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2024 Newsletter #3

Hello from Wentworth,

What a week it’s been at Pemi! Since the last installment of these newsletters, we’ve had the 4th of July, multiple sibling ice cream trips with sisters at nearby camps, a BVT Day, the Allagash canoe trip heading off to Maine, a swim meet, a trip to the local food pantry, projects galore down in art world, several more sporting events and trip departures, and the highlight of the week and much of this newsletter: the Bio Blitz in celebration of 100 years of Pemi’s Nature Program! With all that’s always happening here, it’s easy to forget that we’re also racing towards the end of our first session. In just a few short days we’ll be saying goodbye to the first session boys and then welcoming in our second session crew the following day. In true Pemi spirit, however, we’ll be sprinting straight to and through that first session finish line with more trips, sports, and nature excursions; an arts showcase; the Birthday Banquet; and our first session awards ceremony. The boys will be busy and having fun all week long! With that, enjoy this recap of the past week at Pemi.

Our 4th of July celebrations give us a variety of opportunities to reflect (a bit) on the history and meaning of the holiday and also have (a lot of) fun throughout the day. Tom Reed Jr. spoke to camp on Thursday morning about the idea of striving towards a “more perfect union” and how it’s incumbent on every one of us to help build that better world in all of our smaller communities. It was a heartfelt and important reminder of the power we all have to shape our pockets of the world for the better. After Tom spoke we had our traditional rendition of “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” which also allows our English counselors to stand and sing “God Save the King” alongside us in a show of unity. We stuck to our regular morning activity schedule before an afternoon and evening that were chock-full of special events.

Upper-Juniors in the P-Rade

The 101st P-Rade kicked off the afternoon. Each cabin is charged with putting on a brief skit that focuses on either Pemi history, American history, or current Pemi events. Cabins parade in front of the panel of judges, present their skit, and enjoy watching all of the other performances from a nice shady vantage point. Highlights of this year’s P-Rade included the Lower-Juniors (J1-3) Upper-Juniors (J4-6) tying for victory, with the judges being truly unable to distinguish the more worthy act between the two. The Lowers saw winning performances from Lower 1 and Lower 7, while the Uppers’ victory went to Upper 2. Lower 1 did an inventive twist on Paul Revere’s midnight ride, with members of the cabin running towards counselors Jacob Smalley and Owen Caligiuri to warn them that “the infantry is coming.” The bemused counselors had no clue what the boys were talking about until Matthew Sullivan came in with a twig at the end and presented his counselors with the “infant tree.” Lower 7’s skit featured a fictional and farcical depiction of campers interviewing to attend a sports-focused camp on Lake Winnipesaukee. Upper 2 took the crown in their division with a comedic fable warning about the dangers of “brain rot,” a twist on Tom Reed Jr.’s Sunday Meeting from the prior week. The Seniors wrapped things up with a number of high caliber skits, including a reenactment of one of our recent additions to Mess Hall singing, Waltzing Matilda. The winner in the Seniors was Senior 3 who told the story of cabin member Luke Young’s enthusiasm, or perhaps lack thereof, for springing out of bed each morning with a glad cry and heading to polar bear. They used the style of one of our favorite campfire tales, the story of how Anansi became the first spider, with refrains such as “Luke loves Polar Bear.” It was a high-quality P-Rade with loads of dramatic talent on display and every boy in camp participating in a skit in front of all his peers and counselors. Well done to all!

