Every once in a while you just have to let it all hang out and have one of those BLOWOUT days. A day unlike any other at camp that stands out as truly unique. While many of the best memories from a summer are created on standard routine days, these special days really serve to punctuate a summer at camp.
Today is one of those giant blowout days. Today is The Grand Pursuit…quite possibly the apex of all giant blowout days.
The Grand Pursuit is a Voyageur-themed day in which the boys are divided into four fur trading companies all competing to control the trade routes of the Great Lakes region. Last night, after an opening ceremony filled with much pomp, circumstance, pounding drums, and animal skin shirts, the boys who had been here last year rejoined their Voyageur clan from last year. This left the new boys waiting to hear which trading company they would be joining. (Part of what is so cool about the Grand Pursuit is that the boys will stay on the same team for their entire camper careers.) As their names were read, they were welcomed onto their teams in a truly warm reception and received their ceremonial sashes. This was followed by team barbeques in which they got to know each other, ate heartily, planned strategies, and practiced team cheers.
This morning was dedicated to collecting pelts (ok…points…but we call them pelts…more Voyageur-y, don’t ya think?) through Voyageur-themed individual events like the portage run, balancing a canoe paddle on your chin, and kayak sprint…and less Voyageur-esqe events like Gaga shootout, color crayon scramble, yoked, egg toss, and the sand dune slalom. Each Voyageur could compete in as many events as they wanted, and merely participating in the event earned pelts for their companies. (Yes…this all works better if you can envision your 11-year-old as an incredibly accomplished French Canadian adventurer rather than a 5th grader that almost never has his shoes tied!) Later in the morning, the Voyegeurs competed in group events like a ropes course, basketball, speed jig-saw puzzle building, the barrel fill, and a cookout box skee ball to earn more pelts for their companies.
After lunch (wild rice soup in a crusty bread bowl and, yes, your kid ate it! In fact, we have wild rice in some form in every single meal today…and they totally dig it!), the teams use these pelts to explore territories on a massive game board. These territories and their resources are worth even more pelts depending on what other territories a team has explored. The degree of sophistication and the level of thought that these kids put into their strategic geographic domination approaches is truly…um…terrifying! (And further “ammunition” to support my desire to spread pacifism to the campers! If these strategic minds ever get into positions where they become the wielders of political might, we are all in trouble!) Days before the Grand Pursuit, boys have been huddled in small groups looking at the game board from last year and planning their strategy for this year. (Of course, we add a new twist to the game each year to keep them on their toes and to make sure they understand who is running the show! This year, we changed the game significantly and shifted the focus to rewarding exploration over simple land control.)
The afternoon will be spent engaged in team events such as handball, pushball, basketball, tennis, ultimate Frisbee, chess, euchre, and canoe tug of war. (All told, there are 41 different contests throughout the day!) Every Voyageur has the opportunity to participate in multiple events. The final four events – canoe relay, tug of war, fish-o-rama, and the incredible sawbuck (the boys use a two-person saw to cut through a log…legitimate Voyageur stuff!!!) – will all take place on the waterfront with the entire camp watching and cheering on their teammates. It is always a great scene with the whole camp together, singularly focused. Victories in these competitions earn the fur trading companies territory steals for the giant game board play after dinner.
After a hard fought day of intense athletic and mental competition, the Grand Pursuit’s dinner is a wholly different affair. We will all enjoy a barbeque on the beach complete with pork tenderloin, wild rice salad (as promised), fry bread with honey butter and cinnamon sugar (ok…we call it fry bread so that we can serve it with dinner…but it sure feels and tastes a lot like a donut!) homemade cream puffs, and many other accoutrements. At this barbeque, the time for raucous cheering will have ended, and we will all sit down together for a pleasant and mellow dinner. It is totally appropriate for us all, after an intense day of competition, to let that intensity go and sit down for a nice meal together.
Following dinner, we will engage in our final strategic rounds of gameplay on the big board, and then head to the Upper Diamond for our closing ceremonies. This includes a HUGE bonfire, storytelling, the announcement of the day’s winning fur trading company and, of course, a fireworks show. You know, just like the Voyageurs did at the end of each day!
Hats off to our entire community for making a great day like this happen. This day does not happen without everyone contributing and being willing to work a little harder than usual. Hats off to the five staff members that devoted days and days of work, and missed out on hours and hours of sleep in the planning and detail work that goes into a day like today. Hats off to the counselors that execute the game plan with such enthusiasm and professionalism. Hats off to our caretakers for their efforts to help the planners realize their dreams with many constructed items. Hats off to our kitchen staff that totally revamped their menus and created truly special Grand Pursuit meals for all of us. Hats off to our specialists and trippers for delivering that perfect barbeque dinner on the beach. And hats off to the campers who play the game with such zeal, spirit and fun.
As I said, these special days serve as punctuation marks for a session. Safe to say, in this case our punctuation mark is an unmistakable one:
All is well in the North Woods…