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So gather up your jackets
Move it to the exits
I hope you have found a friend…
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.
Every summer has a beginning, a middle, and an end. By the time August rolls around, the light changes and the night air causes goose bumps. Fall is coming.
The 2023 camp season has come to a close. Early this morning, campers woke up, shuffled to the dining hall for a quick grab-and-go breakfast, and waited to be assembled for departure. Some sat on their bunk porches, enjoying one last hang-out with friends. Some lingered in the Village or on the Ridge, playing ping-pong, card games, or simply tossing a ball around. As cars pulled into camp and parents embraced their campers, bus riders gathered on the Lower Field and prepared for the journey home.
The coach buses arrived, loaded up, and departed – one at a time – to Rockville, Plymouth Meeting, New York City, Livingston, and White Plains. Florida campers boarded shuttles to the airport, and staff kids reunited with parents at each of the 3 camps. Camp slowly emptied out, leaving Key Staff and a handful of counselors to clean bunks, collect forgotten items, and pack up equipment securely for next summer.
An empty camp is quiet, melancholy, and still. No whistles, no bells, no chants, no laughter. The lake is like glass, reflecting the sky. The wildlife emerges – chipmunks, birds, other creatures – and scavenges for scraps left behind. The leaves in the trees rustle. The fields and courts are empty. Camp steels itself for the long winter ahead.
But next summer will come. In just 10 short months, the sun will shine and the gates will open and the campers will return. Bunks will reunite and new friends will be made. There will be line-ups and choice periods and campfires and Bombardment. Tents ‘24 will set the tone for the best summer yet. In the meantime, campers will hold tight to their memories from summer 2023. There will be new memories to make, but not just yet.
For now, we will relive the summer of 2023 with our amazing second session video, created by our supremely talented Melissa Nathan:
For more videos from this summer, be sure to check out our You Tube channel, “Lake Owego Camp.”
We will let summer linger a bit longer, holding on to every last bit of camp fun. For an Owegan, summer is never too far off.
The last few days of camp evoke a multitude of feelings – excitement for being reunited with family, sadness for leaving friends behind, anxiety for the impending school year. At Owego, these feelings are acknowledged and embraced. But we also celebrate. Every summer we celebrate campers’ achievements with division awards, which were handed out today by staff.
In the HBC, counselors handed out MVP plaques to top athletes in the various sports played at camp. Campers from all divisions were recognized for achievement in baseball, basketball, archery, pickleball, soccer, and more. At the stage, specific campers were awarded with special recognition for success in other areas of camp. One of these awards, the “Tents 2013 Spirit of the Flame” award, goes to a first-year camper who clearly embodies the Owego spirit and understands what it truly means to be a Brother in Blue.
The Spirit of the Flame is the knowledge that the bonds formed at camp are life-long. The traditions that are passed down summer after summer are meaningful, even when they seem frivolous or silly. The songs, the chants, the jokes, and the games endure the test of time. Long after summer’s heat has subsided and the school year is well underway, an Owegan remembers how it felt to sit at his first Friday night campfire. He remembers walking into the dining hall as a Junior, overwhelmed by the noise.
As the snow falls in January, an Owegan recalls summer days when the heat was so extreme that only double rec swim provided relief. He remembers gathering sticks for his first rope burn, the color of his very first Olympics shirt, and how it felt to win Frontier Week. He remembers all of the lyrics to his Tribe’s song, and collects the song sheets so he can memorize the other Tribes’ songs as well. Owego is in his blood, for now and forever.
Two more sleeps before the summer of 2023 goes into the history books and becomes part of the Owego lore.
Five long days of competition. Five long days of excitement. Five days of building shelters and fires, preparing meals and songs, and demonstrating team spirit and good sportsmanship. Tonight, it all came to a head with the Song Competition and Closing Ceremony.
The Song Competition is the culmination of many stages of songcraft. The first step is choosing the perfect song. Some Hi-Seniors start years earlier and “collect” potential Frontier Week songs. There are binders floating around Owego stuffed with papers featuring songs from previous years’ Olympics and Frontier Weeks. Many a Spotify playlist has been designed around these songs. The songs for this year’s Frontier Week were meticulously selected and lovingly altered to reflect the brotherly bonds shared by all the campers.
