Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pendalouan Traditions: Opening & Closing Campfire!

This Campfire blogpost is part of a series of posts on Camp Pendalouan Traditions! Future posts will be about ceremonies, rituals, the camp motto, and more! If you have an idea for a post or would like to be a guest writer, contact

Every session at YMCA Camp Pendalouan starts and ends with a Campfire. And while throughout the week, there may be several cabin campfires (for cookouts, foil dinners, smores or Taps Talks), the Opening and Closing Campfire are definitely the two most eventful. Throughout the years, Pendalouan's Opening and Closing Ceremonies have gone through several variations. Read on to see how current Pendalouan Campers and Staff continue this tradition.

Opening Campfire happens on the first night of the session, right after the traditional Sunday night Capture The Flag game, Snack and Flag Lowering. The cabins head directly from the Sandlot to the Council Ring of the Great Bear, where Opening and Closing Campfires are held.

Opening Campfire is full of magic, fun, and mischief. Two themed hosts will MC the campfire and introduce the cabins and staff members that sing songs, perform skits, and tell stories. Some of these songs and skits have been a part of Pendalouan History for decades! In addition to the songs, skits, and stories, Opening Campfire is also where Counselors and Staff introduce themselves in the form of a Check-Boogie Roll Call!

After a good solid amount of time spent sharing in those camp performances, we'll usually quite down and refocus. Counselors and Staff will come up and share some of their personal thoughts and beliefs about the four core values of Honesty, Caring, Respect and Responsibility, as well as the Camp Motto of "I'm Third."

After this more-serious time of Opening Campfire, our youngest campers will be dismissed to bed as the older campers hear about their special privileges and responsibilities. The Raggers Goal Setting Program and 5th Year T-Bird explanation are also described at this time.

Now Closing Campfire, on Thursday night, has a completely different feel. The wild and crazy energy of Songfest will have just ended and Camp as a whole is ready to reflect on a the week that has gone by and celebrate the friendships made, the lessons learned, and the feats accomplished.

Cabins make their way to Closing Campfire by way of a procession. The boys gather on their side of camp and girls gather on their side and, as a whole camp, both sides gather right before the entrance of The Great Bear Fire Circle. They enter as the tribal drum echos across Big Blue Lake and the fire is lit. After a welcome from our Camp Leadership Team, the whole camp joins in song as we sing the tunes we have been singing all week before bed. After the counselors and staff who spoke at our Opening Campfire speak again about the Four Core Values and the Camp Motto, we begin the Bead Ceremony.

Any Pendalouan Camper will tell you that their Bead Necklaces are special to them. And that is because each year, a camper gets a new Bead Necklace with a new bead. Each color represents a different year and a different Native American Spirit Clan. These Bead Necklaces are memory-holders and often are some of the most treasured mementos of campers and recent Alumni.

After some closing words and a meaningful story, Cabins will walk through the counselor candle line and will make their way back to their cabin to have their final Taps Talk and get ready for bed.

As bookends to the Pendalouan Overnight Camp experience, both Opening & Closing Campfire hold a special place in Pendalouan Tradition. These two campfires, while radically different in terms of feel, are often coupled together as some of campers most memorable parts of the week. While the ceremonies have changed throughout Pendalouan History, one thing remains true: these rituals are a centerpiece to the Pendalouan experience and they will continue to provide campers and staff with memories that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

This post is part of a series on camp traditions. Be on the lookout for more posts in the coming months on other camp traditions! In case you missed it, check out the previous post on Camp Songs and the hike to Sleepy Hollow!  If you have any questions about our Summer Camp Programs or would like to register, see our website or call our office at (231) 894-4538.

Friday, February 17, 2012


Session One (Overnight Camp) – June 17-22, 2012

50% OFF!

That’s right! It’s not a GROUPON – it’s a Pendalou-PON!  This great offer is from 9am Thursday, February 23rd to 9am Friday, February 24th. That’s 24 hours to get this exclusive deal!

Original Cost: $515                                                     
Pendalou-PON Cost: $257.50                                      

Important stuff to know:
  • It will take 25 Registrations to activate this Pendalou-PON, so tell your friends!
  • Registration must be made online through our online system. Just type [Pendalou-PON] for the coupon code.
  • This deal applies to Session One. 
Questions? Call us (231) 894-4538.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


We have some BIG news to announce! You'll definitely want to share with your friends!

We are offering a Pendalou-PON! This deal is similar to a GROUPON, but we are running it ourselves! The deal will run from 9am Thursday, Feb 23 to 9am Friday, Feb 24.

Here are the details:
  • TOMORROW, THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 16TH, we are announcing the percentage off that the deal will include. And let me give you a hint: this is no little coupon of 10%... THIS IS GOING TO BE MUCH BIGGER!
  • THEN ON FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 17TH, we will announce the specific session of Overnight Camp that this Pendalou-PON deal is for.
  • THEN THE FOLLOWING WEEK, ON THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 23RD AT 9AM, the Pendalou-PON deal will go live for the 24 hour period!
 So stay tuned in the next two days for the BIG details on this incredible deal!

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Activity Spotlight: Gaga!

Campers and Staff during a game of Gaga!
Let me be loud and clear: we are NOT talking about Lady Gaga. Gaga is a game that came to YMCA Camp Pendalouan in 2010 and has been a hit every since!

Gaga is a fast paced, dodge-ball like game that anyone can play. Here are some details so that next time you make it out to camp, you'll already know how to play (and you'll know some insider tips too!).

