35 Creative Programming Ideas for 2009

The results are in and the ideas are plentiful! We invited readers to submit their most creative programming ideas to find out what keeps their camp ticking. After the submissions came pouring in, we knew we had several gems to share with Camp Business readers. Take a look and see if there’s anything you can use to spice up the upcoming camp season and thanks to everyone who participated!


A Feeding Frenzy

One program that occurs each year at many camps goes by several names: Color War, Mass Program, All-Camp Extravaganza. The challenge is, “How do we make it better than last year?” An out-of-the-ordinary idea we’re using at Camp Seneca Lake in Rochester, N.Y., is the Staff Super-Special Secret Supper. Campers love it, and they remember it as one of their most exciting meals at camp! Here’s how we do it:

Long before the actual event, staff members are asked to sign up for one of six (or more) food booths. The goal is to work together (after hours or even during pre-camp) to devise a clever theme and delivery method for each of the foods served at this special dinner. Staff members use papier-mâché, chicken wire, pieces of wood, kayaks and anything useful around camp. Incidentally, the process builds staff morale, real cooperation among different levels of staff who do not usually work together, and even keeps them in camp after hours.

Please remember, bigger is better! Some of these food booths reach 10 feet or higher. And, most of all, the final product must remain a total secret and kept out of sight until the actual event. The campers don’t know what is coming, but they decide early on that it has to be exciting thanks to the huge, colorful signs each group hangs in the dining hall. Some years the food groups write songs to advertise their booths a couple of days before the big event.

Here are a few examples:

Tom, Greta, Diana, Joey and four others chose to serve corn-on-the-cob. After brainstorming, they built a covered wagon with a giant arrow (over 10 feet in length) through it. Campers would take a raw ear of corn, pin their name on it, and drop it into the tail of the arrow (of course, they had to climb halfway up a stepladder to reach it). Then they would run over to the other end of the wagon, hold out their plate at the tip of the arrow, and a cooked ear of corn came out about 10 seconds later (of course, with their name pinned to it). It was called Colonel Cobb’s Corn Contraption.

A second group chose to serve lemonade that campers milked into their cups from a giant cow. They called it Lem-Mooo-nade. A third group served hamburgers, or actually “Puff Burgers” on Puff the Magic Dragon’s tongue as it moved in and out of Puff’s head. The head was made of covered chicken wire in front of a gigantic backdrop of Puff’s body. Puff roared, and smoke spurted from his mouth (a CO2 extinguisher providing the smoke).

One of the best I remember was the Cookie Coaster Chocolate Chip Trip, in which campers actually rode in on a small homemade airplane attached to steel cables across a small lawn (zip-line style) and into the mouth of a giant Cookie Monster, where they were presented with cookies.

The ideas are endless and result from the creativity of the staff. Naturally, each group tries to make the best booth, but the overall result is so extraordinary that campers can’t believe their eyes (and tummies).

What else do we serve? We’ve served watermelon, brownies, hot dogs, nuggets (instant Gold Rush theme), pizza, bags of popcorn or peanuts, even lollipops. The emphasis at this meal is having fun more than eating healthy, as you can guess from these examples.

The only downside to this activity is that it requires a lot of craft supplies, some minor expense for special items the group cannot live without, and much tempera paint, but it is well worth the investment. Contact me for more details. The kids will love it!

–John Golden

Camp Seneca Lake

Rochester, N.Y.

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