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!