A Big Special Day

By Louis Levin

If you’re not looking too closely, it’s been just another normal few days at Camp Nebagamon this week. Although we’re still a little early on in the session, two of the big special days that our campers look forward to are starting to appear on the horizon. Next week we’ll celebrate the Fourth of July, and shortly after that campers will join their Paul Bunyan Day teams and compete for their lumber companies. Still, our two big special days are a bit of a ways away. But if you look closely, things happen around here all the time that make for some big special days, and yesterday was a perfect example.

Yesterday, we hosted our Northwoods Tennis Invitational, a round-robin tournament with our friends from Camp Lincoln and North Star Camp. This is an annual event with a trophy that dates back to 1988! Our tennis instructor is new to camp this summer, and brings a great deal of professional experience playing big matches under bright lights. He was so excited for the invitational because it gives our campers a chance to play with spectators, against unknown opponents, and under a bit more pressure than normal. However, our tripping program is in full swing, and a good number of our top tennis players were out on trail. I was a bit nervous to tell our tennis pro that his best pupils wouldn’t be available for the tournament. When we sat down to discuss our tennis roster, he was excited by the situation, as this would free up spots on our team for less experienced players to get a chance to play in tournament-style conditions. Nebagamon didn’t fare too well in the tournament – as one of our optimistic competitors put it, “we were on the podium!” Of course, he knew there were only three teams, and he still found a way to be satisfied with the results. We saw campers scrap it out for some good points, and shake hands with pride with our competitors. For those kids, getting the opportunity to represent Camp Nebagamon playing a game they love, and doing so with so many eyes watching, the pressure was indeed a privilege, and they relished in it. Sure, the standings at the end of the day may not be what they would’ve hoped, but for much bigger reasons, Northwoods made yesterday a big special day for those campers.

Then, yesterday afternoon, a spontaneous G-Party erupted. Each day at the end of activities, our campers have a block of free time to spend as they wish, including swimming in the lake, a period we call General Swim or G-Swim. It’s an enormous treat to live right next to a gorgeous lake, and there’s a host of G-Swim regulars who, rain or shine, head down to the water to splash around every afternoon.  And, when the weather is just right, or when Incoming Director Noah Stein makes a promise to our campers that if they all succeed at an all-camp activity, he’ll host something special to give a little juice to enthusiasm, we turn G-Swim into a G-Party. That means the works – ping pong tables in the shallow end, pool noodles and water nuke-em in the deep, music, sand castles, beach toys, and, most importantly, lots and lots of kids in the water. We had half of camp at the beach! For all campers involved, whether they were cooling off from a day on the tennis courts, or the G-Swim regulars, or those enticed by something a little extra, it was a blow-out blast, and turned our usual free swim into a big special day.

We ended the day last evening with our first Good Time Charlie of the season, our camp talent show. Our campers really put on a great show for us. We had one boy head up on stage with his melodica, a cross between a harmonica and a piano, an instrument he had been playing for only a week, to perform two songs for us. We had one of our veteran staff (this guy again) demonstrate some very silly math-inspired yoga. And the last act, as always, was our GTC band. Assembled and reassembled each GTC, the shifting lineup in our GTC band accepts all comers, including clarinet and trumpetists to rock out to some 90s Nirvana. I watched the group’s drummer take the stage, and thought I could sense some nerves as he sat on his throne to perform. Well, I was happy to be wrong. The band had the whole place rockin’, the drummer kept it all together with a steady and confident groove, and the whole camp was behind them cheering them on from the crowd. I’m sure the drummer, and all of our performers, left the stage feeling like yesterday was a big special day.

We cap our GTCs with a sing-a-long of camp classics, like Mountain Dew and Logger Lover. One of our long-time village directors recalled a great song from when he was a camper, and suggested we give it a whirl last night. Now, adding new songs to the list can be a little bit, let’s say, well… sometimes it doesn’t take. Kids may sit with their arms crossed, fumble through some words, or won’t be able to keep the tune and resist the change. Needless to say, we were hesitant, but this one seemed like a winner: Drunken Sailor, the sea shanty, with a few tasteful lyric changes. Boy oh boy did it take! The boys picked it up quickly and belted the tune at the top of their lungs, and that one song lent a buzz to the rest of our singing. Kids have called the new song an instant classic, and so for everyone in the Rec Hall last night, yesterday was the day we introduced a camp song to our repertoire, making for quite the big special day.

So, yeah, if you glance at the weekly schedule, yesterday was a Quad-Prod/GTC (meaning four project periods and the talent show). But for all the kids at camp yesterday, it turned out to be quite the big special day… just like most days here at camp!

All is well in the Northwoods!