Setting off on the Counselor Hunt

After the joys of the P-Rade come the thrills and terror of the counselor hunt. With the Juniors gathered in the Junior Lodge and the rest of camp huddled together in the Senior Lodge, counselors and staff have five minutes to hide anywhere around camp and then the boys have ten minutes to find as many as they can. If a camper identifies a counselor by name (first, last, or nickname), he then gets to march his captive down to Senior Beach. Counselors who were found are rowed out to the high dive and must then walk the plank and jump off in whatever outfit they hid in. Hearing the air horn signal the start of the hunt followed by the stampede of screaming campers bursting out of the Lodge is easily the most nerve-wracking moment of the summer for many counselors. While several remained undiscovered for the duration, the campers were largely up to the task of tracking us down this year as dozens of staff were found. Right before time expired, I was feeling confident that I’d escaped only to have first year camper Juan Cediel shout out my name mere seconds before I heard the blast signaling the end of the hunt. Juan dutifully and deservedly escorted me down to Senior Beach where I joined the mass of counselors on the dock. Luckily for us, it was a warm and sunny afternoon so there were more than a few folks who were secretly pretty happy at the chance for a quick swim. Once we’d taken our plunges, it was time for free swim for the boys. On a beautiful afternoon, with scores of boys joyfully playing, swimming, diving, and flipping all throughout the swim area, we were reminded of the magic and power of our picturesque setting and the people we’re lucky enough to share it with together.  

4th of July Vaudeville

That evening we had a cookout for the ages prepared by our stellar team of chefs and prep workers (who you’ll meet in an upcoming round of staff bios). Multiple boys were convinced that the meal of ribs, rice noodle salad, salad, and strawberry shortcake couldn’t have been prepared in-house and must have been catered. Our kitchen team truly outdid themselves with this one! We followed that up by gathering together in the Senior Lodge for our annual 4th of July Vaudeville show. We had a number of excellent performances including Sam Fox on the piano, Holden Burr with a song, and Thomas McNelly on the banjo with a group of counselors singing “Country Roads.” Wills Waitzkin, Manfred Creane, Bryce Madom, and Connor Smillie joined counselors Thomas Groot and Evan Anderson for a fun and creative rock and jazz-inspired improvisation that brought down the house. Our final musical act was Niam Santiago on the cello playing the Star-Spangled Banner. We then moved outside for a traditional comedic and goofy skit put on by a group of veteran counselors that always closes the show. From there we walked down to Senior Beach for fireworks. Frank Roberts and Phil Benoit, two more folks you’ll soon meet via staff bios, set off this year’s spectacular display right as the sun was setting down at the far end of the lake to create one of the most stunning ends to a day that we’ve had in a long time.

Time to Make Doughnuts!

And just like that, we were back to regularly scheduled programming the next morning, with all areas of camp in full swing. It’s been an especially strong and fun session down in art world, thanks in large part to the efforts of head of art Robin Asbury. She’s had the boys creating all kinds of zany, imaginative, and mind-blowing projects each week. Art activities this summer have included Gnome Home, Learn 2 See: Drawing With a View Finder, Time to Make Doughnuts!, Jarjarium, Ice Cream Trucks, Miniature Village, Pemi Paddles, and more! The creativity and talent in our community are so impressive, and we’re clearly going to be in for a real treat at our end-of-summer art show in August.

Baseball vs. Moosilauke

On the sports front this past week, we had our usual full slate of events, including a Saturday BVT afternoon that included games across every age group. I had the pleasure of refereeing our 13s lacrosse game over at Camp Moosilauke. Due to the heat and our small roster, we played 7v7 instead of a full field, allowing for a fast-paced up-and-down game. Sam Reppucci dominated at the faceoff X with both his short-stick and d-pole, Tom Mele showed that he may need to switch his focus and become a lax player moving forward, Joel Williams was a rock in net, and Graysen Woodbury scored a highlight reel goal where he circled around from behind the cage and dove in front of the crease while placing the ball perfectly into the top right corner. Back at Pemi we had 10s soccer and 11s hoops, while 12s baseball was at Moosilauke, and 15s hoops was at Walt Whitman. On Tuesday afternoon we went off to Walt Whitman for the annual BVT swim meet. While our neighboring camps brought only a limited number of swimmers, the Pemi contingent was out in full force. We had 37 boys participate, with especially strong swimming from Micah Tolbert, Roger Kriegsman, Jonathan Thibault, Kingston Bowen, Timmy Lorig, and Carlos Martinez. It was also a first-ever swim meet for several boys including Sam Reppucci, Cormac Anderson, Darren Calhoun, and Ben Bonner. We also had a 13s ultimate BVT last week. Two special shoutouts from that go to 9-year-old Russell Howland who played with the 13s and was a force out there, and to Sam Reppucci for his great teamwork and leadership! Our first session athletic events wrap up with soccer, hoops, and pickleball today, and tennis and our first ever rugby BVT tomorrow. It’s been an amazing summer for Pemi athletics so far!