It starts with a "pit." Ours here at camp is a wooden octagon (Fun fact: instead of buying one from a company, our maintenance staff used wood from the old T-Dock to make our own!). But some companies also offer portable Gaga Pits. Camper families have also seen improvised pits in public parks with tipped over picnic tables! You also need a ball. We, here at Pendalouan, use a normal playground ball.

Kids first enter the pit and line up along the edges, making sure to be touching the sides of the pit. One designated player or referee tosses up the ball in the center of the pit and all the players yell "Ga, Ga, Ga!" On the third "Ga" players may leave the sides of the pit and go for the ball, which has landed in the center of the pit. Players then attempt to get fellow players out by hitting the ball towards other players. The ball MUST hit the player below the knees to be out. If the ball hits a player above the knee, no one is out. If someone hits the ball and it flies over the sides of the pit, that player who smacked the ball is out. Once out, players hop out of the pit and watch from the outside.

Girls and Boys of all ages love to play Gaga here at Camp Pendalouan.

 These simple rules make for a safe game. But that doesn't mean it isn't fun! Sometimes 3 or four players can be out on a single toss and when the game gets down to two or three players, the outside of the circle is filled with onlookers and supporters. Sometimes you can hear the cheering all the way from Hiawatha Beach! When one player is left standing, she or he is declared the winner and a new game starts up!

Mark D, one of our 2010 & 2011 Summer Staff Counselors who prided himself on his Gaga skills, recently imparted some hints and tips that he regularly shared with campers the past few summers:
 "Everyone at Pendalouan knows I go gaga for Gaga. Here are a few tips for making sure you stay in the pit longer than anyone else. FIRST, don't forget to watch your back! A hit is still 'live' even if it bounced off the sides of the pit and hits the back of your legs! SECOND, I like to remember to sink down to knees if I know I don't have time to dodge it. THIRD, don't be discouraged if you get out early in the game. The next  round will start in a matter of minutes. LAST, the more you play, the better you get!"

Counselor Mike attempts to steal the ball from a camper. Shortly after this picture was taken, Mike got out!

We here at Pendalouan love Gaga because it's fun, safe, and is a healthy activity that gets kids moving quite a bit! It's a great chance for kids to learn sportsmanship and a wonderful opportunity for both campers and counselors alike to practice the four core values of Honesty, Caring, Respect and Responsibility.

Although we play Gaga all year round, the game is best played in the summer with warm sand under your feet! We hope you can join us in a game (or three) of Gaga the next time you make it out to the shores of Big Blue Lake!

Want to join us for Overnight Camp or Day Camp this summer? Registration is open! Sign Up Today! If you have any questions about any of our Summer Camp Programs or would like to register, see our website or call our office at (231) 894-4538. 

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Activity Spotlight: The Hike to Sleepy Hollow!

This blogpost is part of a series of posts on Camp Pendalouan Traditions! This post is about a favorite activity that has been a part of Pendalouan History since the beginning of Pendy History... The Hike to Sleepy Hollow! Future posts will be about ceremonies, rituals, the camp motto, and more! If you have an idea for a post or would like to be a guest writer, contact

Sleepy Hollow. To Campers and Alumni of Pendalouan these two words carry deep significance and conjure up memories and images of history and legend, mystical lore and natural beauty.

The hike to Sleepy Hollow is an activity that almost all visitors to camp participate in. Summer Resident and Day Campers, as well as Outdoor Education Students, often have several opportunities during their stay to make this beautiful and magical hike.

Most of the tales on the hike were passed down through the ancient art of storytelling by Pendalouan Legend, Eddie Boersema (for more information on Eddie, click here or here). Due to the nature of storytelling, the tales have changed slightly over the years, but not significantly. It is always great when an Alum comes back and shares his or her own rendition of the Sleepy Hollow Stories.

In his later years, Eddie wrote down his tales in order
to preserve them. Our counselors & staff learn the stories
by going on the hike themselves, with the tales
being told by a veteran staff member. The notes,
however, are important for Pendalouan History.

There is no substitute to actually going on the hike, but this post will attempt to share some of the highlights that campers and staff experience on their journey in Sleepy Hollow.

It may take a bit of a walk to actually get to the Hollow from the main area of camp, but once you are there, the stories and sights are numerous and are well worth the walk. First, there is a stop right at the top of the hill where the old fire tower used to be. The four corner posts and the US Geological Survey marker are still there!

A picture in Eddie Boersema's Scrapbook of Big Blue Lake
taken from the Fire Tower in the late 1930s

Then after descending a steep hill, you enter the Hollow. As you are surrounded by the Sacred Stream, the ancient giant trees, and soft ground, it feels as if you have entered another world.

A Picture of Sleepy Hollow taken in Fall 2011

After sharing some tales in that main valley, groups usually make their way to where the Purple Seven Gang’s Hideout used to be. After crossing Cleveland Creek, you stumble upon the Castle, where tales of 1920s gangsters and ghosts echo throughout the ruins.

Cleveland Creek, Fall 2011

Even further are The Blue Lake Bomber's Shack and Owasippe's Grave, where only the adventurous trek to. Throughout the whole hike, there are numerous opportunities to explore nature's beauty and learn about several species of animal and flora including Giant Beech Trees, Beavers, Marmots, etc.

The hike to Sleepy Hollow is a tradition at Camp Pendalouan that we cherish deeply. As long as the Hollow is there, Pendalouan campers will continue to explore the majesty of this legendary and beautiful natural wonder.

Do you have a favorite Sleepy Hollow story to share? Leave a comment below!

This post is part of a series on camp traditions. Be on the lookout for more posts in the coming months on other camp traditions! In case you missed it, check out the previous post on Camp Songs. If you have any questions about our Summer Camp Programs or would like to register, see our website or call our office at (231) 894-4538.