Seriously Silly

By Jason Hirschhorn

“Today’s exciting Independence Day softball game between the Junior Counselors and the Senior Counselors is brought to you by seagulls!”


“Yes, seagulls!”

“Why seagulls?”

“Well…look up…they’re flying overhead at the moment!”

“Ah, yes, the traditional seagull flyover…let’s play ball!”

And on and on it went between our two announcers for the softball game. Just one of the many aspects of the event that brought constant chuckles and ear-to-ear smiles to the campers, counselors, and staff assembled on the Upper Diamond. There was also the base running competition where campers wore inflatable donut rings…the Senior Counselors dressed in patriotic onesies…and the guest at-bats from the trip staff, kitchen staff, and Steph.

At Camp Nebagamon, we take our celebrations seriously…we take silliness seriously…and we don’t take ourselves too seriously!

At the camp talent show the next night, a Swamper shared his improv act with all of us. After showing us how to “bake a cake,” the camper took suggestions from the crowd: “You’re a mushroom blossoming into a tree!” “You’re an octopus going to the Dairy Queen!” “You’re a turtle!” Applause echoed throughout the Rec Hall! Not to be outdone, another cabin full of Swampers joined an older…err, more experienced…staff member to perform “Walrus Yoga.” There were tusks, flip-flopping on the floor, and walrus calls galore. More thunderous applause! Then there was our Assistant Trip Director, who took out his bag of diabolo tricks and amazed us all with one of the most incredible routines we’ve witnessed. (Well, some of us older…err, more experienced…staff members recall when he used to perform as a camper and cabin counselor.) A standing ovation from the crowd!

At Camp Nebagamon, we take our talent shows seriously…we take showing support for others seriously…and we don’t take ourselves too seriously!

Which brings us to this past Sunday, normally a more serene day here at camp. Well, no one told that to our Swamper Village Director, who delivered one of the funniest and most memorable Sunday Services imaginable. The topic was “playing to your strengths,” and our village director did just that (he’s a creative writing major from Columbia). He shared letters written from a younger Paul Bunyan to camp’s founders, Muggs and Janet Lorber, that he allegedly “found” when cleaning out the Big House. In one of the letters, Paul “wrote:”

I met the most amazing man named Fabrizio. He lives in a purple tent right outside the shipyard and his specialties are magic and motivational speeches. Fabrizio promises he’s got an incredible investment opportunity for me. Some company called Sapolio that’s supposed to be the next big name in soap. The founder is this guy, Chauncey Depew, who’s supposed to be a brilliant guy. Very complex stuff.

Laughter rang forth from all swaths of the camp family as we listened to the rest of Paul’s “stories.” People kept talking about the Sunday Service long after it had ended…which means that the message, “playing to your strengths,” won’t soon be forgotten.

(If you’re wondering why your 4th grader thinks two early-1900s references—“Sapolio,” the soap brand, and “Chauncey Depew,” the New York businessman and politician—are the height of hilarity, then my guess is you have yet to sing the satirical “The Billboard Song” with us after a Camp talent show!)

Later during lunchtime announcements, our Program Director wondered, “Why should we only allow one Day Push to sweep the Big House porch during Rest Period and receive a treat in exchange? Today, everyone’s invited to sweep and earn a treat!” I’m sure you can guess what happened next, the Big House porch wasn’t big enough to fit all the campers who turned up to help clean…then proceeded to parade around camp picking up the mail together…before capping off the adventure with a round of freeze pops.

At Camp Nebagamon, we take our traditions seriously…we take our responsibilities seriously…and we don’t take ourselves too seriously!

Ultimately, all of this contributes to the perfect blend of creativity, fun, and thoughtfulness that allows us to have days like today, our final Cruiser Day of the 1st Session. We have Swampers designing a trap out of tarps to catch Bigfoot…Loggers establishing bases out of milk crates for their League of Nebaga-Legends competition…Axemen using clay from the Art Shop to make face masks at their Nebaga-spa…and Lumberjacks reimagining the Upper Diamond as a pitch for a spirited cricket match (not the 8-hour kind!). No matter where you look, we have campers and counselors buying in, pitching in, ceaselessly smiling, and uproariously laughing.

All is well in the North Woods…