In the world of #NESummerCamps, it’s still summer! It doesn’t just feel like summer, it IS summer. Labor Day weekend may be considered summer’s unofficial end, but the real end of summer—the Autumnal Equinox—falls on September 23 at 4:21am EST this year. The weeks that precede the beginning of fall offer some of the most beautiful weather of the summer. Temperatures range from real summer-like highs to crisp fall lows, which New England is famous for (and which are responsible for our region's delicious maple syrup.)
So, what WAS happening at camps over the weekend? Too many different things to count (but we counted anyway)! Just like during the regular season, camps are extraordinarily different than one another. Why? Because camps tend to be authentic and true to their missions, values and roots. Because camps are located in vastly different New England locations. And because camps’ facilities, programs, and target populations vary. It’s impossible to generalize. Far more is happening ON the property than most people imagine as camps mark the transition from summer to fall months. And, it’s an efficient use of the facilities and resources that have been in the service of children all summer.
Here are 10 ways summer burned bright at camps in New England over last weekend, but this is not an exhaustive list in the least!:
- Family camps. There are two types—ones that stay open for the “shoulder season” long after their traditional campers depart and others that serve families all summer long. Lots of things inspire families to attend camp together, but the most important thing is the chance to BE together, learn together, adventure together, and let someone else do the cooking! At family camps held after the traditional campers go home, new or prospective families have an opportunity to try a camp on for size. Returning families in both styles of family camp so love sharing family togetherness in the unique setting of summer camp, they return summer after summer (sometimes even with grown children and grandchildren.) Others make friends with different families and arrange to attend camp at the same time each summer. Family camp is so popular, there’s a way to search for one that is just the right fit in the ACA’s online camp search tool.
- Sessions for affinity & kindred groups. These shoulder season programs serve campers with similar life circumstances like grieving children, adjudicated youth or children of members of active duty military—to name just a few. In a week’s time (more or less) they can offer profound experiences and a unique level of understanding to a camp community that is bound by something everyone has in common.
- Camp reunions, and special events. The end of the summer is super popular time for camp communities to host a reunion, a birthday, a memorial service or other special occasion for members of the camp community. Centennials are popular here in New England since we're the birthplace of summer camp. Excitement builds to a crescendo all summer long and after the traditional campers leave there is room to house more people. And it’s a great place for camp pros to stay and play and recharge after a demanding summer of work.
- Transforming space back to school year usage. A significant number of day camps are held in schools. Transforming the spaces back to their school year purposes takes a phenomenal amount of work—on the part of camp staff and school building and grounds staff members. For the schools that start before Labor Day, this process begins in mid-August. And, it’s not as simple as moving out of classrooms. Often camps use school space in completely different ways than during the school year. There are many, many camp supplies that the schools don’t use which must be cleaned and carefully stored. Labor Day weekend is the last weekend to put the finishing touches on the restoration and preparation for the school year.
- Camp Weddings. So many camp weddings take place in late summer—some for owners' families, staff, campers and members of the camp community and some are for complete strangers who are drawn to rent the camp by the outdoor setting and vibe. Martha Stewart’s wedding website featured photos of charming camp weddings at several ACA Accredited camps in New England. All you need to do is see the photos to understand why camp weddings are so popular.
- Rental Groups. Several outside groups that are totally unrelated to the camp or to its target population benefit from renting camp for a stint at summer’s end. Band camps and fall sports teams from various high schools and colleges can be found all over New England. So can other groups that need a retreat, a chance to go away and bond as a group, like an entire class or leadership group from a school or a group from a faith community or even a corporate team. There are many ACA Accredited camps that rent to groups!
- Long summer seasons finally ended after stretching in some places right to Labor Day. So, regular camp activities were took place until the holiday weekend arrived. Camp with 10-12 one week sessions provide a certain child care continuity and are designed with families’ need for summer child care in mind. Some of these programs offer school age care too; camp in the summer coordinated with after school child care during the school year. Parents of day campers can even take a tax credit for day camp tuition for children under 13 who are dependents. Of course, the best advice about this comes from your own tax advisor or from the IRS directly.
- Camp sessions that are part of a year ‘round schedule. In fact, year ‘round camps have limited weeks of the year when camp is not operating. These camps tend to serve target populations such as campers with certain diseases (often life-threatening) and campers with special needs. Here in New England, camps that operate through late fall and in early winter have to have some winterized buildings! Our 2014 Camp Champions Honoree, Anna Gould, founded such a camp—ACA Accredited Camp Sunshine in Casco, ME for families of children with life-threatening illnesses.
- Time to chill with a friends & family weekend. Often the camp leadership team chooses to stay and enjoy camp in a low key way with fewer folks around in general. Nothing’s better at the end of a busy summer, especially if the weather is a glorious as last weekend’s. It’s common to see a smaller crowd than during the season enjoy a chance to PLAY and engage with all things camp. Labor Day weekend can also be a perfect time to do some of the upkeep needed to prep camp for winter. Some camps gather friends, fans, former staff, and all who love the place. Time is spent divided between the needed work and the fabulous activities to enjoy.
- And lest you worry about campers from camps that closed by Labor Day(and there are several in New England that are closed—equipment stored and evaluations from the summer well in hand), camp memories still burned bright during Labor Day weekend, as they will throughout the school year. Camp lives on in campers’ hearts and in their memories long after folks return to their school year schedules.
Somehow the summer just stays with us. We take away memories and connections and life lessons and because we do, it’s always “still summer”…
Photo Credits from the following ACA Accredited camps (top down): Camp Chewonki (Wiscasset, ME), Ohana Family Camp (Fairlee, VT), Camp Chewonki (Wiscasset, ME), Camp Sunshine (Casco, ME) and Camp Howe (Goshen, MA)