We had another day packed full of special activities as we deliberately take time to bring the camp community together to celebrate these final moments as one family before our season comes to an end. Our boys enjoyed their favorite French toast breakfast before entering our council ring for the Olympic song competition. This is the only time during the summer that our entire camp is split into two teams for head-to-head competition.
Far more important than the singing of the songs is the experience our boys feel while wearing their green and grey uniforms marching into the council ring. I could see the emotion on the faces of our oldest boys as they marched into the council ring as the leaders of the song competition. One of our Okees came up to Junior Group Leader David Levy this morning during breakfast and recounted being a Crow on David’s Olympic team, eight years ago when David was an Olympic captain. He reflected on how special he felt as a younger camper, “rubbing shoulders with David and the other leaders in camp.”
The two teams sat across from each other and sang four of our camp songs, one of which was our camp alma mater, followed by one original song that was written by a camper on each team. There was a feeling that was transcending throughout the council ring that these songs created a common thread and made everyone feel a part of the Takajo fraternity. Many alumni will attest to their ability to remember the words of our camp songs for years after their camper days.
After this special camp event, the Warriors made their way down to lunch and spent rest hour preparing for their whacked-up relay. The relay has 75 events and takes place throughout the camp. Every camper participates in the whacked-up relay. A runner from each team races from event to event, where a teammate is waiting to accomplish the feat before the runner can advance to the next event.
Some events include a canoe race out to the high dive platform, paddling a teammate there, where the teammate must exit the canoe and jump off the platform. At archery, a camper needs to hit one bulls-eye; not so easy under pressure. In basketball, one must make five free throws and ten layups. In paddle tennis, two teammates must have twenty consecutive rallies before moving onto the next event. During the toilet sit, one camper runs from bunk to bunk, sitting on every toilet seat cover in camp. At the lemon suck, after sucking lemons, one must whistle the national anthem. As the relay race runs throughout camp, team members from each team follow and cheer for their teammates. At the end of the race, both teams make their way down to the lake for a celebratory dip, which creates a refreshing end to this incredibly fun event.
I invited the Okees down to my house for a lunch prepared by our chef on my deck. The boys enjoyed hamburgers and hotdogs as they took time to relax and reflect on their final summer together. There were many funny stories told, reminiscing from the boys’ first summers in camp. A tradition was started many years ago when Okees from a prior summer started to pepper me with questions about camp. A no holds barred, candid discussion, when I answer just about any question that I’m asked. I was asked some very poignant questions about counselors who had had untimely departures, but I was far more impressed with the thoughtful questions about the camp’s long-term plans and how we managed to operate safely during the pandemic.
In the evening, we came together a second time in our council ring, this time for our closing campfire. Campers and staff had the opportunity to reflect on this amazing summer, learn more about the camp’s heritage while being entertained by campers who performed in the “squat dance” and counselors who entertained us with the flaming hoop dance. At the end of the evening, it is customary for us to take embers from our final campfire and save them so that they’ll be included in the opening campfire the following summer. This creates a continuous thread from one summer to the next.
As the campfire came to an end and the roaring fire illuminated the beautiful starlit sky, we stood together listening to Warren play the sound of Tattoo. Tattoo is played every night in camp. It is a time to pause and have a moment of reflection to think about our accomplishments during the day, our loved ones at home, and this incredible opportunity we have to be together in camp. As I looked around the council ring watching campers and counselors stand in total silence, I couldn’t help but feel that our boys were very appreciative of this meaningful time in their lives.