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101 campers? No problem!

July 17, 2018

There were over 100 campers out at Wesley Acres for the third junior camp of the summer! I was a little nervous going into the week; I assumed that having 100+ kids was going to be hectic. Surprisingly, camp not only ran smoothly, but was my favorite camp of the summer.

Both busses pulled up at the same time and Wesley went from a ghost town to a zoo in about two minutes. It was hectic at first, but we quickly learned that we had a fun, respectful group of campers. The first night always gets long for the kids. There’s a lot of sitting and listening to rules and presentations. It takes especially long with 100 kids, but they were extremely patient which made it super easy to get camp started and get to the fun stuff!

We had hot weather and spent a lot of time in the pool again this week. I attempted the moonshot at least 30 times and was unsuccessful. I guess the basketball gods just didn’t want me to make it. A few campers came close but didn’t have any luck either. However, TJ made it and the campers went bananas. A few brave souls flopped off the diving board for our belly flopping contest. A red and sore stomach was worth the glory for Carter, our winner, as he did a belly flop that made my stomach hurt.

TJ and I had most of the boys from Casselton in our cabin. 24 boys in one cabin with two bathrooms and no air conditioning may not sound fun to you, but to me it was the most fun week I’ve had all summer. We built bunk forts during daily breather, stayed up late telling scary stories (TJ had one that scared the heck out of me), had a lot of “bro talk,” did some yoga, and Eli even voluntarily cleaned the cabin for us. They were a great group of kids, and if any of them read this, I hope you boys have a great rest of the summer.

I’m so grateful for the few days that I get to spend with your kids. It’s my job to teach them and be their counselor, but I feel that I learn much more from them than they learn from me. I’m sad that there are only a few weeks left of camp; it seems as if the summer just started. I think I can speak for the rest of the staff when I say that we are going to make the most out of these last few weeks.

Ryan Erickson
Farmers Union Summer Staff

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First time for everything!

June 25, 2018

The first week out at Wesley Acres was a successful one! I never went to camp growing up and this is my first year on staff, so, like many campers, this was also my first time out at Wesley Acres. I was nervous heading into the first camp, but all of those nerves went away as soon as the campers showed up. I’ve quickly learned that one of my favorite moments of camp is when the bus arrives, and the excited campers rush off the bus to claim a bunk. I’ve also learned that one of my least favorite moments is when the bus pulls away to head back home. The time in between those two moments goes by much too fast.

This week, we enjoyed some very nice weather out at camp. We took full advantage of it by heading to the pool and kayaking on the Sheyenne River. Unfortunately, no one made the ‘moon shot’ on the basketball hoop in the pool, but a few campers came very close. We also played a lot of water games and even ended one night by having a massive free-for-all water balloon fight.

Inside, we had a great time dancing. I learned that kids these days have some interesting dance moves and they are much better dancers than us counselors. We also had some excellent talent on display this week at the talent show. We had many talented singers, dancers, gymnasts, comedians, and pianists. We even had a great impression of Daffy Duck.

All in all, it was a great first week out at Wesley Acres. I can’t wait to meet the next group of campers and see what the rest of the summer holds.

Ryan Erickson
Farmers Union Summer Staff, 2018

First camp… check!

June 14, 2018

The first camp of the summer is in the books! The campers had a blast doing activities such as swimming in the lake to performing in the talent show. The talents included a gymnastic routine, card tricks, and one girl even wrote/sang her own song. We “first-years” were nervous as this was our first camp working as counselors. However, we all found our groove right away and camp was as smooth as peanut butter.

This summer’s project covers multiple topics. In the first session, the campers learn about Farmers Union history and the three branches of the Farmers Union triangle: Education, Cooperation, and Legislation. Later in the day, we explain the importance of eating locally and understanding the process that food goes through to get to our plate. The next day, we teach team building and cooperative games. Finally, the campers make a splash while playing through our stations of water games. Based on the ear-to-ear smiles and happy tears while getting on the bus this morning, I’d chalk up Junior Heart Butte 1 as a success.

Last Night at Camp: A Timeline

August 21, 2017

It’s 2 am and we are just starting goodnight circle after campfire. It’s the latest campfire has gone all summer, but it’s alright. The later campfire goes, the easier it is to stay up all night.

It’s the last night of senior retreat and campfire went long because it’s the one camp everyone on staff works. Goodnight circle is longer than usual as well because we sing a third song, Linger, and have SYAC ceremony. Due to the high amount of junior retreat camps we had this summer, 5 people got elected to SYAC at retreat. SYAC ceremony is where the current SYAC pass on the torch to those who were elected at that camp. It gives them an opportunity to share about their experience, and it can get a little emotional.

It’s 2:45 am and the campers have finished eating their s’mores and it’s time for the dance to begin. Heather and I are pouring our first cup of coffee and she puts in 7(!!) pumps of creamer because she hates coffee. She even has to follow up with water after drinking it because she can barely handle it. But coffee is needed if we are staying up all night, and we join the campers dancing after finishing our cup.

