Historically, I have devoted at least one update per summer to our experience of eating in the Rec Hall. Built in 1931, the Rec Hall is a true Nebagamon museum. Not only has that building hosted tens of thousands of campers’ meals for 90+ years, but the décor and ambiance of the place are virtual tours through the history of Camp Nebagamon. The walls and shelves are jam packed with plaques, awards and acknowledgments of those that preceded us here. If I am being honest, when it became clear to me that we were not going be able to dine in there all summer, I was crestfallen. I love eating in the Rec Hall; I love that our campers sit in that big room, with so much time to stare up at all of the mementos, the connection to history oozing into them by sheer osmosis. It seemed such a loss to miss out on all of that and the connection to those that preceded us.
But, the universe dealt us the hand that it did, and a summer outside of that museum was to be our reality for this summer. So our caretakers did the hard work of building 30 plus picnic tables during the off-season and with some thoughtful planning by our other year round staff, Rec Valley was born. Some 40 picnic tables (we had about 10 on hand already) were arranged adjacent to the Rec Hall in an open space between a cabin and the Craftshop. I admit that I was skeptical that it was going to be anything other than just a hassle since table setting, food retrieval, refills, and cleanup were going to be much harder with a longer walk to the kitchen for our KPs. But I was wrong. Rec Valley has become one of my favorite spots in camp this summer.
First, I guess I just had not realized how much I would like eating outside all of the time. What could possibly be more campy than that?! I have always maintained that when you put people outdoors in a beautiful spot, beautiful things happen. And beautiful things have been happening. Eating under the pine trees with a nice breeze blowing is incredibly pleasant. Camp is so beautiful. Additionally, this has been a hot summer, and, while I love that Rec Hall, it is a VERY warm place on a hot day. The sun bakes the top of that building and sometimes eating in there becomes the stuff of a fire and brimstone preacher’s admonitions! So, eating outside has made that situation just so much more pleasant.
But perhaps the most special surprise that Rec Valley has gifted us is the social reward that it has offered. One of the things that we quickly discovered with the whole camp-eating-outside thing is that the kids have a much harder time staying seated during the meals. I am not sure exactly why this is the case…but there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that it is the case! I spent a good amount of energy during the first few weeks of camp fighting this battle. I cajoled, massaged, inveigled, persuaded, and tried everything I could think of to keep them in their seats. And while I would like to think of myself as being able to get kids to toe the line on most things, eventually I came to realize that I was losing this battle. It was supremely frustrating. And then one day, while I was ruefully watching the kids float from table to table like a colony of swarming ants with no apparent rhyme or reason, I noticed something really wonderful. I noticed that they were floating from table to table like a colony of swarming ants with no apparent rhyme or reason! What this meant was that while in the Rec Hall, we were very much limited to socializing with the kids from our own cabins, outside in Rec Valley, we interact much more as a true camp family. Older kids, younger kids, staff, everyone seems to be much more at ease sitting down with other groups and chatting. There are no age barriers at all. Everyone interacts with everyone. More than ever I think that the camp family is truly a camp family…and largely thanks to Rec Valley. I love it.
I also LOVE announcements in Rec Valley. Any of you that know me, know of my love affair with that microphone during announcements. I have always reveled in the opportunity to force the entire Rec Hall to endure my hilarity and charm at the mic. I have cultivated my comedic prowess at the microphone for these past 18 years, attempting to convince them that it is well deserved…with mixed success. I was worried that it would be even harder to captivate them with my wit and delightfulness without the Rec Hall as my palate. But Rec Valley actually is WAY better. With everyone right in front of me (instead of separated by the three rooms that make up the Rec Hall), the connection with my flock is just that much better. It is much easier to persuade them of the comedic and spiritual genius that is their camp director when they are all directly in front of me out there. I have absolutely no doubt that by the end of this summer they will all be believers in my jocular genius. After all, just this morning one of the 3rd grade Swampers told me that he thinks I am really funny. One down…a few hundred to go.
As of late, there has even been talk amongst our administrative team as to how to keep Rec Valley alive in the future. Who knew?
All is well in the North Woods….