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Playing along….

As a camp director, I know that one of my most critical tasks is to establish a predictable routine for the campers. One of the main ways to help kids become adjusted to being away from home is to provide them with a stable and predictable situation. They need to know what to expect and how things work in their new home.

Then again, after a while, as much fun as the routine is, it becomes time to shake things up a bit.  And that is why the geniuses that invented this place invented Cruiser Day!  Today is Cruiser Day!!!  For newcomers to the Nebagamon world, each Wednesday we cancel all of our normal activities and have an entire day devoted to special events and activities. Sometimes Cruiser Days are all day cabin affairs and sometimes they are village wide mega event days. Today is one of these all-village style Cruiser Days.

In the Swamper Village, it is Dinosaur Day. As it turns out, right on our waterfront, buried in the sand are some fossilized dinosaur remains. Who knew!?!? Also, as luck would have it, some of the fossils have some intact dinosaur DNA which will enable the boys to bring the dinosaurs back to life! Amazing huh? Well…you know how the rest of the movie goes…I suspect some things will go haywire with this plan to reintroduce these long since vanished creatures to the modern world. And, needless to say, I suspect that the best way to restore the natural order of the world will involve…of course…water balloons. Serious stuff.

In the Logger Village, they have been revisited by members of the Hatfield and McCoy Clans and asked to settle the family dispute. (Although in this case, it was an age-old clash within the various sects of the Steinbaum family.)  The Loggers will be divided into teams and the two branches will clash in all matter of contest ranging from soccer to playing our own Family Feud version (complete with very unscientific polls about favorite meals, dogs, and songs at camp).  My gut tells me that by the end of the day the warring Steinbaums will come to their senses and peace will be restored in the Logger Village.

Our Axemen are engaged in Iron Chef Day. This morning, through a series of contests, feats of athleticism, challenges of the mind, and…ping-pong and water pushball (did you know that Wolfgang Puck was a world class ping-pong player and water pushball virtuoso? Me neither…), the boys will be earning points that will then be used in an auction for different ingredients which will be used to create culinary masterpieces this afternoon. The cooking competition will begin with a Survivor style fire-building contest and then transition into a cooking competition.

And our Lumberjacks had been hoping to participate in Casino Day. But, tragically, as the cash was being delivered to the casino during morning announcements, the infamous evil criminal mastermind Noah Stein burst onto the scene and made off with all of the funds!!! (Yeah, I know, lots of Stein in today’s events. It’s just how it played out!!!) The Lumberjacks are now tasked with sneaking into the evil Stein lair and reacquiring the absconded with cabbage. Again, I have a sneaking suspicion that the climactic moment will involve some water balloons…and pushball.

To be clear, I am fairly certain that none of the boys in any of the villages actually believe any of these stories. The Swampers are not convinced they will be reintroducing giant lizards into the human ecosystem. The Loggers are not convinced that the affable Steinbaum brothers on our staff this summer are willing to fight to the death to settle a generations long dispute. Our Axemen don’t really think that the Food Network is seeking a new show host that will come from the ranks of our 7th and 8th graders. And MOST of our Lumberjacks don’t really believe they have been duped by that evil Noah Stein and that he made off with their dough. But their disbelief does not matter at all. They make a conscious choice to play along, to buy-in to the fun. So, for today, indeed they were genetic paleontologists, parts of the feuding Steinbaum clan, master chefs, and high tech crime busters. After all, what fun would it be to point out that the dude acting like a dinosaur was simply wearing a poncho, a helmet, and a pair of way too tight yoga pants? (Sure, maybe pointing out the yoga pants might be fun!) No, the fun of the day happens when they let themselves become a part of the game. And when they do so, they discover how much fun the game really is. 

Such was also the case last night when we had a giant game of Hide and Seek at camp.  Yep…plain old Hide and Seek. To be sure, we didn’t select this as our evening program because we have run out of ideas this soon in the summer. We played Hide and Seek (we class it up by calling it Counselor Hunt) because…well…Hide and Seek is just super fun!!! I realize it is a little kid’s game and all; I get it. But it’s a REALLY FUN little kid’s game! And you know what makes it even more fun?!? It’s when you get to play it all over the coolest 77-acre backyard in the world with your best friends! And you know what makes it even more fun?!? It’s when the people you seek are your counselors who are ALL IN on finding the most creative and fun hiding places they can to really test your skills and make you burst out laughing when you find them.

I watched campers of all ages roam the place in search of their counselors. Some walked alone, just enjoying being free to roam. Some ran as fast as they could, desperate to win the contest by finding the most counselors. Some walked aimlessly with their buddies more interested in just shooting the breeze as they spend a nice evening walking the grounds. There were camp Big Brothers and Little Brothers walking together. There were familial big and little brothers walking together. And then there were groups working together that I couldn’t figure out the connection between. I had no idea what bound some of them together. But together they were…and having a great time together. Ultimately, I realized that I was just putting too much time into figuring out the connections between the boys in those groups and settled on Occam’s Razor as the solution. They are kids at camp. They wanted to have fun. Hide and Seek is fun. So they decided to do it together to make it more fun. Duh.

All is well in the North Woods….