Every once in a while you just have to let it all hang out and have one of those BLOWOUT days. A day unlike any other at camp that stands out as truly unique. While many of the best memories from a summer are created on standard routine days, these special days really serve to punctuate a summer at camp.
Today is one of those giant blowout days. Today is The Grand Pursuit…quite possibly the zenith of all giant blowout days. To give you all a little background, we had been wanting to give the second session kids a truly special day for quite a while. The first session kids all get to share in both Paul Bunyan Day and the 4th of July (which are both big hits). And while the second session is peppered with lots of great partial-day events (Taste of Nebagamon, Chef’s Cap, A.K. Agikamik, and the final 9th Grade Council Fire), there was no singular all-day, mega-day for the second session kids. Over the years, we tried out a number of new days. All were great fun, but nothing yet had really struck that perfect chord until five years ago… when we introduced The Grand Pursuit!
The Grand Pursuit is a Voyageur-themed day in which the boys are divided into four fur trading companies all competing to control the trade routes of the Great Lakes region. Each team is captained by one of our village directors. Friday night, after an opening ceremony filled with much pomp, circumstance, pounding drums, and animal skin shirts, the boys who had been here last year rejoined their Voyageur clan from last year. This left the new boys waiting to hear which trading company they would join. (Part of what is so cool about the Grand Pursuit is that the boys will stay on the same team for their entire camper careers.) As their names were read, they were welcomed onto their teams with cheers and high fives, and received their ceremonial team sashes. This year, we were all ecstatic about the sudden appearance onto the scene of four complete strangers to the camp community dressed in full Voyageur garb. These four men proceeded to serenade the trading companies with a series of several authentic Voyageur songs….two of which the boys had been hearing me play over the Rec Hall loudspeakers all week in a build up to the big day!
Also new last night, we introduced a new kick-off event for The Grand Pursuit. The Flaming Arrows! (Yeah, I am savvy enough to know that any event involving flaming arrows and 200 8-15 year old boys will be a hit!!!) The event required each of our Village Directors to simultaneously attempt to shoot a flaming arrow into a yet unlit campfire (generously bathed in lighter fluid!), thus igniting it. And so it was, at 6:25 pm, an economics graduate from the University of Chicago, a PhD in Chemistry, a 49 year old writer and teacher, and a 53 year old project director for the USAID program, began attempting to shoot a flaming arrow into a campfire approximately 15 feet away. They were encouraged by the chants and songs of their Voyageur crews during the entire competition, which concluded at 6:41PM after at least 50 arrows had missed the mark…..badly! Nevertheless, the enthusiasm was constant throughout the competition and the roar that went up from ALL TEAMS once that campfire finally burst into flames was truly deafening! For lack of a more descriptive phrase, it was SUPER AMAZINGLY FUN!!!!
The event was followed up with a barbequed chicken dinner during which teams got to know each other, ate heartily, planned strategies, and practiced team cheers.
This morning was dedicated to collecting pelts (ok… points… but we call them pelts… more Voyageur-y, don’t ya think?) through Voyageur-themed individual events like archery, balancing a canoe paddle on your chin, and orienteering… and less Voyageur-esqe events like the playak tug sprint, distance Frisbee throw, soccer shootout, color crayon scramble, limbo, and sand dune slalom. Each Voyageur could compete in as many events as they wanted, and merely participating in the event earned pelts for their companies. (Yes… this all works better if you can envision your 11 year old as an incredibly accomplished French Canadian adventurer rather than a 5th grader that almost never has his shoes tied!) Later in the morning, the Voyegeurs competed in group events like a ropes course, a jigsaw puzzle race, a scavenger hunt, and a cookout box skee ball to earn more pelts for their companies.
After lunch (wild rice soup in a crusty bread bowl and, yes, your kid ate it! In fact, we have wild rice in some form in every single meal today… and they totally dig it!), the teams will use these pelts to buy up territories on a massive game board. These territories and their resources are worth even more pelts depending on what other territories a team owns around them. The degree of sophistication and the level of thought that these kids put into their strategic geographic domination is truly… um… terrifying! (And further “ammunition” to support my desire to spread pacifism to the campers! If these strategic minds ever get into positions where they become the wielders of military might, we are all in trouble!) Days before the Grand Pursuit, boys have been huddled in small groups looking at the game board from last year and planning their strategy for this year.
The afternoon will be spent engaged in team events such as handball, water pushball, basketball, tennis, ultimate Frisbee, chess, euchre, and quiz bowl. (All told, there are 43 different contests throughout the day!) Every Voyageur has the opportunity to participate in multiple events. The final four events – canoe relay, tug of war, fish-a rama, and the incredible sawbuck (the boys use a two-person saw to cut through a log… legitimate Voyageur stuff!!!) – will all take place on the Waterfront with the entire camp watching and cheering on their teammates. It is always a great scene. The whole camp together and singularly focused. Victories in these competitions earn the fur trading companies territory steals for the giant game board play after dinner.
After a hard fought day of intense athletic and mental competition, the Grand Pursuit’s dinner is a wholly different affair. We will all enjoy a barbeque on the beach complete with pork tenderloin, wild rice salad (as promised), Navajo fry bread with honey butter and cinnamon sugar (Not sure the honey butter is quite so Navajo, but it sure is amazing!), homemade cream puffs, and many other accoutrements. At this barbeque, the time for raucous cheering will have ended, and we will all sit down together for a pleasant and mellow dinner. It is totally appropriate for us all, after an intense day of competition, to let that intensity diminish and sit down for a nice meal together.
Following dinner, we will engage in our final strategic rounds of gameplay on the big board, and then head to the Upper Diamond for our closing ceremonies. This includes a HUGE bonfire, the announcement of the day’s winning fur trading company and, of course, a fireworks show. You know, just like the Voyageurs did at the end of each day!
Hats off to our entire community for making a great day like this happen. This day does not happen without everyone contributing and being willing to work a little harder than usual. As ever, our staff stepped up to that challenge and truly delivered. More on them in the next update!
As I said, these special days serve as punctuation marks for a session. Safe to say in this case, our punctuation mark is an unmistakable one:
All is well in the North Woods…