- Newsletters 2023
2023 Newsletter #1
Greetings from Camp Pemigewassett!
I’m thrilled to be sharing the first newsletter of the 2023 season with you all. Each week throughout the summer, we’ll share an update on the happenings here at Pemi. Typically posted between Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning, the newsletters will give you a written and photographic glimpse into life at Pemi. Every Pemi day involves dozens of activities, choices from the boys on how they want to spend their free time, cabin bonding throughout the day, full community gatherings, and so much more. With each edition here, we’ll strive to share as much of the joy, kindness, and fun that are taking place at Pemi as we can. We hope you enjoy learning more about the wonderful experience of a Pemi summer!
For those of us involved in the year-round operations of camp, opening day marks the pinnacle of excitement, as months of planning, preparation, and anticipation coalesce into the massive burst of energy that means Pemi campers have arrived! This year’s opening day saw us pivot to our rain plan. With precipitation moving in and out of our valley throughout the day, we shifted health checks from the soccer field to the Senior Lodge. Families were still greeted by Head of Staff Josh Scarponi out on the bridge in his Pemi blue poncho, and no amount of rain could dampen his spirits in welcoming every boy into camp. Kenny and I likewise spent much of the day out in the elements in order to say hello to everyone on their way in. After meeting our nurses and doing a brief health check, families were able to drive right up to their son’s cabin, meet his counselors, and help him move his bags into the cabin. Undoubtedly many parents enjoyed this opportunity to see the cabin, so we were glad that the rain plan provided a meaningful silver lining.
As boys entered their summer homes for the first time, they were greeted by their cabin counselors. If you haven’t read up on this incredible group, be sure to check out the staff bios that went up last week. As mentioned in that post, this year marks the first time any of us can remember that all of our head cabin counselors are veteran staff members. The love that they all have for Pemi, the experience they bring to their position, and the passionate commitment to the wellbeing of their campers help make this group one of the strongest we’ve ever had.
Inside the cabins on opening day, boys began the process of adjusting to Pemi’s independent yet communal living. With guidance and support from their counselors, campers unpacked their bags, organized their shelves, made their beds, and, most excitingly, met their cabinmates. Pemi’s 2023 community hails from 27 states,12 countries, and 5 continents, meaning that our boys truly have the opportunity to share their cabins with friends from all over the world. Within minutes of saying their goodbyes, campers were running around reconnecting with old friends, meeting new ones, and getting acquainted with their surroundings. Veteran campers jumped right in and volunteered to give new boys tours of Pemi, highlighting all the key areas of camp.
Lunch on Saturday was a spirited affair, as the majority of our 12- to 15-year-olds had arrived and were thrilled to be in the Mess Hall. Our older campers took up their summer role as waiters, but they were quickly thrown for a loop by a major change for the 2023 season: the “In Door” to the waiters’ alley was now the “Out Door” and vice versa! While this may not mean much to some readers out there, to our alumni and veteran campers, this is akin to all of a sudden asking cars in the U.S. to drive on the left side of the road. Kenny has been scheming this out for years, and the end result will be a new and improved system for our waiters and kitchen crew alike, but the early meals have seen many waiters and staff members revert back to instinct and initially walk towards the wrong door.
Fortunately, Mess Hall singing remains unchanged, and we started up with that favorite Pemi tradition right off the bat. Music plays an integral role in the fabric of Pemi, and nowhere is it more pronounced than in Mess Hall singing. During lunch and dinner every day, we pause our conversations in between eating and clearing in order to sing a couple camp songs together. These range from Pemi originals – many of which were penned by one of Pemi’s founders, Dudley “Doc” Reed – to college fight songs to classics such as “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” The sense of community and joy that comes from 200+ boys and staff members raucously belting out a tune can hardly be described in words. Pemi boys enthusiastically and unreservedly sing together, sometimes with added hand gestures or motions, sometimes with shouted-out asides to supplement the official lyrics. Whether you’re a highly trained vocalist or an assistant director who can’t find the right key to save his life, you get to take part in Mess Hall singing with complete confidence and pride. To put it simply, as Tom Reed, Jr. did for us recently, “at Pemi, singing is cool.”
After lunch on Saturday, we welcomed in our younger campers. With their understandable mixture of nervousness and excitement, the 11-and under boys arrived wide-eyed and eager to experience life at Pemi. Some were seeing camp for the first time while others are already seasoned veterans who couldn’t wait to be back in their summer home. While they were getting settled in, the older boys wasted no time in jumping back into favorite activities. The sporadic showers that moved through the Baker Valley didn’t stop boys from playing soccer, basketball, and ultimate frisbee; from immediately beginning to build a pink polar bear dam in intermediate camp; and from exploring the different items and exhibits in the Nature Lodge. No matter how many opening days you’ve witnessed, the rate at which life at Pemi goes from 0 to 60 never fails to leave one awestruck.
At 6pm on Saturday we gathered in the Mess Hall for our first meal as a full community. We feasted on our traditional opening dinner of pizza, salad, and ice cream, and any boys who had concerns about Pemi food quickly realized that their worries were for nothing. Head of Dining Tom Ciglar and his team spoil us each and every day here, with the pizza dinners being an absolute fan favorite. Walking around during that first dinner, I heard waiters giving advice to younger campers, new boys sharing what they’re most excited for, and friendships rekindling after a school year apart. During announcements at the end of the meal, Kenny again welcomed everyone and remarked on how wonderful it was to have a full Mess Hall. He then asked all the new members of the Pemi family, campers and staff alike, to stand up, and we gave them a boisterous cheer to officially bring them into the fold.