On the trips front, we’ve had a number of hikes go out this week, including two trips to Greenleaf Hut and two overnight trips for Lowers and Uppers. Returning from Greenleaf today is the group of Benjamin Araujo, Jaime Diaz, Angus Eslick, Sidney Harris, Charlie Knapp, Thomas McNelly, James Williams, and Mason Winell while another group – Lenny Herbert, Bryce Madom, Anthony Evans, Ezra Otubusin-Reese, Sam Reppucci, Nico Richards, Charlie Toomey, and Graysen Woodbury – started their hike up to the hut this afternoon. A group of Lowers and Uppers – Parker Brown, Wilkes Goobic, Isaac Flecker, Makua Ferry, Brandon Lyu, Jasper Gandhi, and Kavin Aggarwal – set off yesterday on a three-day trip to hike roughly 15 miles of the Appalachia Trail as part of our quest to hike every mile of the AT in New Hampshire this summer. Also helping log miles towards that goal at the moment are Roger Kriegsman, Kaz Sulski, Jarmani Torres, Mounir Abdelkarim, Micah Tolbert, Joe Riemer, Finn Scott, and Jacob Stilliard, who are undertaking a two-day hike on one of the AT stretches closest to us – from Rt. 25A to the base of Mt. Moosilauke. While all that is going on, many of our full-season 15s continue their traverse of the Allagash Waterway in northern Maine. Aubrey Baiely, Aurelian and Florian Henry-Labordere, Carter Glahn, Frankie McLaughlin, Leo Martin, Luke Gonzalez, Luke Young, Marcelo Emal-Langrand, and Will Sandor are experiencing the tranquil beauty of the Allagash, where they’re likely to see more moose than people during their five days of canoeing. It’s the marquee trip in the Pemi trip program, and we can’t wait to hear about their experience when they return tomorrow night.

The Pemi team at the food pantry

We also had a group of boys travel over to our local food pantry with Dottie Reed to deliver the canned goods that were donated by camper families and staff on Opening Day. The boys packed up over 400lbs of canned goods and dried foods at Pemi, that had been sorted by fellow campers, and rode with them over to the pantry. Once there the group – Ahran Santiago, Isaac Flecker, Anthony Evans, Kavin Aggarwal, Max Wiesel, Harrison Charlebois, Pepito Rodriguez, and Rowan Stewart – helped replenish the pantry shelves, which sorely needed the donations. In the process they spoke with the pantry staff to learn more about food insecurity, food pantries, and the impact of their efforts. They were also told that the pantry most urgently needs pasta, rice, and other dry foods, so second session families, please take note. It was a fun, educational, and deeply impactful day for the boys, and a great evolution in the continued growth of our Cans from Campers initiative.

Environmental Sculpture – 9:30pm

With all of that going on, the highlight of this week still was easily the Nature program’s Bio Blitz in celebration of its 100th year in operation. Led by Deb Kure, the Bio Blitz had boys listening to, looking at, documenting, and experiencing the natural world at Pemi for a full 24-hour stretch. Immediately after campfire on Saturday night, the festivities began with a group of boys joining Deb at the bridge into camp to catalogue the different frog calls we hear at night. Simultaneously, a group of photographers joined Will Katcher and Barrett Bachner for some night photography. At 9:30pm Owen Wyman was joined by Joe Riemer, Isaac Flecker, Roger Kriegsman, Parker Brown, Sam Wetherald, Ben Jones, Bryce Madom, and Sebastian Velez to light candles along an environmental sculpture project they’d made. Designed to simulate the Beacons of Gondor from Lord of the Rings, it was a complex and massive undertaking that created an eye-catching visual effect different from any other environmental sculpture project I can remember at Pemi. Rain foiled our plans for boys to join Phil Landry for night fishing for bullhead catfish down on Junior Point, but those showers quickly passed, allowing other night activities to proceed as planned.

