Camp Staff Share Memories, Traditions and Hopes for 2023

When camp staffers registered for the 2023 Kids VT Camp and School Fair, we invited them to respond to a few questions about camp life. They illustrate the breadth of programs that will be represented at the fair and suggest that the adults in charge love summer camp almost as much as kids do.

What was your favorite memory from last summer?

One of my favorite memories from last summer is from Fish Camp, when we had a 6-year-old camper catch a fish for the first time. The look on his face, which was somewhere between shock and excitement, was priceless! I got a picture of him as he held his fish and was just staring at it wide-eyed with his mouth open. He was super excited to have me send it to his mom.
— Meghan Hill, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum

At the end of our Pinbox 3000 camp, we had an “Art-cade” where campers got to show off their cardboard pinball creations. Parents came, and it had a party atmosphere, where campers not only had the opportunity to share what they’d made but also reflect on what they’d learned.
Sam Graulty, Generator Makerspace

My favorite memories from last summer were our excursions to the Myers Pool in Winooski!
— Katherine Fischer, Mater Christi Camp

Being able to take kids down our new Green Mountain bike trail. Was amazing to see kids have a blast on a nice, easy three-mile trail.
— Keegan Bosworth, Bolton Valley Summer Camps

Last summer, we included a backcountry overnight trip at a remote site on the Waterbury Reservoir. The loons welcomed us as we paddled out to our site, and a barred owl called “Who cooks for you?” as we drifted off to sleep. It was the best night’s sleep I had all summer!

Erica Kamerzel, Petra Cliffs Climbing Center and Mountaineering School

Having a team of campers build a cardboard boat strong enough to float a camper in!
— Bridgett Taylor, Vermont State University Camps and Jump Starting College

At our annual music festival, the Pok-O-Palooza, one of our longtime campers gathered a group of younger campers and led them around, cheering other campers. It really showed the power of positive leadership.
— Brian DeGroat, Pok-O-MacCready Camps

Last year, our camp finally got the COVID-19 outbreak we had been dreading amongst our staff (we had escaped it in 2021). While we notified all of the parents and thought we were going to have to cancel, our limited number of healthy staff worked extremely hard to keep camp open for those families who were comfortable still sending their children. They truly rose to the occasion and navigated their peers’ need to take isolation leave while making camp just as special and fun for the campers present as they did for all other campers that summer.
— Hannah Phelps, Green Mountain Conservation Camp

Summer 2022 was a hot one! At Camp Mi-Te-Na, we rented a dunk tank, and the campers got to dunk and get dunked by their favorite counselors. The smiles we saw from the people sitting in the dunk tank seat were just unforgettable.

Ash Paquet, Camp Mi-Te-Na and Camp Foss

We had a student who loved our summer camp so much that they decided to stay on throughout the school year for academic support.
— Leah LaClaire, Sylvan Learning Summer Camps

We celebrated TDI’s 25th anniversary this past summer with a barbecue, cake and sit-down program, where many alumni spoke about how important TDI is to them. It was very moving.
— Lucy Bogue, Talent Development Institute

Our Fairy Camp students built the most magical fairy houses that decorated our school campus. They stayed up all summer because they brought us so much joy!
— Faith James, Vermont Day School

One of the most magical moments from last summer happened after a giant rainstorm passed through camp. We were luckily inside on a peaceful sound-healing journey that left us all feeling happy and light. When we came outside for our cookout, laughing and dancing, we turned around and saw a double rainbow coming from the building we had just been in. We were all awestruck at the beauty and excitement of the moment. We stood together and hugged as we watched. The moment reminds me there is magic all around us. Both in the relationships we find over the summer and in the nature that surrounds us.
— Katrina Alden, Rebels of the Moon

What’s your favorite camp tradition?

We run multiple camps at a time, and on Fridays, each camp group often visits the other camps to see what they’ve created. It is fun to see younger students so impressed with the work created by older campers, and to see the older campers offer words of praise and encouragement to the younger students. 
— Teresa Davis, Davis Studio

Our Talent Show each week showcases campers’ and staff’s talents, both real and imagined!
— Lucy Bogue, Talent Development Institute

One of Rebels’ favorite traditions is dressing up with glitter, face paint and a self-chosen power outfit. When we are all dressed up, the entire camp comes together to cheer each person on as they get their photo taken. All together, we start cheering and chanting for the person in front of us. It is this tradition that helps us celebrate each other in our power. We then take group photos and have a huge dance party in the woods. It is a day that always leaves me happy and smiling.

Katrina Alden, Rebels of the Moon

We have theme weeks every summer, and students can earn extra tokens by participating.
— Leah LaClaire, Sylvan Learning Summer Camps

A tradition of Common Roots Summer Camps is gathering with gratitude around our mealtimes. Often we harvest some part of our meal from our land, which deepens the experience.
— Kayli O’Donnell, Common Roots

Teen expedition trip leaders are known to be kind and silly people. Every year, expedition participants search for rare ground fruit at campsites along the shores of Lake Champlain. Only the most skilled participants can find the extraordinary Lake Champlain pineapple. Last year, each expedition was successful in finding the elusive Lake Champlain pineapple! We are looking forward to searching for more rare ground fruit this summer.
— Rebecca Burns, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum

Tie-dying T-shirts! The kids love it and are so proud to wear one of their pieces of art.
— Megan Winward, Paint & Create Kids Camp! by Burlington Paint & Sip Studio

