The Campfire is a mythical being at a lot of camps, including ours. The thing about a campfire that is so gracefully beautiful is its ability to free kids from negative self consciousness. It frees them from what other people think and in turn lets them be themselves. It provides laughter and smiles. Sometimes it can even provide tears. I hear of some camps that don't do a campfire where songs, skit and stories are performed and I wonder how they set their camps culture or atmosphere.
A camp's culture can be established on that campfire night, which is opening night for us. The campers have basically done three things since arriving at camp: check-in, swim/health checks and dinner. They really haven't been able to shake off that outside world rust yet. Some are still insecure about themselves and don't really know what to think of the people around them. The announcement of announcements is made after dinner, "Sign up for campfire with Ryne outside." I stand outside waiting for people to come sign up. Of course counselors come, they are the wily ol' vets of the opening campfire. They have their go to songs and skits. They are ready for campfire at moment in time. The kids that come and sign up usually have their head down and tell me what they want to do in a soft voice. I ask them to look up and tell me because I can't hear them, their eyes catch mine and they say, "I have been thinking about this for a year. I hope I don't screw up." Little do they know it doesn't matter if they screw up or not, they will still be awesome for just being up there.
Once we are at campfire we do introductions. The counselors always take a long time to answer the get to know you question but they laugh and smile the whole time, which trickles down to the kids. The campers' faces have smiles for the rest of the time. After that, rules and our no-bullying policy are given, but then the fun stuff starts. Songs and skits commence and it starts with this one:
That sets the tone for the rest of the songs and skits. Campers do come up and screw up but that is ok. We cheer for them and help them through it. It takes tons of guts to get in front of 100 people and sing a song or perform a skit. Here is a sample of a random talent a CIT and an Ad Staff member did in the summer of 2009:
At the end of campfire is when we really set the culture of camp. We give a speech about I.I.L. (Is It Loving) and I tell a story about when I was a counselor at a different camp. It is a story about a young camper who struggles at a hiking camp because he doesn't have balance (he is deaf). The main theme of the story is that the love of people at camp and the love that he has inside get him to the tops of mountains. Some people cry, some disregard the story and some really think about it. After that we do flag and go to embers (our devotion).
All of this is done to get the kids to laugh, think and cry. As Jimmy Valvano (a former college basketball coach) said at a speech right before he died of cancer, "If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special."