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Happy Birthday to ME!!

Last night, we celebrated the All-Camp Birthday. This is a chance to celebrate everyone’s birthday, even those of us who do not have birthdays during the summer. The genesis of the event at camp goes back to WWII when sugar rationing was in place and Muggs was forced to have just one birthday celebration rather than individual celebrations for the boys that had birthdays at camp. While we have always celebrated the All-Camp Birthday, this year we decided to really do a blow-out event. 

We started with a giant all-camp barbeque. Our kitchen manager came to me a couple of weeks ago with an idea to shake up the typical All-Camp Birthday menu. (It is usually tri-tip steak…a camp director favorite…so I immediately winced at the suggestion.) She wanted to try something totally new because of the nature of our kitchen crew this year. In yet another episode of Things That A Covid Summer Forced Us To Do That Have Actually Been Pretty Cool, we were forced to change how we hired our kitchen staff this summer. Typically, we hire exclusively local high school aged kids to work in the camp kitchen. We have always liked to provide jobs to the local community and really enjoyed the connection that this nurtured with the Lake Nebagamon community at large. Because of the camp bubble that was so central to our plan this summer, we were not able to hire a fully local kitchen staff.  Not surprisingly, we found it difficult to find high school kids willing to move onto the camp property for the entire summer and not interact with any of their high school friends and family who would be living so close by…so we needed another solution. The solution came in the form of ten college students from Puebla, Mexico who decided to spend their summer with us. They arrived two weeks ahead of the rest of the staff so that we could quarantine, test, and vaccinate them before the larger staff group arrived. This early arrival allowed us to get to know these brave folks really well and we came to like and admire them. 

Anyway, as I was saying, Anne, our kitchen manager for the last 16 years, suggested that we do something completely different that would take advantage of our special kitchen staff this year…and when your UNBELIEVABLY WONDERFUL 16-year kitchen manager comes to you with a suggestion you say YES…and when Anne comes to you with a suggestion you say YES MA’AM!!! (You see, part of her genius is that she has cultivated in all of us, including her employers, a healthy amount of fear of her!!!!) And thus the Birthday Fiesta was born! The menu included brisket tacos, beans and rice, elote (grilled Mexican street corn), several freshly made salsas, guacamole and a fresh seven-layer dip. This new menu was a huge amount of work for the crew…but a true labor of love for all involved. To a person, the kids and staff raved about the meal. Every component of it was incredible and evidenced the care and pride that was involved in making this special meal. A birthday gift to the entire camp. It was an incredible meal.

The seating for the event was by birth month. Everyone enjoyed the chance to sit with some totally different people and connect with surprise birthday buddies! There was a great giant community picnic feel to the meal. And, as if we weren’t stuffed enough from dinner, the meal was topped off with gigantic slices of birthday cake. Yum!

And then the party started. A classic outdoor birthday party…the stuff of old time community fantasies. There were old standbys like potato sack races…balloon animal making clinics (or if we are being honest, mostly a balloon SWORD making clinic!)…and juggling lessons. On top of those classics, we had a water balloon launch, in which water balloons were shot from a giant slingshot and the brave throngs attempted to maneuver themselves under it for the catch…they got wet. There were balloon stomping contests in which the boys had balloons tied to their ankles and attempted to stomp the balloons of the other boys…they got sweaty. There was a challenging event involving whipped cream and jelly beans (in case they hadn’t already had enough sugar) where campers had to be the fastest of three to clear the plate of all whipped cream, including the jelly beans hiding under the whipped cream, EXCEPT the red jelly bean had to remain on the plate…they got messy. We had a “cake frosting” slip and slime tarp where the boys could hurdle themselves at top speeds down a 30-foot tarp covered in our homemade pink slime…they got slimy. There was a “dunk tank” in which boys threw bean bags at a target that, when hit, would release VERY COLD water balloons on whichever administrator happened to be the sacrificial authority figure of the moment. Some administrators would heckle the boys in an attempt to distract them and affect their accuracy. It didn’t work. I took a different approach when I was in the chair trying to appeal to the boys’ better angels and begging them to show me some mercy. It didn’t work. They responded with complaints about all of the soda I deny them during the summer, and other grievances about my regime, and then hurled with deadly accuracy…I got wet (and freezing!!). The event was a great success. A great celebration of each of our birthdays…and just plain old wet, messy, sweaty, slimy fun!

All is well in the North Woods…..