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  • Newsletters 2021
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Program Pivots for 2021

Camp Pemigewassett Newsletter #5 (2021)

The second half of Pemi 2021 is now well under way, and the boys have truly hit the ground running. Our full community gathered together on Saturday night for a safely distanced campfire. We were captivated by a variety of stellar performances, including Lower 3 serving as “bodyguards” while their counselor, Quinn Markham, played guitar, Grant Gandhi playing “Blackbird” on his guitar, and Davis Morrell telling a folk tale about kangaroos. Were you to have driven through camp at any point in the last few days, you’d be forgiven if you had no idea that many of the boys arrived only a week ago. Camp has been abuzz with activity, as boys have taken full advantage of the run of relatively good weather we’ve enjoyed. This has taken shape in the form of especially spirited games of frisbee running bases down in Junior Camp, numerous cabin soccer challenges, nonstop waterskiing under the expert eye of Head of Waterskiing Molly Malone, and so much more. At the time of this writing, from my perch in the Senior Lodge, I can see boys walking into the Nature Lodge, heading up to the Shop to work on their projects, warming up for Blue/Gold soccer, practicing their lacrosse shooting, playing tennis ladder challenge matches, and rehearsing for this summer’s Gilbert and Sullivan performance (more on this later). 

Saturday night campfire…safely distanced by cabin group and division

Thanks to another round of all negative COVID tests on Sunday, all of these activities are able to take place in divisional cohorts! After that batch of good news, boys were able to sign up for Week 5 divisional activities of their own choosing. Boys had options from across all of our program areas, with a combination of our Pemi staples like Wild Foods and Woodshop, exciting opportunities like Flag Football for Uppers and Seniors, and offerings that combine elements of multiple program areas like Nature Poetry. Boys have relished the opportunity to select their own schedules. While I was enjoying breakfast with Lower Six yesterday morning, the prevailing topic of conversation was excited speculation about which of their top choices for activities each boy would get. Choosing their schedules each week helps Pemi boys feel a sense of independence and self-reliance, and it is wonderful to have reached the point of the second half where that is an option again. 

The process of selecting weekly activities is just one of the areas in which Pemi 2021 has had to adapt to a COVID summer. All of our program heads, staff, and counselors have gone to incredible lengths to ensure that this summer has all the hallmarks of what makes Pemi so special. In the following paragraphs, I’ll offer some details on how Pemi program areas have maintained their traditional excellence this summer. 

Nature Program

Learning to build fires without matches

The Nature Program has continued to thrive in 2021 thanks to a combination of innovative planning and our setting in such a rich natural environment. During Weeks 1 and 4, when we were in our cabin cohorts, Deb Kure and her staff created new offerings for each age group that exposed them to an array of our typical Nature offerings. Over the course of one week, older boys participated in instructional activities on plant dyeing, Wild Foods, fire building without matches, and topographical mapping. The Juniors, meanwhile, benefited from the return of former Pemi trippie Jud Landis, now retired from a career as a high school biology teacher, who redesigned the Junior program to better expose boys to our classic activities and our natural surroundings. Beyond the opening weeks of each half, the Nature Program has also adapted its field work in order to keep our boys safe. We have taken advantage of private access that we have been granted (through years of cultivating respectful relationships with our neighbors) to several pristine sites where boys can learn more about the flora and fauna around us. Pemi is fortunate indeed that we can stay close to home and still explore so much natural beauty. 

The Arts

Rehearsal for The Pirates of Penzance

In the Arts world, much has been able to stay the same, while a few key changes have kept the program humming along. Our annual production of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta – this year The Pirates of Penzance – has been reformatted by the brilliantly creative mind of Head of Drama Beanie Lawrence to accommodate divisional rehearsal schedules. The show will feature fewer songs than normal, less stage blocking, and a narrator to bridge plot gaps from the missing numbers. While this will mean a slightly abridged performance, it will also allow for widespread participation by full session campers and staff members. Rehearsals are well under way, and it promises to be an outstanding performance and a much-needed return to live theater. On the visual arts front, Deb Pannell has taken advantage of the large tent down in Junior Camp and moved much of her program outdoors. In addition to being a beautiful setting, this has allowed for multiple groups to participate at once, while remaining safely apart. Along those same lines, many music activities have been able to move outside. On any given morning, boys can be seen happily strumming away on guitars and ukuleles while sitting lakeside. It’s hard to imagine a more picturesque way to practice. 

Trip Program

As was detailed in last week’s newsletter, the Trip Program has continued to thrive this summer. We’ve made a few adjustments, such as eliminating our stays at AMC huts and opting for more isolated wilderness campsites, but otherwise we’ve been able to run a full and expansive program. The biggest foe for this particular program area has been Mother Nature rather than COVID. This spring’s drought is very much a thing of the past. Despite that, however, some amazing trips have and will run this summer. This week alone, a group of six Seniors did the full Presidentials traverse in one day – a gnarly 17-mile hike that took them over Mts. Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Clay, and Washington – a group of Lowers departed for a three-day trip up the Kinsmans, and Uppers have gone out to the Carters for three days. Additionally, several more day hikes will go out later in the week. Pemi boys are exploring broad reaches of the White Mountains. 

Asst. Director Pat Clare (left), Trip Leader Thaddeus Howe (right) and six Seniors traversed the Presidential range in one day

Sports Program

The program area most impacted by COVID has undoubtedly been Athletics, but under the stewardship of our new Athletics Director Chris Johnson, the program has adapted and excelled. The highlight of 2021 sporting has been the introduction of our Blue/Gold intramural competition. All boys in camp have been placed on either the Blue or Gold team, and they are competing in a wide array of sports and activities. Contests have taken place in soccer, basketball, baseball, tennis, Ultimate, and more. This has allowed boys to scratch their competitive itch in the absence of intercamp competition. While under the umbrella of Athletics, Blue/Gold has expanded to include other program areas as well. Boys are able to score points for their team through the “What-Is-It?” contest in the Nature Lodge, for example, and there will be tournaments in non-athletic games as the summer continues. Look out for a more thorough update on Blue/Gold in the weeks ahead. 

Senior Blue Gold soccer match

Beyond this summer-long series, Athletics has found additional ways to keep the boys active and entertained. This year’s first-half Quarter Century Doubles tennis tournament – where the combined age of the partners must equal 25 – featured more teams than ever before, and the Tennis Ladder has been highly popular as well. Additionally, the aforementioned cabin challenges have been taking place on a near-daily basis in soccer, basketball, barrel ball, and more. When organized athletics aren’t taking place, campers can be seen taking batting practice, shooting lacrosse balls, participating in open archery, and shooting hoops. Neither COVID nor rain have stopped Pemi’s boys from playing their hearts out this summer. 

2021 may be a year like no other, but in many ways it has been a summer much like the ones from 1908 to 2019 here on the shores of Lower Baker. Camp is filled with boys who are thrilled to be taking advantage of their time living in community with each other and participating in all that Pemi has to offer. Thanks to the tireless work of our devoted staff, boys are enjoying an amazing summer while getting a much-needed respite from the challenges of the last year. In addition to the lessons learned through our program areas, boys are figuring out how to live with others, to be active citizens, and, as Dottie Reed put it in our most recent Sunday Meeting, how to find their own distinctive paths towards making Pemi and the world more beautiful. The rest of the summer will undoubtedly feature a whole host of exciting events, major accomplishments, and the formation of lasting friendships. We look forward to updating you on all of that as it happens! 

–Pat Clare

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