Trip days: Let’s take this show on the road…

As much as we love camp, it’s always fun to take a day away for an outing. One of the most hotly-anticipated traditions of the summer is one of the trips we’ve been doing longest: our annual day trip to Hershey Park!

Located a few hours south of camp in Amish country, Hershey is a popular trip for a lot of reasons. Thrill-seeking campers love the roller coasters, but there’s a wide variety of tamer rides for girls who like a little less adrenaline (the classic carousel is always a favorite), and plenty to do for those who don’t love rides, like shows and games.

Oh, and of course, there’s the chocolate.

Our trip to Hershey Park always ends with a tour through Chocolate World, where campers learn how the famous chocolate bars are made – and where they get to shop for tasty Hershey goodies! This year we were fortunate to have sunny, cool weather on Hershey Park day. It was the perfect way to enjoy the park, and the long day flew by.

For campers, trip days are exciting breaks from the daily camp schedule. Staff enjoy trip days, too – but they’re definitely not days off. It’s important to us that no matter where we take our campers, they’re just as safe as they are on campus. On trip days, this means we add extra layers of organization to ensure our camp outings are safe and enjoyable. Since we can’t bring Hershey Park to Bryn Mawr, we bring our camp structure to Hershey Park!

Planning for a day trip begins long before the buses roll onto campus. Staff members are assigned to buses and trip roles to ensure a strong leadership presence every step of the way. Counselors are thoroughly coached on trip procedures and policies, and we ensure that every staff member understands the important role he or she plays in making trip day a safe and smoothly-run experience.

At the theme park, we use time-tested strategies to ensure campers are safe at all times. Dan and assistant director Bill Widman personally supervise the Hershey Park trip. We begin the day by establishing a home base where campers and staff know they can always find Dan, Bill and a nurse, and we make sure every camper and counselor knows how to find her way back to that spot. No camper is ever permitted to wander alone. Extra counselors are assigned to younger bunks to provide additional supervision and flexibility (for example, if four campers want to ride the Ferris wheel and four campers want to watch a show, there’s plenty of staff supervision to allow everyone to do what they want). Each age group has assigned check-in times throughout the course of the day, and the times are strictly enforced so we know everyone is accounted for. And members of our senior staff wearing trusty gold baseball caps make up the famous Bryn Mawr “Yellow Hat Squad.” Stationed throughout the park, they’re on hand to provide extra support to campers and counselors, make sure policies are being followed, and ensure camper safety at all times. We also take steps on the buses and in the park to ensure campers with food allergies and other considerations are able to enjoy the day safely.

Over the years, trip day has come to function like a well-oiled machine, and we often hear compliments from park staff about how pleasant and well-behaved our campers are. Most importantly, campers are able to enjoy Hershey Park and other day trips while feeling just as secure as they feel at camp. All the planning and organization pays off when we see the huge smiles on their faces as they walk through the park gates at the end of the day, still excited about all the fun they’ve had.

Exploring the summer camp experience!

We’ve got a group of very special guests on camp this weekend – our 2013 Explorers!

For one weekend each summer, LBMC welcomes a group of prospective new campers for a taste of summer camp life. Explorers Weekend is a mini-camp for girls who want to get a feel for Bryn Mawr before signing on for a full summer. Even though they’re with us for a very short time, our Explorers get the chance to sample nearly every aspect of camp, from a full range of program areas to dining hall spirit and special events – and of course, it wouldn’t be camp without a campfire.

Our goal for Explorers Weekend is to help potential campers get as realistic a camp experience as possible. They wear camp T-shirts, sleep in bunks, eat in the dining hall, participate in Talent Night, and attend a full schedule of daily camp activities designed especially for them. It’s amazing to see how quickly Explorers make friends and adapt to camp life – not only will we be sad to see them go home on Sunday, we know many of them won’t be ready to leave after all the fun they’ve had!

Explorers Weekend is staffed by an energetic group of Bryn Mawr moms, many of them LBMC alumnae themselves. As camp parents, they can anticipate many of the questions that may arise for Explorers and parents alike, since they were asking the same questions not so very long ago. They provide caring supervision throughout the course of the weekend. (And sometimes we suspect they’re having almost as much fun as the Explorers…)

The Explorers aren’t the only ones having a new camp experience this weekend; many of our Bunk One campers volunteer to be Explorers Weekend counselors and are spending their days accompanying our visiting campers to activities, eating meals with them and helping them settle into their cabins at night. They enjoy the opportunity to pass down their love of camp to the next generation of Bryn Mawr Angels. It also gives them a completely different perspective on camp as, for the first time, they really understand just how hard camp counselors work! It’s not unusual for Bunk One campers to go to counselors, group leaders and division heads after Explorers Weekend and express appreciation for everything they do. For our oldest campers, volunteering with our Explorers is great leadership experience, and more than one Explorers counselor has been inspired to return to camp after her Bunk One summer as a Leader-In-Training or junior counselor.

Celebrating the red, white and blue!

Nothing’s more all-American than the Fourth of July… except for the Fourth of July celebrated the LBMC way! Campers and staff look forward to Independence Day, and with good reason: We manage to pack more fun into the Fourth than really ought to be possible. With our Lower Seniors just back from their trip to the Berkshires and the rest of Senior Camp headed out on trips next week, the Fourth is a perfect chance for camp to come together for a great big celebration – and ours lasts all day long!

The fun starts first thing in the morning as campers and counselors get dressed for the day. Our regular uniform rules are modified in honor of the nation’s birthday, and everyone on camp sports patriotic red, white and blue outfits during the day’s activities.

Of course, the most popular part of Red, White and Blue Day activity, year after year, is the annual cake decorating contest. Each cabin is given a cake to decorate using red, white and blue frosting. The best part about this competition? Everyone’s a winner, since all the cabins get to enjoy their cake creations as dessert after dinner!

While the rest of camp is enjoying a patriotic twist on their regular daily activities, our oldest campers from Bunk One are busy down in the Apple O Theater getting ready for evening activity: The Miss Firecracker Contest. This beloved annual Bryn Mawr tradition is a patriotic pageant in which representatives from every age group compete for the title of Miss Firecracker. For our Bunk One campers, Miss Firecracker is an opportunity to take a leadership role and promote camp spirit while celebrating a favorite camp tradition. They plan the schedule, write the script, decorate the stage and host the pageant. While not every camper goes onstage as a contestant, teamwork is a key component of the Miss Firecracker Contest. Whether or not she competes herself, every girl in camp gets to participate in the pageant, whether by helping her bunkmate prepare a costume (red, white and blue, of course) and a talent, by assisting with practice interview questions, or by showing her age group spirit during the competition.

After we’ve crowned Miss Firecracker and had an evening snack, there’s still one more celebration in store: our annual Fourth of July fireworks display. You haven’t really seen fireworks until you’ve seen them in the dark expanse of the Poconos sky, with no buildings or streetlights to compete with the rainbow bursts of sparks. We take full advantage of the night sky to stage one of the biggest, most colorful – and safest – fireworks displays in Wayne County. It’s the perfect ending to our busy Independence Day celebration.