Stomachs and hearts full, we headed to the Senior Lodge for an indoor campfire shortly after dinner. While we typically congregate on the Senior Beach for this weekly occurrence, looking out over the lake and watching the sun set, the Lodge works as a great substitute when the weather necessitates it. We get to enjoy a different, yet still majestic, view of the lake during indoor campfires, and we also get the opportunity to have a wider range of performances. Wasting no time in taking advantage of that chance, two of our youngest new campers serenaded us with beautiful melodies on the piano. Twins Max and Sam Fox each performed in front of the entire community, despite having only been at Pemi for about three and a half hours. Bravo, boys! The quartet of Ian Baldwin, Will Jones, Toren King, and Jake Landry reprised a recent campfire favorite, “The Three Wise Men,” and answered audience questions by speaking one word at a time in succession. Whether their response to why there were four “three wise men” was satisfactory is up for debate, but no one can argue that they had the crowd in stitches throughout. Larry Davis closed out the set list with perennial favorite “Beginner’s Luck,” and then we joined together to sing the Campfire Song. Arms draped over each others’ shoulders, we softly and soothingly sang out the beautiful lyrics that ask us, “I wonder if anyone’s better for anything I’ve done or said, and whether good will in the heart may offset mistakes of the head?” As the closing notes drifted into the rafters of the Senior Lodge, everyone there palpably felt the bonds of the Pemi 2023 family forging quickly and powerfully.
The first Sunday always holds a mix of important requirements, fun activities, and free choices for campers. Lowers and Seniors completed their swim checks in the morning and also had baseball and soccer practice, respectively. Uppers got to take advantage of open program areas such as the Nature Lodge, wood shop, library, and more before heading over to the basketball courts for some pickup hoops. Down in Junior Camp, the boys had fun learning Pemi games such as roofball and frisbee running bases, while also water skiing, playing tetherball, and exploring the stream. With temperatures well into the 80s and the sun shining, boys took full advantage of all their options, and it was a perfect day for swim checks.
During Sunday Meeting – our weekly gathering to hear a short talk on any number of topics, calmly reflect, and listen to musical offerings – Kenny provided us with a bit of Pemi history before 15-year-old Will Jones played a beautiful interlude on the piano. Kenny then spoke to us all about the importance of kindness and how we can weave it into all that we do at Pemi. He invited any interested 15s to come up and share their own thoughts on kindness at Pemi, and two intrepid leaders came forward to speak. Jake Landry talked about how there’s no room for being mean at Pemi and then Finn Cashman spoke about being welcomed in as a new 13-year-old and how the warmth of the Pemi family quickly helped him feel accepted and valued. These thoughtful and powerful comments from a pair of our Senior leaders underscored just how much kindness permeates daily life at Pemi. In a world that doesn’t always have enough of it, kindness exists in multitudes at Pemi and serves as the foundation for all else that we accomplish as a community.
On Monday we jumped into our regular weekly programming. Having worked with their counselors over the weekend to pick their activity preferences, boys now have their week 1 schedule, with three activity periods in the morning and one in the afternoon. We haven’t had much in the way of sunshine since Sunday, but the weather has cooperated both mornings, allowing our full slate of activities to begin in earnest. Campers are enjoying Pemi’s varied program, with our traditional sports plus options like pickleball and rugby; art activities such as collage and drawing; nature activities including birding, mineral kingdom, and environmental sculpture; and so much more. Monday afternoon also saw our first Nature field excursion go out, as Brecken and Toven Putzel, Everett Goodnow, Cam Mark, and Sidney Harris joined Deb Kure and Nick Gordon on a trip to the Warren Fish Hatchery right down the road.
Monday evening meant the first summer serving of Bean Soup. Dating back to the summer of 1910, Bean Soup is our weekly news recap, where the editors tell tales of the week at Pemi. Some of the stories are true, some are loosely based in reality, while others still are whimsical imaginings. Additionally, campers and staff write articles and recaps of events around camp such as sporting events, trips, or special activities. It’s our opportunity to look back on the week, poke fun at ourselves, and share in hearty rounds of laughter. This summer’s editors – Dan Fulham and Nolan Katcher – set the bar high with a superb combination of witty writing and comedic timing. It looks like another wonderful summer for Bean Soup!
As if all this wasn’t enough, Tuesday also marked the kickoff of intercamp sports and overnight hiking trips. As I write, 13s soccer is over at Camp Moosilauke for a Baker Valley Tournament and three trips departed today. 11-year-olds Daniel Desiato, Danny Follansbee, Micah Tolbert, Brecken Putzel, Everett Goodnow, Christian Moreno, Charlie Milgrim, and Will Dennis headed out to Mt. Osceola with Danny Carey and Jacob Kunkel. Evan Bruno, Johnny Thibault, Ethan Onysko, James Davis, Lucien Fleischner, Ryan Kittredge, and Luke Gonzalez went with EJ Burnett and Jack O’Neill to the Bonds. Finally, Kavin Aggarwal, Cam Mark, Sidney Harris, Evan Robicheau, Vikram Jay, and Sam Chapin set off with Scout Brink and Daisy Fauver to the Kinsmans. Suffice it to say, Pemi 2023 is off and running!
We look forward to updating you on all the additional fun ahead for our boys this summer!
– Pat Clare