During the song competition, each tribe has the opportunity to take the stage and perform their own custom-written version of a popular song. The songs usually have a tinge of sadness embedded in their lyrics. The songs all tell a story – the story of a young boy who arrives at Owego not really understanding the traditions, growing into a young man who truly feels a permanent connection with his Owego brothers. Some of the songs use props. The tribe of Seneca used a door frame and empty cubby, while the tribe of Tunica held up hand-written signs that reflected the number of years each boy had been at Owego.
After each tribe’s performance, the campers paired up and exited the stage with their arms slung around each other’s shoulders. Members of the audience embraced the group that had just performed. Genuine well-wishes and compliments were exchanged. Then the next tribe took the stage, and the process started all over again.
At the competition’s end, the Judges retreated to Crockett to deliberate and tally up scores. The campers remained at the stage for a while longer, embracing one another, crying happy tears, and thanking people who have made a positive impact on their time at Owego. The thunder and lightning outside couldn’t drown out the songs and chants being performed by all campers – as ONE team.
Despite the thunderstorm and pouring rain, Key Staff managed to bring the Final Flame to life. The massive, roaring bonfire on the Upper Field may not have been an option this year, But the healthy fire burning brightly in the firepit at the center of the HBC, evoked the same awe and excitement as the real thing. The Chiefs lined up before the flame, holding their tribe’s torch. The campers reflected the light as they stood facing their respective Chiefs. One by one, Kyle tapped a pair of Chiefs, who then tossed their torch into the flame. Cora was the first to go, then Nadaco, then Duhare, then Tunica. The only tribes whose torches were still burning with hope were Seneca and Wichita. Kyle hesitated, gestured at both tribes, and gently patted one on the back. Wichita was out. Which left the Tribe of Seneca the last one standing and the Winner of Frontier Week 2023!
The fourth day of Frontier Week was all about the food. As the campsite shelters grew in size and stature, the meal team got to work on prepping and serving a meal at their tribe’s site. Each tribe’s designated meal team consisted of 1 counselor and 4 campers. The team was tasked with creating from a list of ingredients a menu containing a salad, a steak dish, a potato, and a special dish. This year’s special dish was a “smashburger.”
While the Seniors and Hi-seniors from each tribe designed the menu, prepped the ingredients, and continued to work on the shelter, the Juniors met in the picnic grove and decorated large sheet cakes for each of the tribes. Each cake-decorating team used icing, along with a wide variety of toppings (think crushed Oreos, Red Hots, sprinkles, Twizzlers, and graham crackers – to name just a few) to artistically represent their tribe. The Juniors’ creativity was off the charts! After the judges admired and evaluated the final product, the cakes were carried to their respective campsites and enjoyed by all members of the tribe!
After completing meal prep in the dining hall, the meal team transported all ingredients to the campsite, where each tribe cooked over an open flame using basic pots and utensils. Each tribe was responsible for digging out a stove area and lining it with rocks. Once the fire was lit, a metal grate was placed over the flame and the cooking began. Each tribe’s meal was judged in several different categories, including the overall meal (service, drink, and overall taste of the meal), the taste of each dish, and the preparation and clean-up. Once the judges made their evaluations and moved on to the next campsite, the entire tribe sat together at the campsite and enjoyed a meal of steak and french fries.
Frontier Week would not be complete without the campsite meal. Many campers look forward to this part of the competition because it not only means they get to enjoy a delicious steak dinner with their friends, but they get to bond as a tribe as they prepare for the final day of competition. Tomorrow, the stakes are very high.
Frontier Week is a time for exhibiting team spirit, competing with friends, demonstrating campcraft skills, and watching your counselors make fools of themselves.
That’s where the Big Game comes in. Tonight’s after-dinner activity gave counselors from each tribe the opportunity to show off their skills to the campers. In true Frontier Week style, the skills on display ranged from athletic to downright gluttonous. Some counselors are really fast, some are really strong, and some are really good spellers. The Big Game gives everyone a moment to shine.