Each week, we take campers out for a sunset paddle on the lake. This is a time of day when most of them have never been canoeing before; not only is there less boat traffic, but they get to watch a beautiful sunset while listening to the night animals emerge for the evening.
— Hannah Phelps, Green Mountain Conservation Camp

One tradition we have is to always check in with campers and their comfort before moving forward in any activity. We understand that even with life jackets, the water can be scary — we make sure every child feels safe and empowered to tell us what they need to have fun.
— Justin Shay, Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center

We typically have “genius hour” breaks built into the camp day. These are less-structured times where campers can take what they’re learning and apply it on their own in new and inventive ways. It leads to some amazing exploration and self-directed learning.
— Sam Graulty, Generator Makerspace

Camp Foss is celebrating its 100th summer anniversary this year. As far back as documents, letters and memories serve, it celebrated a tradition of echo contests. The camp is located on a small lake in between two mountains, and each summer the campers compete to see whose voices carry the furthest. It always ends in laughs and with someone jumping in the lake!

Ash Paquet, Camp Mi-Te-Na and Camp Foss

At Smirkus Camp, we have a timeless tradition of Dinner Dress. Every morning, the activities director chooses a theme to spark costume ideas, and at dinner, campers and staff members have the option of coming to dinner “in character.” The range of possibilities and ideas are endless, and we’ve seen some pretty fantastic outfits that have led to show and act ideas, which is fun and an added bonus.
— Rachel Schiffer, Circus Smirkus

Farm & Wilderness was founded with the Quaker ideal that the light of each person is equally important, and as the world around us changes, we change as well but very much stay focused on a simple lifestyle, on the value of people working together and the value of a community as a set of individuals.
— Tulio Browning, Farm & Wilderness

Campers can get candy once a week from the Candy Store. But they never know when the Candy Store is open. They all find out at the same time, when “Candy Store” is announced in the dining hall. This sends the entire room into a pandemonium of cheering and yelling and campers jumping up and down in excitement for the sugar rush to come.
— Brian DeGroat, Pok-O-MacCready Camps

My favorite camp tradition is hiking up a reeeeeeally tall hill at the end of the week. This doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, but it is, I promise! At the top of the hill, we have a campfire, watch as the sun goes down, sing songs and share our favorite memories from the week before everyone goes home the next day. It is the perfect closing to an amazing week — it gives the campers a chance to reflect on their time at camp and say goodbye to their new friends.
— Cassandra “Strings” Jillson, Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains

We have the Pollinator Olympics every week, filled with games, competition and so much fun!
— Laney Williams, SUN Camps VT

What are you most looking forward to this summer at camp?

I look forward each year to the togetherness that camp brings. Many people have felt isolated these past few years with COVID-19, remote work and school, and limited travel. Camp is a refuge from all that, where people come together and celebrate one another for who they are. You can’t beat the feeling of summer camp starting up again, and I can’t wait to have it back for another summer.
— Hannah Phelps, Green Mountain Conservation Camp

Helping more kids explore different art mediums and create lasting memories with new friends.
— Megan Winward, Paint & Create Kids Camp! by Burlington Paint & Sip Studio

Normalcy, I hope. If we feel like we can have camp without masks, I will be very happy!

Lucy Bogue, Talent Development Institute

As camp director, I am looking forward to joining our campers on even more adventures this summer!
— Erica Kamerzel, Petra Cliffs Climbing Center and Mountaineering School

I’m really looking forward to our two new camps. Underwater Explorers Camp will be a week of snorkeling and exploring everything underwater. We’ll be going to several different field sites to look at different species of fish, underwater rock structures and even a shipwreck. Watershed Ecology camp will also be at field sites, but we’ll be tracing the path that water takes through our region. We’ll be hiking, snorkeling and canoeing as we follow the water from small streams down to Lake Champlain.
— Meghan Hill, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum

Arts and Crafts! It is personally my favorite time of day, and I love seeing the creativity that comes from the campers!
— Katherine Fischer, Mater Christi Camp

As the camp director, I spend all winter looking forward to meeting the new campers of Rebels of the Moon. I am constantly inspired by each camper and learn something new every summer. I can’t wait to meet a new crew of Rebels who show up ready and willing to have fun, create community and learn about radical self-love.
— Katrina Alden, Rebels of the Moon

I am most looking forward to planning new programs for this summer! Every summer I work to create new experiences in the form of large-scale camp activities. Last year we had a pirate scavenger hunt where all the leadership campers dressed as pirates and hid around camp to hand out clues to campers. Everyone had a blast!

Cassandra “Strings” Jillson, Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains

I’m really looking forward to having the Roadshow program back on Smirkus Camp’s schedule after a several-year break. Roadshow is one of our placement-based camps and will run for five weeks this year. During that time, a small group of experienced campers will train and hone their skills, create and rehearse a show, and then travel around the Northeast Kingdom performing that show to local audiences, using camp as home base. It’s a great taste of circus life on the road and an amazing way to be involved in and to meet the local community!
— Rachel Schiffer, Circus Smirkus

For the upcoming spring 2023 Girls on the Run season, we are looking forward to welcoming back fabulous volunteer coaches and our superstar participants, as well as introducing awesome new coaches and new superstars to our program. The pride that participants exude when they have completed the program and crossed the finish line at the celebratory 5K is magical.
— Anne Lattrell, Girls on the Run Vermont

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