left of Program (actually, somewhere between 3 and 5 days, but we won’t say exactly lest you figure out when College Days will “break.”  It’s incredibly rewarding to see campers taking incredible advantage of their last regular program days of the summer. Mastering skills; finishing arts projects; dropping a ski for the first time; challenging a group-mate on the Tennis Ladder; challenging themselves in Dance or Fitness; scaling the Climbing Tower; running the Fit Trail; learning a new recipe in ChefCamp. The list goes on and on.

It was an action-packed week highlighted by the Triathlon and Lake Swim.

This weekend will feature great weather, and we’ll continue to play through until our Super Seniors tell us otherwise; after all, it’s they who help mastermind the start of our summer culminating activity. We’ll keep you up-to-date on all the goings-on in Readfield, and hope your weekend at home is going to be as special as ours, here on the eastern shore of our favorite lake!

Sheer Happiness…

During the summer season, many people visit camp while it’s in session. Some are alumni, some are colleagues, but most are families who are looking at which camp to send their children to the following year.

We show them around camp; introduce them to lots of campers and counselors; show them the facilities, cabins, and Lodge; give them a ride in one of our five Mastercrafts ski boats; and give them a snack.

 

Many of the camps these families are touring have really nice Tennis Courts, Fitness Centers, Culinary Centers, Ropes Courses and Lakes. (We’re biased, of course, and think ours are truly special). But the overwhelming comment we receive from these visitors is not at all about the facilities. It’s about the people. Their mood. Their sense of comfort. Their smiles. And the spirit and happiness they exude.

We couldn’t agree more when these visitors tell us they select Laurel for the environment and the community we’ve built here in Readfield. That makes us happy and makes us smile more than anything else!