Editor’s Note: Usually I post my Top 5 of the summer soon after each summer session ends. But this year our new Program Director, Casey Tucker, offered his faves of the summer, which I loved, and I wanted to hold mine off until this time of year, to tie in a Christmas message. For a blast from the past you can read my other Top 5s blog posts of the last six years!
2017 Top 5
1. The Weather & The River
After a couple summers of lots of rain in the first half of the summer, Mother Nature gave usthe gift of some well-deserved sunny skies for the whole first half of Summer 2017!
While we of course had a few rainy days here and there, and Second Term and Family Camp had a touch more rain than they have in the past couple summers, overall it was better than the previous few summers.
We love Mother Nature at Alleghany, including the occasional rainfall or momentous storm. It keeps us in touch with something primal and vital. For better or for worse, we get what we get and we connect with nature in this way. But a more-sunny-than-usual summer never hurts, either!
Similarly, and of course not unrelated, the Greenbrier River was a little more cooperative this summer than the past couple summers! First-termers from 2015 will remember an unforgettable opening day where every camper came across the river on a motor boat. And who can forget last summer’s 1000 Year Flood?
Because camp is so intimately tied to nature these are the unique experiences that shape camp and shape our character. BUT…safety first and we have a fantastic protocol, including very connected weather information and safety drills in case of the…unexpected.
And all that is extremely rare. This summer, like the majority of summers, it was a “Flow gently sweet Greenbrier” summer. And we loved it!
2. Casey vs Elizabeth Department Competition
Back in the Admin HQ before camp even began, Program Director Casey Tucker talked about the importance of spending time out of the office, and out with the campers during the summer. This is camp, after all! So on a lark we decided it would be fun to not just visit each department, but compete against each other in them!
Alleghany is full of competitions, Blue/Gray being the biggest one, but also evening activities where it may be a tent competition, or a color team such as in Crab Soccer. We decided to just throw one more competition into the mix, just for fun!
We thought we would get to all of the departments, but, alas, camp directors are extremely busy during the summer (who knew?!) so we made it to four departments, and will continue this next summer.
We successfully competed in Rifle (me), Archery (Casey), Singers (me), and Sports & Fitness (a game of Horse, that Casey won). So we’re tied right now, and we still have eight more departments to go.
Rifle and Archery were straight forward — whoever had the highest scores won. I will say that neither of those two competitions were even close. I won Rifle by a long shot, and Casey slaughtered me in Archery.
Alleghany Singers was a surprisingly close head-to-head because Casey is admittedly not a great singer, and I will say I can carry a tune. We each sang a portion of ‘Ghany favorite “Country Roads” (solo!!) at Assembly IN FRONT OF THE WHOLE CAMP!!! Casey didn’t do too badly, and I laughed at one point, causing our scores to be closer than we thought. Three counselors with singing experience did the final judging.
For Sports & Fitness we played a game of Horse over on our little Basketball Court area, and while it wasn’t very close, I don’t think I did too badly. So… on to summer 2018 and a continuation of these events!
3. The Counselors
Every summer is a new assemblage of counselors and every summer we have something to crow with pride over about how awesome they are.
This summer was no exception. We had an amazing team of bright, organized, engaged, and imaginative counselors who brought their A-game to camp every day, inspiring their young campers, rising to the occasion in all weather, and bonding with one another in sweet and caring ways.
We’re so proud of this team and the wonderful work they did in Summer 2017.
4. Leaders-In-Training Preparation
We have the emerging Leaders-In-Training Program coming in Summer 2019 and this meant that this summer Senior Camp would transition to the tent Units being arranged by age instead of a mix of ages.
I think many were skeptical of how Senior Camp would look and feel in this new form since for decades we’ve mixed up the ages within the tent Units. But this summer, Unit 1 was all 13s, Unit 2 was all 14s, and so on. And…it was a success! We had a lot of positive feedback about it and I loved witnessing it working well.
Additionally, our Midway Mom Bridget Criswell worked so hard with Casey to create a program for the 14s this summer as they transitioned from Midway to Upstart in one summer. Each Term, we had a surprise “Gold Party” for them during Evening Activity — with food, music, dance parties, and of course a ton of gold glitter because the LITs’ color will be gold. The parties were designed to get the first would-be LITs excited for what’s to come, and remind them that camp is and always will be FUN!
You can read more about how our LIT Program is developing in a series of upcoming blogs and chat with us about it during a Facebook Live event in the New Year.
5. Camp Traditions
We just completed our 96th summer and many of our traditions were started in that first summer long ago, way back in 1922. That’s a long time!
From Campfires and Vespers, to Blues and Whites, from beloved camp songs to canoeing on the Greenbrier River, from living in platform tents to eating in the Dining Hall (yes even the Dining Hall was there in 1922!), we have so much that connects one generation of ‘Ghany Girls to the next — many more than are listed here.
I know a lot of people say camp is changing — and it is! It always has, in a lot of good ways. But there is nothing I’d ever do to forget or let fall away or undermine the foundation of Alleghany, the very core of what we are, and the things that make us unique and uniquely connected to each other.
As a longtime camper myself, a one-time Junior Counselor and then Counselor myself, my love for Camp Alleghany is fueled by all the same things that makes every other ‘Ghany Girl’s heart go a-flutter! And it truly awes and amazes me each day that we continue to operate this old fashioned, back to basics, connected to nature … thing and that I get to be a part of it still!
Even visitors to Alleghany will mention that they feel a certain timeless, meaningful aura to the place that they can’t quite put their finger on but they know is real and deep and true — even if they never came to ‘Ghany as a camper or counselor. This special quality just isn’t found many places anymore, and it really has stayed the same in so many ways since camp’s beginning.
Our traditions are SO WONDERFUL that I feel another blog post brewing within me all about my favorite traditions so watch for that in the New Year.
In our lives we’ve all had Christmas and holiday traditions for generations that our families look forward to year after year. In my personal life I’ve carried on some of the traditions we did as kids with my parents Bonnie and Sam Dawson, and my grandparents, and now I do those with my family.
Carrying on camp traditions from generation-to-generation is the same kind of thing.
We all hope that camp will be there for our future daughters (or, if you have a daughter or granddaughter today, watching her experience Alleghany in almost the same way you did fills you with happiness). And we rest in the confidence that even as fashions change, and slang changes, and even dance trends or communications change that so much, thankfully, remains the same.
That’s how it is at Camp Alleghany for Girls.
Our traditions come in and out, though same stay constant. So many stay constant that it’s easy to forget them, take them for granted. And then if there is any change, we worry that everything is changing. Rest assured that it’s not. And when you see my traditions blog, and share your own favorites in the comment section or on Facebook, you’ll see what I see — that our traditions are as strong as ever and are one of the constants that makes ‘Ghany so wonderful!
So light that Candlelight Campfire candle this Christmas Eve, and remember all your ‘Ghany friends. Hold us in your heart, as we hold you in ours.
Merry Christmas all!
— Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls