Editor’s note: Here’s a little peek into what our Mini Camp offers in addition to activities and tent life. It’s all about Mini Camp special events! *
Camp Alleghany’s Mini Camp was conceived to provide a taste of our longer Term Camp for young girls who never before had been to sleep away camp. And since I’m the Director of Special Events at Camp Alleghany, I had to work some of our exciting and unique Term Camp events in to the one-week of Mini Camp.
While the Mini Camp counselors worked on Morning Assembly, day-to-day activities, the two daily free times, and evening activities after dinner, I focused on the opening and closing days evening events.
Opening day is easy — I get to organize a little show. The various Activity Departments prepare short skits to perform that introduce the Activities to the campers and then the Mini Campers sign up for their four activities that night. Each Mini Camper has a counselor who acts as her own “personal shopper” to help her choose her activities.
Now remember, Mini Camp offers a taste of Alleghany traditions, so I needed to make certain that the event at the end of Mini Camp included several Term Camp events. Not impossible, but there are a variety of end of camp events to consider.
First Term ends with the Baby’s Boats Campfire — a one night event. Second Term ends with both the Candlelight Campfire and the final Banquet —a two night event. And both terms have concluding shows — Dance, Drama, The Alleghany Singers, and an Art Show —as well as an Awards Assembly the morning of the last day.
So, what to include from all of this?
Mini Campers are only in activities for five days, so packing awards in seemed both premature and overkill.
So I decided that ending with a campfire was perfect, and used the Candlelight Campfire as a model. The peace and calm that a campfire creates cements the good feelings about camp, and new friendships made, that has just been experienced — I knew the Mini Campers would love it. To introduce the tradition, I include the candles like we do for Candlelight Campfire.
All that was left were performances, which we include at the Mini Camp Campfire. They add a festive touch to the evening!
And a little something else…
For that first Mini Camp thirteen summers ago, I was so focused on the campfire and the performances, that I completely ignored the final dinner, or what would be the Banquet at Term Camp, a very big event!
Ever imaginative and helpful, though, our wonderful kitchen staff came to the rescue, decorating the Dining Hall in a mucho festive Mexican theme, including a piñata. When I walked into dinner, I realized my omission, thanked them profusely, and vowed to make certain this didn’t happen again!
I began by changing the theme every summer, as we did for Term Camp Banquet, which helped make this final night another way to really taste the Term Camp experience.
However, after several summers, I began to run out of ideas. Not all themes work with younger campers, like when I did a Mardi Gras theme. This was a huge flop since most 7- to 10-year-olds have no idea what Mardi Gras is. Then I realized I needed a few little girl themes that could be rotated: (since Mini Campers only come to Mini Camp once, each would experience one Mini Camp Banquet, and so no campers would experience a repeated theme).
Mini Camp Banquet
I’ve collected and made decorations for four really good Mini Camp Banquet themes: Luau, Circus, Tea Party (leaning towards Alice in Wonderland), and the most successful one, Disney Princesses. These are alternated in a four-year cycle. (And no, I’m not going to reveal the 2016 theme— you’ll have to send your daughter to Mini Camp for that!)
We decorate with either tablecloths or place mats in the appropriate theme, and themed cups and napkins, too. There are color-coordinated table decorations as well as hanging decorations. I also make specially-themed place cards for the Mini Campers and Mini Camp Staff. And I can report that, after last summer’s Wonderful World of Disney-themed Term Banquet, the next Princess banquet at Mini Camp (whenever that is in the secret rotation), will have lots of beautiful, new items!
In addition to the decorations, the Junior Counselors (JCs), dress up in the Banquet theme. With the help of the Drama Department, they are allowed to raid the costumes for three of the themes — but I have a supply of grass skirts for the Luau theme to which they merely add their own bathing suits and flip flops.
For the JCs, this is a new experience, unless they were Mini Campers. They jump right into the spirit of the Mini Banquet theme, each year.
For the last Princess Banquet, the JCs were ecstatic to dress up and get into their parts! The Luau and Tea Party themes both evoke similar reactions, but I was extremely surprised one summer when the JCs showed so much enthusiasm for the Circus theme. There was a big cat tamer, tight rope walkers, acrobats, jugglers, but surprisingly no clowns. Regardless of the theme, everyone so enjoys the event.
Being able to rotate themes and reuse decorations (and the grass skirts) has been wonderful; it’s easier on the staff, is more ecological, and makes sense for the shorter camp time. Now that it’s part of the program, the staff looks forward to the Mini Camp Banquet as much as they do to the Term Camp Banquet!
The Mini Camp Banquet menu doesn’t stray too far from the youngest campers’ favorite dishes. We have a green salad, jello cubes, raw veggies with dip, deviled eggs, scalloped potatoes, roasted turkey, meatballs, green beans, rolls and the best dessert of all ice cream and cake. (Enjoy this Mini Camp photo gallery.)
Mini Camp Memories
Of all the Mini Camp Banquets, the most interesting was probably 2007. I was ill and bedridden at camp during that week. My daughter Elizabeth, now the Assistant Director of camp, was not yet a full-time employee, but was more than willing to jump in to help.
The Mini Camp Banquet theme that year was Rock-n-Roll. We had a paper juke box, inflatable guitars, and pink and black checked placemats with either pink or black napkins, and pink and purple door streamers.
I guess I assumed the staff knew what I meant by decorating the Dining Hall for the Banquet, but apparently they were unsure. So, here comes Elizabeth to my bedside asking for some directions. I weakly said,
Set the tables with the placemats, napkins, cups, and silver ware. Put the table decorations on the tables, and hang all the rest.
She then said,
But what if we do it wrong?
I reassuringly answered,
There is no ‘wrong’ when hanging these things.
They took photos, and when she brought them back for me to see it all looked just great, and was very cheering from my sick bed! Of course I expected wonderful things — after many years of experiencing Banquet themselves over the years at camp themselves, these ‘Ghany Girls just used their imaginations and that can-do spirit and whipped out a Banquet to be proud of!
Because of the smaller numbers of campers, and the ability to have the entire Term Staff help decorate, Mini Camp Banquet has never been stressful.
Mini Camp Rocks
I love seeing the faces of the littlest campers as they come wide-eyed and filled with wonder into the Dining Hall for Banquet. That picture alone is enough for me to to continue putting on a Mini Camp Banquet for many summers to come.
In short, like Term Camp, Mini Camp rocks!!
As you can see, in one short week the youngest campers can experience a full and satisfying taste of a summer at Camp Alleghany, from its activities and food to its friendships and campfires, from its activity counselors and tent counselors to its performances and final Banquet.
But it is only a taste. Parents, I give you fair warning — that taste will make your little camper hungry for more. It’s just that good!
If you’re curious to learn more about the benefits of Mini Camp, please, download Assistant Director Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise’s FREE e-book, 3 Reasons to Begin Your Child’s Sleepaway Summer Camp Journey Early.
— Bonnie Dawson, Director of Special Events, Camp Alleghany for Girls