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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.


Only Complaint This Camp: It Was too Short

July 10, 2017

Being a Junior Camp Director I don’t often get to work as many senior camps as other staff, but this year I was assigned to three. The first senior camp I worked this summer was our second senior camp, for grades 7-9 at Wesley Acres Camp. It is only our second year having senior campers at Wesley, and although it is our smallest senior camp, it is one of the most fun in my opinion.

The junior campers are always begging to do the zipline out at Wesley. Due to safety and time restraints, we don’t take our junior campers ziplining. That just gives them one more incentive to continue to senior camp. Now that we added a senior camp at Wesley, it offers us the opportunity to take our kids ziplining, which is always a highlight for staff and campers. Check out the Farmers Union Facebook page for pictures and videos from our adventure.

Another reason I like senior 2 is that having a smaller group allows you to really get to know each other, which is something a lot of the kids mentioned was their favorite part of camp. We tend to do things a little differently with groups that size, for example we skipped the dance one night to watch Moana (great movie, would recommend). Less kids means they get to know each other more, and we get to know them more.

One thing that was really special for me was seeing some of my junior campers from last year get to come to their first senior camp. Senior camp is one day longer, has two theme nights instead of one, and has sports tournaments, which included the new addition of a water chugging contest (let’s stay hydrated). That extra day allows us to do a lot of fun stuff and create more memories. Even with camp being a day longer now that she was a senior camper, one of my girls was so sad to leave and told me to make camp longer next summer. I asked how long she thinks camp should be and she suggested a month. If that doesn’t show how much she loves camp I don’t know what would. Another camper told me he can’t wait to be a counselor someday, and that I can expect to see him as a junior counselor next year. There’s not much better than seeing kids as passionate about Farmers Union as I am.

However, my absolute favorite thing to see at camp is friendships being formed. And during senior two, I got to watch that happen a lot. Just from the beginning of the week to the end of the week I saw kids who didn’t know each other become super close, which of course reminds me of all the friends I have made at camp. My favorite friendship to watch was between two campers who were at senior 2 last year. I remember them meeting last summer, so to see them come back and be basically inseparable was really cool. It was a boy and a girl, and so many things they did reminded me of how one of my friends and I used to be when we went to camp. We too met at camp one year, became close over the school year, and were really close for the remaining years we went to camp and then for a few years in college. I loved watching the campers interact because it brought back fond memories of my friend. It makes me excited to know my campers are forming friendships that will help them get through good times and bad, create memories, and keep them coming to camp.

I loved seeing the campers of senior 2 grow in friendship and leadership and make memories throughout the week. If you haven’t been to our Wesley Acres site, I recommend you come check it out. To the campers of senior 2, thank you for the fun, and see you next year!

“You make camp feel like home.”

June 26, 2017

“I love being here, you and Emily make camp feel like home. You’re like my big sisters,” Savanna told me the second day of camp. A returning camper from last year, Savanna and I bonded over our shared love for the endangered vaquita porpoise, as well as pillow pets and giraffes. Her words warmed my heart. I view my campers as little sisters, so to hear that at least one of them thinks of me as a big sister was so touching.

When the campers of our second camp at Wesley Acres arrived, I was happy to see how many of them I recognized. Some of them I even had for the last two years. A lot of these campers hold a special place in my heart. I don’t have favorites, but if I did some of those girls would be in the running. Not only are the kids from LaMoure, Dickey, and Stutsman county fun, but they are also respectful, kind, interesting, and caring.

One of those kids is Gracie. You can tell from the way her and her sister act and talk that they are being raised well. Neither of them have social media or use make-up, and they don’t have cell phones. I can respect that, parents who let their kids be kids. Gracie is easy to talk to, very likeable, and smart. She followed me around for most of the camp and I didn’t get annoyed with her once. I truly enjoyed hanging out with her, especially chilling with her and the other girls on the swings singing along to country music cuddled in blankets.

Aside from the great kids at this camp, we also had a 10/10 week because of the amazing people on staff this summer. I always think we are funny, but this camp we were really on the top of our humor game. When I walked in for roll call the first day, Preston had left a plunger that he found in a prop closet on stage. The kids asked me what was up, I answered the first thing that came to mind. “This…this is Preston’s girlfriend,” I said. Thus began a week full of amazing jokes about Preston dating a plunger. The joke from the previous camp about Heather eating her boogers resurfaced, which also is comedy gold. Add in ridiculous banquet decorations, hilarious bonfire skits, and a top-notch talent show, and we spent a large majority of our time laughing.

It’s camps like Wesley 2 that remind me why I love my job: the jokes, my co-workers, and most importantly, the kids. It’s camps like this that have brought me back three years in a row. It’s camps like this that create the memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Campers Teaching Staff Valuable Lessons

June 22, 2017

Sometimes at camp, the roles get reversed and campers teach us things. At Wesley Acres Junior Camp 1, one of our campers, Paul, taught all the boy counselors a valuable lesson, and that is how to be an absolute gentleman and ladies’ man.

Paul came up to Preston and me while we were selling camp sales and asked to buy an $18 Farmers Union Camp blanket. I said no, because he only had $13 left. Turns out he wanted to buy it for the girl he likes to ask her to banquet, and he was really bummed. Preston and I told him to buy a beach ball and a sharpie instead and ask her to banquet by writing on the beach ball. He thought it was a good idea and went for it.

Now when we gave him this idea we imagined he’d just write “Will you go to banquet with me?” on it. But Paul is a real romantic. “I love you. You’re the best. Will you go to banquet with me? Please. Take me into your loving arms and kiss me under the light of a thousand stars.”

Wow. How can you say no to that?

So of course, she said yes. Banquet rolls around and we look out our cabin window and there Paul is, waiting for his date to come out. 20 minutes later he’s still out there waiting while we are getting ready. One of the girls went out there and asked if she should tell his date to hurry up. “No,” he replies, “she can take her time.” WOW WHAT. WHO RAISED THIS YOUNG MAN.

His date finally comes out, he walks over to her, and puts his arm out to escort her to the main building. We played “Thinking Out Loud” for them that night and they slow danced together. SO CUTE.

So, to Paul and the rest of the Wesley Acres campers, thank you for everything you taught us, and thanks for the reminder about the beauty of young love. What a cute way to start our summer at Wesley Acres.

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