On the upper field, the Fastest Man Sprint pitted counselor against counselor in a race to determine who can cross the finish line first. The mini-rope burn was a scaled-down version of last night’s spectacle, where counselors competed to burn through a rope suspended much closer to the ground. Though the flames were not nearly as grand as last night’s, the counselors gave it everything they had.
At the stage, Scotty moderated a good old-fashioned Spelling Bee. Counselors took turns standing at the microphone, spelling words that might trip up even the most fastidious speller.
In the picnic grove behind the dining hall, two of the most popular counselor competitions took place before a large audience of enthusiastic campers: the wing-eating challenge and the arm-wrestling contest. Counselors from each of the six tribes sat shoulder-to-shoulder at a picnic table, waiting nervously as Kyle served up the hottest wings he thought they could handle. As the wings were devoured and washed down with milk, campers looked on in amazement and horror.
Just across the grove, the arm-wrestling contest was an impressive showing of strength and determination. The contest was designed as a round-robin, with the final face-off being quite the nail-biter. Campers cheered loudly for their tribe’s representative, shouting words of encouragement as the competitors struggled to out-muscle one another.
Day three of Frontier Week has come to a close, and although it is more than halfway through, the best events are yet to come. Tomorrow brings Owego Raid and campsite meal, while Monday will feature the big finale: song competition and final flame. Until then, the flames of brotherhood continue to burn brightly.
Day two of Frontier Week started with late wake and cloudy skies. The day’s events kicked off after breakfast and inspection. In the Frontier Competition, all campers were required to compete in an individual event on behalf of their tribes. Juniors met with their head coaches to design and paint their tribe’s torch, which will be carried by the chiefs at Monday night’s closing ceremony. Seniors and Hi-Seniors signed up for one event each, and they chose from a variety of options including ropes course climbing, archery, a biking obstacle course, and kayak/canoe races at the lake. After a morning of individual competition, the six tribes gathered at their campsites to continue working on their shelter building. The sun began to peek through as campers gathered wood, lashed branches together, and helped bring their tribe’s vision to life.
The afternoon brought about one of the most beloved events of Frontier Week: Overland Overwater. This massive relay race requires full participation from all tribe members. Chiefs assign each camper on their team to a leg of the race. Some of the events are complicated and skill-based, like serving three consecutive tennis serves into the same service box. Other events just require a lot of energy and enthusiasm, like running from the lower tennis courts to the small front porch of the Dining Hall. The goal is for everyone to get involved in some way, and to celebrate each camper’s contribution to his tribe.
This year’s Overland Overwater featured campers biking, dribbling soccer balls, shooting foul shots, throwing frisbees, swimming in the lake, shooting arrows, and lots of running! Each tribe was timed in its designated heat, and the tribe with the quickest completion time was declared the winner.
The ultimate Frontier Week event took place after dinner. Rope Burn is a camper favorite, with tribes gathering kindling from around camp, building and transporting a massive pile of wood, and igniting and stoking a bonfire with the goal of burning through a suspended rope quicker than any other tribe. Owego’s best “campcrafters” from each tribe took turns adding kindling, blowing on the sparks, and building the fire higher and higher until the flames raged skyward and started to chew through the ropes.
Campers looked on and cheered wildly as the fires climbed higher. The wind blew the flames precariously close to the trees nearby. Black smoke billowed up to the sky. The fire-builders were protected with bandanas over their mouths, and spent much of their time flat on the ground, up close and personal with the fire. After about 10 minutes, Seneca’s rope snapped and the team erupted in loud cheers. Nadaco’s rope was soon to follow, then Duhare, Tunica, Wichita, and Cora. All of the tribes were proud of their team’s efforts. As the flames burned out and campers returned to their bunks for the night, Owegans big and small felt a sense of gratitude for having witnessed something so powerful.
The school bus pulls into camp, the school bus pulls out. The Tents are headed for Costas. Or are they? As the bus turns onto Route 6, the familiar opening chords of “Baba O’Reilly” pierce the air. Six flaming torches emerge from the Silverdome, carried by the tripping staff. Whistles blow and campers spill out of their bunks. It’s Frontier Week breakout!