It’s 3 am and we are handing out free cheese sticks. And by that, I mean throwing them around the main building. We ordered way too many, as in three 100 count boxes too many. We had been giving them out for free all week, having cheese stick eating contests (4.5 in a minute is the reigning record), but we still have TONS left. So, we start just kinda throwing them around. Cheese stick dodgeball? A couple of campers eat them. Other campers tell me they would be happy if they never see another cheese stick ever again.

It’s 3:20 am and its limbo time! Lucas is generally the champion of this throughout the summer and he does not disappoint. After that we do backwards limbo: who can jump over the stick? Preston wins, per usual, but not before one of the new SYAC, Anthony, manages to break the bar. No worries, we have mattresses to catch those who fall.

So now its 4:16 am and the song “My Humps” is playing, and Lorenzo has a ball in his back and is dancing, if you can call it that, in the middle of a circle with Lucas.

4:25 am and its pizza time! Used to be the only reason I stayed up as a camper.

4:52 am: Lucas is crowd surfing on a mattress.

It’s 5:12 am and we lock the camper conga line outside for a little bit. Over half of them are still awake and we are going strong. Lorenzo is sleeping under the mattresses.

It’s 5:34 am and Heather and I are on our 5th wind and dancing around the room like maniacs. It’s almost time for the sunrise!

At 6:12 am we grab our blankets, some extra mattresses, and head up to the cliff. At 6:22 am Mikey starts doing “sun salutations” which includes walking around the cliff and saying “salutations” to everyone and squatting down and jumping up to “lift up the sun,” as well as doing some stretches that loosely resemble yoga. A surprising amount of campers join him.

At 6:45 am the buzzer goes off and I wake up, confused when I fell asleep. Mikey is gone, and Heather and I head back down to take a 15-minute nap in the dorms while the campers pack.

It’s 8 am and the kids are filling out evaluations and memories, eating cinnamon rolls while Macey plays our sad music playlist. I jam out to My Heart Will Go On because wow, what a classic right? That key change, though!

At 8:20 am we are saying goodbye to the campers on the bus, and at 8:30 they roll out and we wave goodbye to our last campers. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry a little. Lexie and I sat there for a while and hugged as we realized our third summer out at camp had come to a close. After finishing up a few post camp things, we all finally went to bed after partying all night. I can’t think of a better way to end such an amazing summer.

SYAC: Thank you!

August 14, 2017

Senior camp four was arguably one of the best weeks of my summer. Finally working a senior camp was so much fun, getting to do different theme nights and project, being back at Heartbutte, and sports tournaments! Another thing that made it a great week was the SYAC we had with us that week, Shaun and Riley.

SYAC stands for State Youth Advisory Council. 5-6 youths are elected each year by their peers at camp. They must be going into junior or senior year in high school, have gone to senior camp before, and two EPIC events with their county. They fill out an application, give a speech at camp, and the campers vote for who they think would be best. Once elected they oversee planning camp and representing Farmers Union throughout the year.

They meet generally in October, at state convention in December, again in March, and then they come out to Leadership Training Camp in May. They choose senior project, theme nights, new camp sales items, and other new fun things to incorporate into camp. They bond a lot as a group and with the summer staffers chosen as their advisors. They get to come to two camps: one where they are like counselors, and then at senior retreat they are campers.

Shaun and Riley were both great SYAC. They were fun, responsible, and did a great job interacting with the campers. Both are easy to get along with and would make great counselors someday. Shaun was a junior counselor at one of my Wesley camps, so it was fun to see him again. They joined our nightly water-chugging contests at staff meetings, took some fashion risks throughout the weeks (crop tops for boys?), and overall were quite a positive presence out at camp.

Being on SYAC is definitely an honor and an unforgettable experience. I always encourage kids to run and love helping them with their speeches. The other SYAC this year were Shaylyn, who I got to know well last year at camp, Heidi, Sarah, and Brittney. They all did a fabulous job recruiting our new SYAC: Michaela, Peyton, Ben, Anthony (Shaun’s little brother!), Veronica, and Mya (my cousin J ). The SYAC ceremony is one of my favorite parts of camp, hearing how being on SYAC changed our campers lives, and seeing the excitement of the new SYAC who get elected. This year at retreat it was really cool to see Shaun give his little brother his SYAC, and see my cousin get elected.

So to the campers out there reading this: get your EPIC events in and keep coming to camp! Although I never personally ran for SYAC, if it is something you are thinking about, definitely try getting elected and don’t give up if you don’t get it the first time! A couple of the people who got on this year had run in the past. The best thing to do is get to know other campers during the week and then give a good speech. And to our current, past, and future SYAC: thank you! All the hard work put in to improve camp is greatly appreciated. If you have any ideas for camp, feel free to contact the SYAC, they would love to hear from you!

“After All, Adventure Awaits!”

August 2, 2017

Obviously, the best part of being a camp counselor is being at camp with the kids. I always tell the kids we have no fun without them. And while it is true that the campers are the highlight of our summer, we do manage to entertain ourselves on the days they are gone. We get about 3 weekends to ourselves during the summer and we are sure to make the most of them bonding as a staff.

