County Fair Comes to Town!

I’m always amazed during camp when our outstanding maintenance crew rolls by and says “see you tomorrow”! I forget how quickly the days pass during camp. This marks the “second” part of our day…there’s still a lot more fun to be had after 5:00 PM! Today was the second day of activity and campers were able to visit their second (Tree) day schedules. You should have received an email with your camper’s activity schedule in an update today from Lindsey. Everyone’s quickly finding their groove. I think about the years of experience we have at camp when we think about it collectively, and it’s staggering…especially when you remember that we are mostly daisies with a few dinosaurs still roaming about. One of the challenges of running a camp is that by and large we start over each year and recreate the magic. We are lucky that it doesn’t take long for girls to fall in love with Illahee, and that translates to lots of delays and excuses in later years for “one more summer at camp.” The good news for those of you parents who think a corporate internship is important is that even those less biased than me…and much smarter…agree: camp creates leaders. From admissions counselors to Fortune 500 bosses…to the chief of staff for the minority whip (who happens to be an Illahee girl), camp experience tips the scale.

I think more than that, though…we were made to be part of a community. To live in community. Closely. To feel…and to touch. And that was disrupted. But not tonight. I think we all have wanted camp so much…to be back with our family, back in our Heavenly World. Let me back up…

Today was amazing. We had a remarkably smooth opening day, with an occasional snag. We’ve had two years to plan this. It all looks good in theory, but we were calling “audibles” all morning long. Originally we were going to welcome Hillbrookers up by the dining hall, and then relocate our welcoming operation to the bottom of the hill to make it easier to get luggage to Heigh Ho. Heigh Ho campers started arriving and driving right past us. It took a minute to notice that there was a sign that directed Cabins 1-10 to the left…and…Heigh Ho are cabins 11-20. So of course they drove right by. The sign went down, and we stayed put.

We’ve had a few adaptations including the uber cool “Illahee Cafe” outdoor dining tarp (most coveted seats in the house), masks when not with your cabin family indoors, but by and large, camp feels normal. No, it feels great! We had our second day of activities today and I can tell that campers and counselors are hitting their groove. Laurie and I started early with a pack of counselors waking up early for Bible study in our house. Mary Lou is a long-time friend and mom to a family of beautiful adventurers who love Jesus. Hers is the family you see on the cover of Outside Magazine. From climbing to paddling to racing motorcycles, and leading mission trips all over the world…their ministry has mostly been to athletes over the years in Eugene Oregon and Birmingham, AL. We have been friends since we were camp counselors in the 1980s when we all married young and were in each others’ weddings. An author, a photographer, and an artist, she is the talent behind the videos you will see on our Youtube channel…and she leads “killer” Bible studies and will be a great resource so that our counselors can be amazing mentors to your girls.

So, one of our other adaptation is pretty comical (to me). If Laurie reads this, she’s gonna kill me. But I am “marching” like a good soldier. The dining hall is pretty packed in a normal summer. With the “Illahee Outdoor Cafe,” it’s (almost) pleasant inside. Everyone is under strict orders to stay seated and each table has different colored flags they hold up if they need something. Our leadership team and Junior Counselors are the waiters. These tables look like a flag team at a high school football game as we rush to catch up. I’ll try to do a time lapse of a meal for Instagram (better head on over and follow us @CampIllahee). All we need is some music, and I bet the video would become viral. I was a waiter at today’s lunch…yummy homemade pizza (buffalo wing chicken was in hot demand), and it made me appreciate why I usually tip more than standard 20%!

Campers usually end the day in a friendship circle in the cabin with “highs and lows” or “roses and thorns.” Same idea. My “rose”? We had an amazing evening program going…a reschedule from last night. County Fair. Lots of inflatables and fair stuff…music, dunk tanks, hay rides, petting zoo, sno cones. There was a dance party on the tennis courts and a group playing volleyball. About 45 minutes in, it started to drizzle. And then the bottom dropped. I thought, “darn.” It could have been a thorn.

Instead, almost every girl in camp…with their counselor…headed to the tennis court…I was rushing up to the office that overlooks to protect my camera and looked out the window. There was an umbrella over the speakers, and with rain pouring down, I heard “Feel the rain on your skin…No one else can feel it for you…Only you can let it in…No one else, no one else.” …and about 300 girls in sync…some more than others…in a line dance. All were singing at the top of their lungs. It seemed…

Normal. It felt…good.