By Michelle Hagopian
FRANKLIN, Mass.—“Keep the camp traditions alive, but make it better than it was.” Since staff week, that has been the reverberating theme at Camp Haiastan this year. With the conclusion of camp’s fifth “Zartonk” teen session, that message was held high and proud here in Franklin.
On Sun., June 28, 45 Armenian teenagers ages 14 to 16 came to camp with “Hye” expectations. Some came from abroad, others were only a five-minute car ride away. Regardless of their hometown, one conclusion could be made: These campers formed yet another family bond within the unique Camp Haiastan community.
The 40 staff members were eager to greet their first set of campers. Because the camper to counselor ratio was so small, it didn’t take long for everyone to find just how special this group was. There were eight cabins in use this session—2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, and 11—with the smallest cabin having just three campers. However, the size of the session was exactly what fed into the tight niche mentality of the two weeks.
Even though many of the campers were veterans, there were a couple new faces this year, all of whom I can say with confidence had a spectacular first experience at camp. From Movie Night to the infamous Chicken Patty Wednesdays, teen session 2009 was filled with tradition and fun. Despite the persistent rainy weather, campers and staff found ways to make lasting memories, especially by playing “Name that Tune” and having singing competitions.
One of the few days we were blessed with sunshine was July 4, which turned out to be a beautiful day overall. Half the camp went on Uncas Pond for the day canoeing and kayaking, while the rest spent time outside tie-dyeing and making use of arts and crafts time. The afternoon continued with camp’s notorious Peanut Carnival, where each cabin prepares a game or activity on their deck for others to enjoy at the price of so many peanuts (or this year, jolly ranchers). The enjoyment continued into the evening with a July 4 theme at the Saturday night dance, complete with great music, dancing, and a lot of pictures.
As per usual, the conclusion of the first week brought the rapid pace of the second. By the time Visiting Sunday rolled around, time started to disappear. The second Tuesday was Backwards Day, where male and female counselors switch cabin assignments; counselors did flag raising and lowering and everything was set for a peculiar day in general. Wednesday night saw the beginning of Camp Olympics with the Alphabet Game, a longstanding tradition that all campers participate in. This year, there were two teams—the red team (“Buddy Check”) and the blue team (“Sky Hye”). Both groups participated in team sports, including basketball, volleyball, soccer, and hockey. Individual events took place on Saturday due to a field trip to the Armenian Library and Museum of America (ALMA) on Friday. Athletes participated in track and field and swimming events in addition to an Ironman and Quiz Bowl competition on Saturday.
The last few days of camp were met with both excitement and sorrow. The talent show was Friday night with each cabin preparing an act, ranging from homemade videos to musical performances and skits. Several campers and staff members put on individual acts as well, displaying the vast talent teen session had to offer. From singing and dancing numbers to poetry and heartfelt speeches, Talent Show 2009 was a success. Adding to it was an emotional farewell to Baron Pete from the staff, as a song was dedicated and sung to him, making this year’s show memorable in more ways than one.
So as the campers savored their last dance Saturday night, the final moments of teen session 2009 neared. All campers were “snowballed” for a slow dance and everyone (campers and staff alike) joined in to sing “Here’s to the Night,” a traditional camp farewell song. Filled with sadness and nostalgia, the 2009 “Zartonk” campers left Sunday with a lifetime of memories and new acquaintances. As anyone who has been to camp can attest, you can’t ask for much more.