One of those weekends happened while I was at Wesley Acres. The group of us that were there went in to Valley City to go thrifting, one of our favorite pastimes, and exploring the Barnes County Museum for hours. We like to go on adventures like to the World’s Largest Steele Crane in Steele, Salem Sue, and the Buffalo in Jamestown. On our weekends out at Heartbutte we often drive to Bismarck to get lunch, go thrifting and to Target.

We just had our last weekend out at camp and it was one for the books. We went into Bismarck Friday to go to Space Aliens and of course, thrift stores. We got some sick cups to keep out at camp. Saturday Bailey, Lexie, and I woke up early to hike Heartbutte for a second time, and then we explored an old Catholic church in the area, which was surprisingly unlocked and incredibly beautiful. We like to spend our days on the lake, and enjoyed the beautiful weather and a break from the blue green algae. We like to kayak, play volleyball, and watch The Office.

Sunday we stopped back at the old church on our way back from church to show Preston and Carter, and got to ring the church bells. We cooked brunch together when we got back and captured a toad which I named Preston Jr. We hung out at the lake for a while and kayaked some more. Heather, Bailey, Mikaylah and I went over to the Heartbutte Reservoir to explore and take some cute pictures. When we got back, we all brought mattresses into the main building and watched scary movies. We made sure to take an intermission to watch the sunset together. I ended the night stargazing with Lexie on the basketball court.

Being a camp counselor is surely about being with the campers. All of us on staff look forward to camp starting each week and dread them leaving at the end. But that doesn’t stop us from making the most of our time off to bond as a staff and make memories that last a lifetime. After all, adventure awaits.

“It’s a Leadership Camp.”

July 19, 2017

The most common things I hear when I tell people I work at Farmers Union Camp are “Oh a farming camp?” “You’re a farmer?” “What do you do there, farm?” To which my response is always: “No, it’s a leadership camp.”

It is a fair question to ask these days. Long gone are the days where everyone sent their kids to summer camp. It seems like kids and families are getting busier and busier, whether it is with sports camps, family vacations, or just general things to do. We don’t often have a full camp like we did for Wesley 3, with 100 campers. So what does your child do when they come to camp?

Junior camps and senior camps are very similar in their general schedule. Each day starts with flag, and we sing camp songs after breakfast. Some of these are long standing traditions at NDFU, such as the Union Button, Flee Fly, Humpty Dumpty, and Little Pile of Tin. Have your child purchase a $1 songbook at the camp store if you want to see the words to some of these songs. After singing, we jump right into project. Senior campers are learning about the Seven Wonders of the World this summer. Junior campers are learning about Stewardship: Care for Land and People.

The first day of junior project we teach the kids about care for land: recycling, water management, food waste, and their ecological footprint. We have a quick co-op store break and then we have second session of project where we teach the campers about endangered animals. After that we have lunch and daily breather, which is 45 minutes we set aside to relax and recharge for the rest of the day.

When we get the kids up from daily breather the first day we sing some more camp songs, and then do some co-op and water games such as the human knot, water limbo, trust fall, and a slip and slide. After water and co-op games we have another co-op store break and head to the pool (or lake at Heartbutte), which is always a lot of fun. We hang out there until it’s time to get ready for theme night, which we have after supper. Junior theme is Superhero night, which has been really fun with games based on Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, and other various heroes. I love seeing the kids get creative with costumes.

Most nights at camp we have a dance, which is a fun way to get the kids tired before bed. We do snowball, where we teach them how to slow dance, which is either camper’s favorite or least favorite part of camp. We also teach them a dance each year, this year to the hit N’Sync song: Bye Bye Bye. After the dance we have goodnight circle, snack, and go to bed.

The second day looks similar with flag, breakfast, singing, then project. Project the second day is care for people, so we teach them about kindness the first session and digital citizenship the second. After lunch and daily breather, we do craft and boats. We go swimming again then get all dressed up for banquet. We teach the kids about co-ops on the first day they get there, and teach them how to liquidate the store the last night at banquet. We have a talent show, a dance, and a campfire. The kids love pranking each other the last night of junior camp, and staying up late to enjoy their last night together.

At Wesley 3 the prank turned into a big pillow fight outside, which I thought was pretty fun, a 100-person pillow fight. The kids were loud but fun that camp. I enjoyed getting to know kids from my own county, Cass, as well as the Hillsboro and Wahpeton kids. I especially love making connections with a couple of campers, like my third year camper Lauren (name twins!), and one of the boys named Chase who was really fun. Having a full camp can be exhausting, but I loved every second of it. I wish every camp had that many fun, energetic, cool kids who loved being at camp.

I think NDFU camp is different from other camps because we not only have tons of fun, but also teach our kids leadership and social skills you don’t often learn anywhere else. Hopefully the campers of Wesley 3 had as much fun as I did, and we can have more full camps next summer.

 

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