- Courtesy of Camp Abnaki
It might seem a bit incongruous that in the same week Vermont looks its most wintry, our parenting publication, Kids VT, is hosting a virtual "camp fair" promising fun in the sun six months hence. The timing makes perfect sense to those familiar with the summer salvation the event promotes. Especially this year, after 11 months of being cooped up with their kids, parents would love it if someone else could take them for a while.
People who have attended summer camp tend to be repeat customers. The rest of the year pales by comparison to those weeks in the woods with individuals who are not your parents, siblings or schoolmates. Camp friends, who are generous with hugs and have a tendency to burst into song, are worth waiting for.
Throughout my teens, I pined for my bunkmates at Hawkeye Trail Camps, in a remote northwest corner of the Adirondacks. It was shockingly rustic: There were no window screens or showers, and just one phone for 80-plus campers — a party line we shared with everybody else who lived on the lake. But to us the place was paradise, a wonderland where uniqueness was celebrated and the counselors were cool. On epic canoe trips and hikes, their outdoor leadership lessons went down as easy as s'mores.
Then, just before I turned 18, the camp's director died unexpectedly. With no proper goodbyes, or even a mailing list, the camp simply ended and the land was divvied up. Decades passed before some of us former campers and counselors began to find each other on social media. For a while there was a Yahoo email list. Last June, we graduated to a Zoom reunion. Dozens of Hawkeye alumni — some of whom went to camp in the '50s and '60s — showed up to share memories of a place we all loved.
I'm not sure that historic virtual gathering would have happened without the coronavirus pandemic pushing us to experiment with online technology. Similarly, this year's Kids VT Virtual Camp and School Fair is being presented on Zoom, which enables participating programs to safely explain their offerings. Each camp gets half an hour in the spotlight, during which potential campers and their parents can ask questions. The event takes place over two days, Friday and Saturday, February 5 and 6, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and will be recorded for future viewing at kidsvt.com/fair.
The lineup of presenters suggests at least 14 entities are feeling optimistic that by summer, things might return to some kind of post-pandemic normal. Other camps are waiting to make programming and promotional decisions. If there's sufficient demand, we'll host a second virtual fair in April.
This weekend's camps — including Circus Smirkus, Farm & Wilderness, Girl Scouts, YMCA Camp Abnaki, and the Humane Society of Chittenden County's Camp Paw Paw — offer programs with both day and sleepaway sessions. There are artistic and academic enrichment options, too: Think Sylvan Learning Center, Davis Studio and Tamim Academy.
Last summer, the pandemic shut down or severely disrupted many of these programs that nurture kids, away from school and family, in some of Vermont's most beautiful settings. Fingers crossed that they'll be singing silly songs, short-sheeting beds and capturing the flag again soon.