Each summer I hear the same suggestion from so many people who know and love Pemi, from the inspired prospective families visiting Pemi for the first time, to the veteran Pemi families who have been with us for years. They all say, “there should be a Camp Pemigewassett for adults, too!” Well, this summer, we had the opportunity to fulfill that wish by offering a first ever Camp Pemi Family Camp. And, the overwhelming consensus appears that it was a rousing success, according to the families who came, as well as the staff who helped create and run the program.
Of course, with the Covid-19 pandemic in full swing, the only way Family Camp was possible was by following the recommendations set out by the CDC and the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. Much thought and planning went into making this the safest summer possible for our families and staff. We began in the spring by forming a Covid Committee, made up of health professionals, our head of dining services, buildings and grounds staff, and directors, that met in countless Zoom meetings through weeks of planning, as we discussed the protocols necessary to insure a safe camp, and to maintain the health and safety each day.
Perhaps the most important suggestion actually came from a Pemi dad and New York City doctor who said to me, “Danny, you should really consider asking everyone to be tested before they cross the bridge.” Hence, everyone who attended Family Camp tested negative before arriving (the staff was tested multiple times), which helped us to create the “bubble” that ensured safety and also a sense of confidence for families and staff, to truly enjoy themselves and spend time with others at a level many families had not experienced since March.
We were also extremely diligent about safety measures during the sessions. Staff and families all wore masks when indoors, and we dined by family at tables that were spaced more than six feet apart around the mess hall, or al fresco when possible. The staff cleaned and disinfected doorknobs, basketballs, sailboats, etc., each day, and our nurse, Rachael Vigeant, did temperature checks each day.
Camp Pemi Family Camp ran for four weeks this past summer, with 30 families joining us for this pilot program, each coming to spend from four to seven nights with us. I could just feel the spirit of Camp Pemi smiling with the knowledge that young children were at play at Pemi, families were gathered around a roaring fire on Senior Beach, and that Lower Baker Pond was in full use with swimmers, kayakers, sailors, and paddle boarders enjoying themselves and basking in the summer sun. It was good to see Pemi buzzing with activity and to give the folks who came – campers, alumni, former staff, friends, and camp families – a chance to love and appreciate everything that Pemi had to offer, from the beautiful setting and facilities, to the camaraderie and traditions.
What a joy it was to read the reviews from our families after they had returned home! Here are just a few snippets from the reviews I received from families:
“I’m just writing to thank you again – we had SO MUCH FUN! We felt so lucky to experience how magical Pemi is, and to experience some of the traditions and cultures that make Pemi, Pemi.”
“Our whole family LOVED Family Camp! Giving us the chance to experience “a week in the life of PEMI” was truly awesome. From Polar Bear, meals in the mess hall, camp fire, water skiing, canoeing on the river, hiking Mt Cube … we thoroughly loved everything. I loved seeing my boys so comfortable, happy and independent. Sign us up for 2021!!!!”
“While we certainly were looking forward to enjoying Pemi’s recreational facilities, we were not expecting to enjoy the company of the other families so much. For me personally, there was the added bonus of getting to know the Pemi history, community and culture on a much deeper level. I would also congratulate the staff for delivering an extremely high-quality vacation experience to a very different kind of customer. Their customer service was top-notch and I appreciated it. We originally signed up to support the camp, but wound up getting so much more.”
“We LOVED it. Some highlights include: delicious meals, waterskiing, high dive, ping pong. Sleeping in the cabin was great. We liked the wood block (game) at meals. Campfire was really great. We liked how you gently and supportively pressured families to contribute because all the participation made it even better. Thank you so much for being brave and trying something new. Family Camp was a highlight of our summer!”
Talk about making lemonade out of lemons! Cancelling Camp Pemi’s camper summer for the first time in Pemi’s 113 year history was disheartening, and so challenging, but our Family Camp program left us feeling confident in our ability to figure out how to welcome campers back in the summer of 2021. We also ended feeling certain that we had established a brand new program to offer Pemi families in the summers to come.
Join us for Family Camp in 2021. This one will be a keeper!
Director, Camp Pemigewassett