Happy 4th of….um…Independence Day!!

Happy Fourth of July!  Ok…kinda the Fourth of July. Today at camp, we are celebrating Independence Day! (For some reason, the Village of Lake Nebagamon had to host the fireworks on July 5 instead of July 4, so we adapted!)

There is nothing quite like the Fourth of July at Camp Nebagamon.  For my money, what we have put together here programmatically on the Fourth should be the standard by which all Independence Day celebrations are measured. This is a day that is absolutely packed with interesting and fun activities that center around celebrating the 4th. Our activities today will tour us through the pensive, the patriotic, the musical, the raucous, the athletic, and…the gluttonous (not an official American ideal…but let’s be honest here huh? It probably belongs on the list!!)  There is more than enough action and activity for everyone today…and then some!

Already this morning, we enjoyed our traditional Fourth of July breakfast, apple pie and ice cream! Needless to say, this is a huge hit with the kids…

After that we met as an entire camp at the flagpole to raise a special flag that we only use once a year here (we raise another flag every other day). This flag was flown over the US Capitol in honor of Camp Nebagamon (and we have the official certificate to prove it!) and is a wonderful and very special piece of Nebagamonicana. At the flag raising, we recited the Pledge of Allegiance together, and then listened to a short talk about what is special about the Fourth of July from a member of our camp family. This year, our speaker spoke to us about freedom. He spoke of the ideals of freedom that are promoted in the United States, but focused more on the freedom that kids who come to camp enjoy. He spoke about how the freedom campers have to choose what they want to do every day is empowering and promotes self-discovery. He spoke about the freedom campers have to take advantage of so many opportunities at camp, such as the wilderness trips, grows self-confidence, The metaphor was clear. Freedom is valuable…at camp and elsewhere.

After the talk, we engaged in the most difficult task I have to perform every summer – leading the camp in the National Anthem. And all humility aside…I nailed it this year. The first time in memory that “the rocket’s red glare” didn’t result in my voice cracking in an alarming Peter Brady sort of way.

Currently happening this afternoon is the fun and action-packed Guinness T. Nebagamous event. Contests of incredible variety are set up for the boys. There are old athletic standards like the football and softball throws, sit-ups and pull ups, and consecutive free throws. There are the more goofy ones like who can blow the largest bubble, the longest unbroken raw egg toss, eating as many pretzels as possible in 3 minutes (the all-time record was broken just about half an hour ago with a whopping 30 pretzels!), along with many, many more. All in all, the boys will test their skills in over thirty different events throughout the afternoon. We actually do have records that date back thirty years for each of these events which are posted on a giant plaque on the Axeman porch of the Rec Hall. Believe it or not, these records are the source of a relatively constant buzz among the Axeman that sit out there and stare at those boards meal after meal, day after day, for summers on end. And it should be noted that in 1980, I set the Axeman hopping on one foot record. That record stood for nearly two whole summers. I have always been a bit of a jock….

In addition to the events of Guinness T. Nebagamous being a lot of fun, I have to say, the feel of this type of an all-camp activity, at this point in the season, is really great. Instead of our normal sort of segmented days with 20 different projects running four periods a day, today has sort of a “county fair” feel to it. The whole community is gathered in one area of camp participating in tons of engaging events and cheering each other on. You honestly would not have believed the crowd gathered around the alternate-side ping pong paddling boy, with everyone supporting him throughout the feat and cheering like mad in the hopes that he could break a long-standing record.

This evening we will all head up to the Upper Diamond for a good old-fashioned ball game. Our Junior Counselors will be taking on our Senior Counselors in a game of softball. The game will be complete with announcers and inner-inning games…and, frankly, terrible softball players!!!  Terrible, but truly entertaining! We will be adding to the ballpark feel by having our oldest campers vending hot dogs to all of the spectators, and we also get to enjoy walking tacos and popcorn as we enjoy the ballgame. Then, towards the end of the game, the boys will be treated to our Feed’em Freedom Sundays…the most decadent, over the top, and frankly embarrassing dessert of the summer! Quite the eating day huh? Apple pie and ice cream for breakfast, candy thrown at them at a parade, popcorn and hot dogs for dinner, and, finally, giant ice cream sundaes.

The night will be capped off, just like it is for millions of other Americans, with a fireworks show. The entire camp will assemble on our docks at dusk and talk quietly as the sun sets. I always coordinate it so that we arrive on the docks with at least 30 minutes before the fireworks begin. This gives the kids the opportunity to get comfortable, dip their toes in the water and comfortably just sit and chat with each other about everything under the sun. Now I have been to many fireworks shows in my life, and, admittedly, many that were far more spectacular, but there is nothing like sitting on a wooden dock on an inland lake in Wisconsin, with your best friends in the world, and your feet dangling in the water, as the booms, crackles, and colors of the 4th of July play out over the lake. To be honest, much of the time I don’t even watch the fireworks. I just watch the campers on the docks. I watch them laugh and poke each other as the light from the fireworks lights up their faces. I listen to them “oooh and ahhh.” And something about that scene makes me feel more patriotic than I do all year…

 (*The Fourth of July at Camp Nebagamon is brought to you by our sponsors, the American Dental Association, who wish to thank us for keeping them in business.)

All is well in the North Woods…