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.

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