Summer camp means color wars, campfires and friendly competitions. But at many camps, daily routines get a jolt every now and then with wacky events, from pies in the face to applesauce wrestling.
In addition to the surprise element and sheer fun, there’s a psychology behind these once-a-summer happenings. Camps nowadays are attended by kids used to compelling forms of entertainment, from video games to interactive theme park rides, so some try to make memories beyond the silly traditions, creative themes and daily activities that have historically shaped the camp experience.
“How fun can you make camp? How out of the box can it be?” says Lori Waldman, co-owner of Camp Blue Ridge near Dillard, Georgia.
Here are a few examples of off-the-wall events staged now and then to shake things up at summer camps.
•Taped to the wall: On Crazy Feats Day at Camp Blue Ridge, campers are divided into teams and given supplies, including a few rolls of duct tape, along with a series of tasks. They don’t get detailed instructions – just a clue about what’s expected. For example, they might be told to create Toby Maguire’s protege – hint “Spider-Man.” If they’re smart, they’ll choose the lightest person on their team to tape to the wall like Spider-Man.
“The idea is not for us to define precisely what needs to happen, but instead, allow staff and campers to come up with a fun theme for a day-long carnival and feast,” explained one camp director. Themes have included NASA, zombies and superheroes.
A “wheel of misfortune” offers random campers and staff “such wonderful prizes” as a pie in the face, getting drenched by a waterfall (water poured off a balcony) or a surprise party, with confetti blown from a leaf-blower. You might be covered with chocolate syrup or paint – to be washed off by a dunk in the lake – before taking part in sports and game competitions, followed by an evening banquet of, what else?, lobster (this is Maine).
•Mud bath: “Everyone likes playing in the mud,” says one of our counselors. So once a year, the camp fills an outdoor inflatable skating rink with truckloads of dirt, adds water, and invites campers and staff to jump in. When it’s over, you get hosed down.
Related events at Camp Blue Ridge, located in Rabun County, GA, have included grease wrestling and a “Warrior Dash” course with obstacles including a mud run.
There’s also a cake for your cabin, and the whole camp sings “Happy Birthday.” But the pie’s the highlight, especially since the moment is recorded and put on our Facebook page.