Opening day at Camp Pemi
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Opening Days of 2021

Newsletter #1

Welcome to the first newsletter of Camp Pemigewassett’s 114th season. Some might argue it’s our 113th, since we weren’t able to open for our regular camper sessions in 2020. We did host our inaugural (and socially-distanced) Family Camp over a five-week stretch last summer, though, so we’re officially going with 114. If this somehow disqualifies us from retaining a Guinness World Record as the oldest boys’ residential camp in the U.S. still owned and operated by the founding families, so be it.

As of this writing, we’re into the third day of Session One, the boys having flocked in on Saturday under variably cloudy skies. We’d be hard pressed to describe the relief and joy many of us feel at once again welcoming the young souls that give this beautiful mountain valley its fullest life. Lots has had to change, owing to COVID. All the boys had to be driven to camp by their parents or guardians, and everyone who hadn’t been fully vaccinated with two weeks “curing time” added had to take a Lucira 30-minute test at the near end of the soccer field before their luggage could be unloaded, they could say their fond farewells to their familial chauffeurs (not a single Uber driver in sight!), and be escorted to the cabin by their counselors. (Speaking of counselors, we’ll post the bios of all 2021 staff members tomorrow. Get ready to be impressed!)

Dining in the Junior Lodge
The newly reconfigured Junior Lodge

Supper that night was the traditional pizza and ice cream, our shameless bid to create a positive culinary first impression—but the camp was divided into three groups in order to assure the appropriate distancing. While the Lower and Upper Intermediates (boys 11 to 13) tramped up to the mess hall to strategically spaced tables, the Seniors (14 and 15) convened in an airy wedding-style tent near the Senior Lodge, and the Juniors (8-10) dined in the newly reconfigured Junior Lodge, the brightest but coziest rural bistro you could imagine. Reports are that both the Seniors and Juniors are absolutely thrilled by their novel dining spots, and we’ve heard no complaints from the Intermediates either. It all seems to fit under the general “making lemonade out of lemons” formula of the past year—as does our being forced/allowed by the pandemic to mount Family Camp, something we’d contemplated for years but had never quite pushed past the tipping point.

U2 sit as a cabin group for the all-camp meeting

Now for a few more unanticipated silver linings to a season that has likely already required as much managerial resourcefulness and innovation as our opening year in 1908! Since we were not all in the same dining spot on Saturday night, Danny and Kenny’s formal greetings to kick off the 2021 season had to be conducted after dinner on a soccer field bathed in slanting evening sunlight that also gilded the majestic backdrop of Mount Carr, five miles off at the end of our valley. Every cabin in camp was gathered in its own spot on the sweeping pitch, with Danny and Kenny standing at the center circle for their welcome and a discussion of protocols for that evening and the next day. Danny greeted each cabin by name, and each cabin erupted with an enthusiastic cheer—each of them trying to outstrip the rest and setting the neighboring woods to echoing. There was something about all of us being out there together, under the mellowing azure sky, that made us all feel more of a piece with each other and with the place than we ever remember feeling inside the mess hall.

L7 arrive to waterskiing

Grouped together for Danny and Kenny’s welcome, all of the cabins have also for the first time ever been assigned to specific activities for the “working” part of the day in order to avoid mixing cohorts during the first week. If all goes well after our second Lucira tests at Day 5, we’ll return to something much closer to the boys’ individual elective choices for which Pemi is known. For now, though, all the boys and counselors in camp travel together as cabins from activity to activity for the six hours allotted: say from Art to Tennis to Woodshop (to lunch and Rest Hour) to Swimming to Basketball to Waterskiing. At each station, they are met by the specialist staff member in charge. Lots of other camps do this all the time. Pemi instead encourages initiative, choice, and independence. But there’s been something charming about seeing every cabin group migrating around the grounds as a little family, boys and staff chatting happily as they go. There’s no question but that each of the cabins will get to know each other more quickly and profoundly than they would have done otherwise. A little more lemonade!

Finally (as we try to keep this brief, there being an entirely separate post full of staff bios for you to make your way through this week), social distancing has obliged us to mount our inaugural campfire and Sunday meetings in a staggered fashion. While on Sunday evening Kenny regaled the Intermediate Camp with the history of Pemi on the sloping lawn below the Nature Lodge, Head of Music Michaela Frank and Head of Nature Deb Kure emceed a campfire at the Senior Beach for the gathered (and distanced) Juniors and Seniors. With a full program and cast of characters the first night, the campfire circle would feature another full slate the second, offering twice as many people the chance to perform—like nine-year-old Marc de Pompignan, who debuted a song he had written during Rest Hour on that very day.

Fingers are crossed that we’ll all be together for the equivalent special events next week, but this week’s events have been special in their own way, nonetheless. Lending an extra glow to everything we’ve been doing so far is an energizing sense of gratitude that all veteran campers and staff have been feeling: Pemi is up and being Pemi again! It’s such a palpable sentiment that it’s hard to imagine that even the new boys and staff don’t feel it. At the very least, all of us who have been cooped up to one degree or another for the last sixteen months have been relishing to the bottom of our souls this chance to be together—active and laughing—in fresh, clean air of the White Mountains. More on this in due course, but we’re off to a long-yearned-for and much-appreciated fresh start.

                                                                                                –TRJR