One of the best things about sleepaway camp is celebrating the traditions and sharing experiences that help to build unique, lifelong bonds. In the United States, the Fourth of July is all about fireworks, friends, family and BBQs, but at Camp Echo Lake, it is about more than that.
Co-Director, Laurie Rinke shared her thoughts on what the Fourth of July means at camp…
“Echo Lake as a camp looks for, and embraces, opportunities to be a community, and if we’re being a community celebrating something, it’s even better. That’s how we look at the Fourth of July. It gives us an opportunity to show our spirit and pride as a community.”
Over the last decade or so, the Fourth of July celebratory traditions at Echo Lake have taken on a life of their own, and grown organically into fun, memorable experiences that the campers and staff eagerly await.
Because of America’s surprising advancement out of the “group of death” into the knockout round of the World Cup, this year’s celebration started a little earlier than usual. Gathered inside the new field house that opened this summer, the entire camp watched the United States take on Belgium together. With most of the campers and staff dressed in red, white and blue, the LITs led the entire camp in the now-famous “I Believe” chant that became the rallying cry of Team USA. Keeping with the spirit of camp traditions, they also led the camp in the familiar Echo Lake chant “1, 2, 3, 4…we want Tribal War!”
Today, many of the campers and staff (including those from other countries) will don the red, white and blue once again, and the National Anthem will be sung at lineups as the anticipation grows for the annual hoedown and fireworks display.
The new field house, which was the setting for the viewing of Team USA’s World Cup match, will be converted into a patriotic barn of sorts with bales of hay and American flag banners proudly displayed. The campers will all get the opportunity to practice the square dance moves that will be used at the hoedown which features dance caller, Paul Rosenberg, and The FireFlies (a lively, upbeat, traditional string band).
Most returning campers (especially the older ones) remember all of the songs and dances already from previous years, which is a testament to how much fun this experience is for them. Even though there was never any prompting from the camp to do so, many campers and staff members look forward to dressing up for the occasion with plaid shirts, cowboy hats and bandanas.
The annual hoedown has become one of the social events of the season. This structured, fun dance experience is a slice of wholesome Americana that is embraced by the entire camp; no one has to be coaxed onto the dance floor. And even when the hoedown is over, there is still something to look forward to with the annual fireworks show.
With the entire camp sitting on the beach by the lake, a professional fireworks company puts on an awe-inspiring show over the water for the Echo Lake community.
“I always look forward to the fireworks display. Every year, it seems to get better and better. It’s magical to have everyone sitting on the beach ‘ooing’ and ‘aahing’ as each firework shoots up into the sky. I love the spirit that everybody shows on the Fourth Of July, wearing red, white & blue, and American flag shirts, hats and sunglasses are everywhere that you look. Even the staff and campers from other countries get into the fun and spirit of our Independence Day. It’s nice to see everybody come together as a community!” – Kelly Godzac (Junior Girls Head Counselor).
“Fourth Of July is an interesting phenomenon to experience. Coming from Canada, we do a similar celebration on July 1st for Canada Day. It is electrifying to see all the kids wearing their colors and showing their spirit. I think that my favorite part of the celebration is the fireworks night. The show is fantastic, and since it happens around July 4th, but not on it, the kids always think that Tribal War is breaking that night.” – Matt LeMoine (Inter Boys Head Counselor).
Although the Fourth of July celebratory traditions of Camp Echo Lake share some similarities with American traditions, they are more about being a part of a community, bonding and creating memories that will last a lifetime for campers and staff members who hail from all parts of the world.