Last night was a great night at camp. Our evening program was something called Wannado. The idea behind Wannado is that kids get a chance to do something out of the ordinary…a break from the routine…something unique. So, we cancel all of our normal projects and offer totally new things. The kids do what they “wanna-do.” Get it?
There were a wealth of great offerings. There was a softball game on the upper diamond (yeah…..kids still play softball!!), a dungeons and dragons game in the Rec Hall, water rugby, a massive game of dodgeball on the Swamper Hill, a filmmaking and script writing session, a mirror soccer game, an excursion to explore the less travelled woods of Camp Nebagamon in search of a massive fallen tree, sand castle building, sledding on the sand dunes and a 3v3 basketball tournament. Something for everyone and every taste!
As much fun as all the activities are, perhaps the most fun thing about any Wannado night is its announcement. Announcements start out as they normally do after dinner, with me getting up and charmingly and wittily speaking to the group about the day’s activities. Within minutes the entire Rec Hall is asleep. (Perhaps the charm and wit are a bit overrated?!) Then we start to talk about the evening’s activity. After much feigned hemming and hawing in which I pretend not to be able to decide what we should be doing that night, some music over the loudspeakers interrupts me and The Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing” drowns me out. Instantly, virtually the entire camp family leaps out of their seats and begins to dance. Some dance their own individual dances, and some join a 100-person conga line. It is an amazing sight but certainly not for the faint of heart. You have to be willing to embrace a certain amount of chaos to truly enjoy it. I myself, being a fan of and a believer in the value of occasional moments of kid chaos, find this to be, absolutely, one of my favorite times.
An additional bonus of Wannado is getting to watch the first-year Swampers when the song begins. Last night, it was particularly amusing as I watched one third-grade camper. The moment the music began and people leapt to their feet, he looked appalled. His look was one that said, “Oh man, these guys are all going to get into big trouble…” Soon enough, after realizing that no one was getting into trouble and that even the administrators and camp directors were dancing, his jaw simply dropped. He sat there staring at all that was going on without moving a muscle…mouth wide open. And then the smile came…and then he jumped into the conga line…and laughed…and danced.
I also really enjoyed our Lumberjacks when the music came on. I often feel badly for our Lumberjacks. You see, when they were younger, when that song started, they would totally unselfconsciously get up and boogie down without even the slightest hesitation. Everyone was doing it, it looked like a lot of fun, so of course they were in. But, sadly for our boys, by the time they become Lumberjacks, something else has set in for many of them…that cool thing. And dancing with a bunch of little kids in a conga line…definitely low on the preconceived coolness continuum! And so it was that the music began last night and 3/4ths of the Rec Hall jumped right up to dance….and the Lumberjacks….just looked at each other. You could tell that they were struggling with what to do. It was clear that many of them wanted to get up and reconnect to that song and that dance that had been so much fun for so long, but, would it be ok with the others? Was doing something that was decidedly uncool ok? So they sat and looked at each other. Remember that great climactic scene in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yp8uoQ2PS_0) (Unless you want to see someone shot, you need to stop watching at about the 2:50 mark, but you should have the idea by then anyways!) Each Lumberjack itching to pull the trigger and start dancing with the rest of camp. But….unable to make their move until the time was just right and they could be assured someone else was making their move. The tension built….tense eyes darted from one Lumberjack to another…..and back again. Mouths dry, senses heightened, hearts racing. And then it happened. Some brave guy reached for his friend’s shoulders…and the game was on. The entire Lumberjack porch jumped up and got after it…conga style!
So….I just want to be clear here…EVERYONE in the Rec Hall gets up when that song starts to play. Everyone from the kid that seemingly dances at all times to the kid that is so consumed with avoiding looking bad that normally he would never be caught dead dancing. Whatever geniuses created this phenomenon somehow were able to transmit the idea to the boys that it is way more uncool to sit sullenly during the dancing than it is to get up and play along. So they get up, looking a little self-conscious at first, but then giving in to the moment…letting go…playing along.
But last night, the dancing didn’t end in the Rec Hall. You see, each day we are allotted by the camp deities a certain amount of camp magic…last night we found ourselves with a surplus of this magic dust at the end of the evening. So….of course….another conga line spontaneously erupted about 15 minutes before the goodnight bell rung.
ANOTHER MASSIVE CONGA LINE!
Nobody had planned for this ….it just happened. It was as touching and campy of an event as I can ever remember. For the next 30 minutes the conga line ranged everywhere. Let by a counselor blasting Gloria Estefan’s Come On Everybody Baby Do That Conga, it coursed its way through each of our four villages, picking up new dancers at an incredible rate. It made its way through the camp office, picking up a camp director (!). It found its way into just about every nook and cranny of the joint. By the end, the line was nearly 100 strong with at least two boss loggers (voices still barely audible), campers from literally every age group, senior counselors, junior counselors, specialists…even that boy that had had some difficult discussions with the camp director earlier in the day who had been able to muster only scowls for the rest of the day. The scowl was gone and replaced by a huge. The line ended 15 minutes after the goodnight bell (special dispensation from the camp director who takes at least 15 minutes to really get his groove on…as is sometimes the case for 51 year old dudes!) at the staff lounge where each dancer enjoyed a popsicle to help celebrate the fun and cool down. It was a GREAT serendipitous event. As good as they come.
All is well in the North Woods….