Day 3 & 4: Burn that Fire and Swamp the Canoe!

6851d8b6-aaa2-4771-85d6-80872bc44630Welcome to two of the most exciting days of Olympics.  Rope Burning and the Great Apache Relay. Two events that are so deep in Towanda tradition, that have been physically, emotionally and spiritually passed down for so many generations and generations to come.  If one were to ask me what the penultimate night of the summer is, I would have to say it is the night of Rope Burning. And if one would have to ask what is the most fun event of the summer, I would have to say Apache! And here’s why…

e3bfc332-4840-4f5a-a5ca-5c73d903870cAs we headed into the night of Rope Burning, I reflected on how far our campers have come…first they arrived, learned to get out of their comfort zones, try new things, make new friends, learn independence, learn new skills, learn responsibilities, learn to laugh and even earn pride (win or lose), great sportsmanship and camaraderie.

f963ca81-c554-45f2-825c-d844d2781fadFast forward to the end of the summer; new friends, young and older, team mates, opposing team friends, ultimate spirit, cheering, marching, singing…along with a focus of determination and spirit…. It doesn’t matter if you are a wood gatherer, a wood sorter or a fire builder or on the ever important cheering end …ROPE BURNING brings camp to its highest level.

37d55216-9dd6-4686-9103-d9d7746915adEveryone together, everyone focused, intensely psyched up, faces painted, wearing ceremonial sweatshirts passed down from generations…and then the horn blows! Like an assembly line the teams work together to gather, sort and feed the best wood to their intensely focused fire builders and experienced coaches. Equally intense are those on the sidelines. Holding hands. Anticipating and awaiting the fate of the fires.

decc569f-ebba-4224-9b2c-2daa7cb9adb6It’s all about the fire, building it, burning it, higher and higher… and one team wins…..BUT then the whole camp cheers on the team that did not win. And in the end, the oldest campers come back together as a brotherhood and sisterhood. Proud they achieved this experience together. Through tears, sweat and face paint.

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No one ever gave up…both teams can hold their heads high as they retreated to their meeting places and cheer on their teammates to the highest of voices and praise.

So proud …that here…like nowhere else…they learn the life lesson of losing (with the support of so many) is not so bad…and that you can hold your head high.  And the winners stand tall with their opponents embracing.

4fadf0e8-3d15-4f30-bbc9-90524f0be53eThat was rope burning. Awesome…exhilarating and impressive. If there was a night that parents could be a fly on the wall, I would wish it were this night. BUT, if you were here, it wouldn’t happen, it would be different….that is also why camp is unique and valuable.

By the way, The Red Lifeguards won Rope Burning in an impressive 11:29 while it took the Blue Ski Patrol 26:18.

6050c198-5a0f-4722-9ebf-bd6e12b5e23b(By the way…earlier in the day, the Boy’s Track meet went 401-395 RED. The Girl’s Swim Meet was 316-328 BLUE.)

Which brings me to the Great Apache Relay, an all-afternoon extravaganza of 243 events, in which EVERY SINGLE camper is involved and is passed the baton. Older campers to younger campers. Boys camp to girls camp. Our family comes together to make this epic event happen!

e8e6e7c1-357f-428c-a9fc-58851a2b5085It is a crazy, multi-faceted, widespread, inter-connected, entertaining yet challenging all afternoon race.  The teams scour over their skills to decide who does what and it takes over 2 ½ hours to setup and and over an hour an a half to complete.

2240c6db-3282-449d-b695-c16df0ae35beEvents from pogo-stick jumping, shoelace lacing, soccer goals, potato sack races to baseball tosses, basketball-tennis-hockey shots to sailing, swamped canoes, laps and several 100 more events that captivate all of us for the afternoon.

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Campers followed my live coverage over the PA System (brought to you by our sponsors Kit Kat, sunscreen of your choice and water) and hopefully you at home followed us on @Twitter and @Instagram (the only event we really “report live” all summer because it’s just SO FUN).

The running of the apache relay was basically neck and neck throughout, with never more than a 2 minute lead and most of the time the teams were within seconds of each other. It was THAT close, it was THAT exciting. NECK & NECK! Did you see the photos?

dbf06a87-ad77-4fee-8435-f02e3a0abc12The cheering, the laughter, the greatness was OH SO BEAUTIFUL…. And at the traditional fire brigade finish, Red squeaked out the victory by just an 11 second differential!  That is a very close Apache (some years there is a 45 minute difference)!

399c708e-4e81-4e2f-a4d9-951d84e3714dSunday Night’s traditional Silent Dinner BBQ was followed by under the lights events (knockout, basketball and softball).

fa5e4f72-9802-43a8-accf-d71ab415d9deAnd as we enter the 5th and final day of Olympics (which concludes with the Great Olympic Sing Monday Night), The BLUE SKI PATROL has an almost ONLY 70 point lead over The RED LIFEGUARDS, but there are still over 400 points available Monday!

Despite the rampant Olympic Fever, even more so is the sense I have of bittersweetness in the air. I can feel it lofting around as everyone, from the youngest DEBS and JETS right though the CLUB and DORM and onward through the counselors, both veterans and first year people… that there  seems to be a “getting closer and closer” as our time together shortens. The goals of the summer have been achieved; if we were to stop and get off of our carousel and look at ourselves 7 weeks ago compared to where we are today, we would see a big difference…one of growth, confidence, comfort, friendship, respect and love.

Bring it on, the final and awesome days, it is like the crescendo of why we are here!

Judgies 2014And a word about our well over 65 guest Alumni Judgies, who come back home to continue the tradition, legacy and spirit of camp. It makes our camp ever so special; as the campers relish the old stories (albeit somewhat embellished), the staff are wowed that people take off from work and time away from their families to return to Judge Olympics. Their presence just adds to an already spirited force.  As one alumni said- “You don’t just go to Towanda; Towanda is with you for life. There’s no place I would rather be this weekend than here.”

Stay tuned for this week’s edition of Friday Nite Flix (which we will air with the campers on Thursday).  It will feature Olympic highlights and more! Not to be missed!

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