Light at Night – 11:30pm

At 11pm Ethan Onysko, Thomas McNelly, Mason Winell, Charlie Milgrim, Darren Calhoun, and George Kingdon explored the various moths and insects that gathered around a moth light that had been placed behind the maintenance shed two days earlier by legendary Pemi naturalist and trip counselor Reilly McCue. The boys also sugared for underwing moths, an activity with a long and rich history in the Pemi nature program. After (most of) those boys went to bed, the astronomy group woke up at around 2:30am for some prime star and planet gazing. James McFarren, Ethan Onysko, Connor Smillie, Isaac Flecker, Charlie Knapp, Thomas McNelly, Oscar Quinn, Baz White, Jonathan Thibault, Joe Riemer, and River Hambleton braved the wee hours of the morning, patiently waited for fog to lift off of Lower Baker, and were ultimately treated to a spectacular view of the Milky Way, Venus, and then the International Space Station moving across the lake and dropping out of sight over the lower lake right as the first rays of sunlight were raising from the same spot.

As soon as the sun crept above the horizon, the Birding Before Breakfast group was up and moving to see what they could spot and hear. Saleem and Yaseen Usman, Timmy Lorig, Vikram Jay, Thomas McNelly, Darren Calhoun, Oscar Quinn, and Brandon Lyu set out to Upper Baker Pond with their binoculars during the 6am hour and were rewarded with a number of great sightings, including a great blue heron making its way through the tall grass.

A number of activities throughout the day on Sunday kept the Bio Blitz moving along until it culminated at Sunday Meeting. A butterfly trip to Bischoff’s field highlighted the day, along with a geodes activity with Larry, a session of cyanotype print making to create a Pemi Nature 100 banner, some nature-themed board games during Rest Hour, building an edible model map of Pemi (it was delicious!), starting Pemi’s herbarium – a dried-plant reference collection; think Junior Nature Book but in a more permanent style – with Darren Calhoun labeling the first sample “001,” and a fun simulation game called “How Many Bears Can Live in This Forest?” that required boys to think through how much life an ecosystem can sustain.

Space! – 3:20am

At Sunday Meeting Deb, Nick Gordon, Barrett Bachner, Eli Brennan, and Megan Spindler talked us through the above activities, aided by a cameo appearance from our lead sound painting instructor Nolan Katcher, who had the entire Senior Lodge recreating frog sounds at various volumes and tempos (Bean Soup greatly appreciated this last bit). Deb’s talk was the perfect mix of informative, interactive, fun, and heartfelt. We’re so lucky to have had unrivaled stability in our nature program, with only three program heads in 100 years: Clarence Dyke, Larry Davis, and Deb Kure. That’s pretty hard to beat! While we’ll continue to celebrate Pemi Nature 100 all summer long, this Bio Blitz was an incredible keynote event in those celebrations. The opportunity to learn all about the natural world, and to thereby gain a deep appreciation for our responsibility in protecting it, is one of the hallmarks of the Pemi experience. Pemi’s nature program teaches us all not just to identify different plants and animals, or to understand the water systems of our ponds and streams, but to truly love, appreciate, and care for all of the organisms that we’re fortunate enough to share space with. Thanks to Deb and her awe-inspiring team, Pemi campers learn from the best and proudly carry these lessons back home year after year.

Congratulations to Deb and all of the Nature Program on 100 amazing years, and here’s to 100 more!

Our next newsletter will come on the other side of our session change, but we have lots to do before then. Stay tuned!

– Pat Clare

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