Camp 2016 has ended, every camper has started school, and the summer staff has moved back to college. It seems like only a few weeks ago summer had just started. This year went by in the blink of an eye, and the 4-H Center is filled with the sounds of birds, the wind, and sometimes just quietness.
One thing the 4-H Center is full of is memories. No matter where you walk there is a memory belonging to someone. If you stand on the front porch of the Dining Hall looking out towards the flag poles, there aren’t any kids, but you can still see the horseshoe of campers waiting for flags to begin. There aren’t 200 campers sitting in the amphitheater every morning waiting for the day to start, but if you sit on one of the benches and close your eyes, you can almost hear Boom Box start to sing a song and all the campers join in. There’s no hammering coming from the Leathercraft room, Oakley isn’t taking kids out on the water, and the water is calm. The pool is locked; no one goes over there now. No one has to clean it every day; no one has to guard 150 campers cooling off from the 90 degree weather. Onyx and Chili would be upset because of the algae that have grown.
Down the path a little ways is the Archery Range. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “archery is my favorite class, and “Flick is the best teacher every!” Archery is always a packed class: 16 kids, the maximum, four classes a day, 3 days a week, 8 weeks this summer. But right now, it’s just an empty range with the faint sounds of arrows coming off the bow strings. The Rifle Range is the same. You walk up the steps and there are empty chairs and leaves on the deck. Splenda isn’t there with her eyes and ears on teaching campers how to be safe. It’s an empty range again. All you can hear is the wind and the lawn mower running in the distance. The Ropes Course is hanging out all alone. All the ropes are stored, the helmets put away, and the harnesses are hanging in the shed. If you look up you won’t see Amp or Little Duck instructing campers through the course, but if you think back throughout the summer you might watch a first time camper on the course complete the circuit. You might be able to hear the other campers cheering as another goes down the zip line or you might hear nothing at all because they are just memories now.
The Rec Field is vacant of children playing, no soccer balls, or softballs, Forte isn’t in the field teaching campers to work together or how to problem solve. She’s probably at school teaching her friends how to problem solve. The Camp Store is closed, the lights are off, and there are sweatshirts and t-shirts left inside. Ratchet and Wobble aren’t acting silly and making campers laugh. There aren’t campers in the clinic getting a band-aid. If you look down the row of cabins it’s like a ghost town. Jiffy isn’t teaching kids about reptiles and amphibians, she’s teaching kids about English. The turtles are still there, but they miss her terribly. Kirby has gone home. Her smiling face isn’t checking the weather every 5 minutes. You can’t walk into the office and find her helping Salmon with the day-to-day happenings of camp.
Each week campers come, they get to take 4 classes, play games, swim in the pool, and go to campfire, and there is a person who turns all these memories into a slide show, Scout. The Multimedia class takes the pictures and immortalizes camp memories into a slideshow. With Scout’s help the campers create a hard copy of hundreds of memories from camp each week. Over the years memories fade, but these slide shows will last forever. The Holiday Lake 4-H Center is celebrating its 75th year of camping this year. For the past 75 years campers have been making memories at Holiday Lake. They remember their first campfire, their first time sleeping in a cabin, their first time meeting their future best friend. Everywhere you walk at camp you can imagine how many memories have been made in that spot or who made a memory in that spot. Maybe your grandmother met your grandfather here or your dad met your mom, or maybe you just made a new memory of your own. One thing is for sure the 4-H Center maybe empty of campers, but it is full of their memories.