Campers were given a number ahead of time, 1 through 6, and instructed to assemble as a team behind each torch. As the teams take shape, some campers look around in confusion. Why aren’t the Tents here? If this is the real breakout, where are our Chiefs? Some campers simply soak in the moment. This is what they’ve been waiting for all summer.
As if on cue, the school bus reappears on the lower road, and the Tents pour out. They run towards the torches, arms lifted triumphantly in the air. Though they were originally told they were going to Costas, the Tents actually headed for Timber Tops and picked up two of their beloved, former unit leaders: Adam Levey and Josh Clayman. Upon their arrival at camp, they are greeted with loud cheers from the campers and staff. The Chiefs join their teams and the procession begins.
Campers walk arm-in-arm to the upper field, following their respective Chiefs towards the flaming bonfire, with the tune of “Bittersweet Symphony” marking the processional. A semi-circle forms around the flame and campers await the official start of Frontier Week. Kyle steps forward and speaks about what will transpire over the next five days. He introduces Junior head-counselor Mike Simone, who spends a few minutes sharing his perspective with campers on the indigenous tribes who inhabited the land before us. Frontier Week not only acknowledges, but honors and pays tribute to the people who laid the groundwork for our enjoyment of the land and its bounty.
Then it’s time to get down to business. Dave Hannah steps forward and takes over, introducing each team by color, along with the Chiefs, Medicine Men, Warriors, and Scouts. Purple, red, Carolina blue, hunter green, black, and yellow – Chiefs receive personalized shirts and bandanas in their team color and hug and high-five their fellow team leaders. Head coaches are announced, campsites are chosen, and indoor meeting areas are selected. The Tribe names will be decided on later.
For the next five days, Owego will be divided into six tribes. Campers will compete in arts and crafts (banner creation and presentation), athletics (Overland/Overwater), campcraft (Rope Burn and shelter building), and cooking (meal prep and presentation). There will be a scavenger hunt (Medicine Man’s Mission), a quiet contest (Silent Meal), and a song and cheer competition. Five days of teamwork, sportsmanship, creativity, and perseverance. Frontier Week is truly unique, and it amplifies the bonds shared between our Brothers in Blue.
The whistle blows, the ball is tossed in the air, and the game begins. It’s time for the annual, highly-anticipated “Under the Lights” basketball game, in which Owego’s oldest campers face off against their Pine Forest counterparts. It’s a rivalry years in the making, with lots of big talk from both sides. Today, at precisely 3:30 (which technically was under the sunlight) the game tipped off on Chadwin Court at Pine Forest. Owego’s 11th graders not playing in the game went along for the ride, cheering on their friends as they attempted to defeat the Pine Forest team. Though our spectators were greatly outnumbered by the home team’s, our campers exhibited a massive amount of spirit and support for the Owego players.
The game was a nail-biter, with each team trading the lead until the final moments. As the final buzzer sounded, the boys in blue shouted with joy. The final score? 32 to 29, Owego wins!!! It was an impressive team effort, and the reward was sweet. For the second straight year, the Owego boys’ 16U basketball team claimed victory!
Tonight, our “Old Timers” gathered for a ceremony to honor those campers and staff who have spent seven or more years at camp. Everyone currently in his third summer and up was invited to the celebration, which involves the newly-minted Old Timers telling their most memorable stories from their years growing up at camp. Following the ceremony, the group shuffled into the dining hall for the Old Timers’ ice cream bash, lovingly dubbed the “Ding-a-Ling.” Campers lined up at the kitchen window while key staff scooped ice cream. Vanilla or chocolate? Easy decision. Toppings? Much more difficult. Hot fudge, whipped cream, sprinkles, whatever you desire. A good time was had by all.
Today’s events honored our oldest campers and most loyal Owegans. These campers grew up at camp, looking forward to the day when they would get the chance to play in the “Under the Lights” basketball game. They patiently awaited their third summer, when they would finally learn the secret of the mysterious “Ding-a-Ling.” The Owego brotherhood is one with a long history of traditions, where boys grow into young men and earn the privileges that come with that growth.