These Brightly Colored Days

We have a saying here at camp: “Color Your Days Bright.” The phrase is painted on signs, printed on t-shirts, and repeated almost daily here. It so perfectly sums up what Birch Trail is all about, and seeing the campers integrate that philosophy into what they do at, and take away from camp brings me great joy. My whole family and I have always felt that if our campers remember to add some imagination, laughter, friendship, and learning into their days, then we’re doing our job. In fact, we even have a whole two-day program centered around it—Pandemonium—1st session’s color wars extravaganza.

Today is the second and final day of this year’s round of Pandemonium; for Pandemonium, the entire camp takes a two-day hiatus from projects and the regular schedule for some special events. While there is the usual brand of color-coordinated-to-the-extreme outfits, lots of singing and cheering, and funny games, there is also the constant and underlying theme of “Color Your Days Bright.”

Color wars have a long and rich tradition in the summer camp world, with most camps adapting their own individual style and beliefs into their version of color wars. Ours is very typically Birch Trail, with enough songs, chants, and cheers written just for these two days to fill an entire songbook, as well as a whole new world of accessorizing. Now, I’ll admit that even when surrounded by so many females for so many years, I’ve never come to understand the allure of sparkly nail polish, but I do at least appreciate the excitement it garners from our campers. But beyond the fun and events, the outfits and accessories, and yes, even beyond the singing, is one very important and very BT element; the concept that everyone is a winner at Birch Trail.

Yes, Pandemonium is technically a competition, but it’s one that is never taken too seriously. In fact, we believe that a decidedly non-competitive environment is best for our campers. Still, a little bit of healthy, fun-based competition suits us every now and again. In order to keep things from getting too serious, we make sure that teams are not only scored on their athletic prowess or skills (who placed first in the relay race or who sang the loudest cheer) but also on their sportsmanship and team support. Just this morning, I saw an older camper assisting a Maple (the youngest campers) on her team, helping her get warm and dry after a water event. The two girls, who would probably otherwise not have become friends, were discussing how much fun they had just had during the event. They never even once mentioned who had won.

The phrase “Everyone is a winner at Birch Trail” might seem cheesy to some kids and maybe even some parents, but when repeated often enough, I notice that the message really does sink in here. Everyone acts like a winner, and everyone feels like a winner. So that even after two days of color-divided cabins, schedule upheaval, and general chaos, when the festivities come to a close tonight, everyone will go back to their cabins, change into jammies, and resume normal BT life as if none of the Pandemonium competition ever mattered. And in truth, the Pandemonium teams, colors, cheers, events, judges, leaders, rules, and competition don’t matter. All that remains will be the memories, the pictures, and the new friendships that have become the lasting products of the color wars.

Tomorrow, BT life will resume its regular pace and by regular, I mean that there will be cake decorating, frosting fights, and oh yes—plenty of singing in the lodge—all for the 4th of July. There’s just enough time for us all to take a deep breath, get a good night’s sleep, and do it all over again in the morning. I can’t think of a better way to spend my days; after all, what could be more colorful than a frosting fight?

One thought on “These Brightly Colored Days”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *