March 1, 2021

As both a former camper and parent of a camper, I come to the summer camp equation with a lot of great memories as well as emotional baggage.

My first camp experience was Big Tree Day Camp on the west bank, in a somewhat rundown antebellum house along River Road. I attended it the summer between first and second grades. A sign of those times, my mother let me walk by myself with my Mary Poppins lunch box the two blocks from home to wait on the corner of Prytania and Valmont for the camp bus.

Big Tree was an enchanting experience for me and all these years later, I have vivid memories. My counselor Mary was a hippie with long brown hair and a guitar who sang folk songs to us in the afternoons under the eponymous giant oak in the yard. I happily created lanyard keyrings and wove pot holders for parents and grandparents, and swam in what seemed like an enormous pool. I’m sure now that the pool was probably quite small and not so deep, and probably the big tree not quite so giant, but no matter.

My next camp experiences were at sleep away camp, much later, in the Hill Country of Texas. I was somewhat better at arts and crafts than at Big Tree (not much), and became very good at many sports, including tennis, archery, and barrel racing. More than anything, though, I came to develop deep friendships, a love of practical jokes, and a strong sense of self-reliance.

Being a single mom, I started my daughter at local day camps the summer before first grade. To say she loved camp would be an understatement. Yet, as a parent I felt twinges of guilt and sadness for not being able to stay home with her or take her on long vacations. And then I felt a giant sense of pride when I saw how happy she was, summer after summer, making friends and coming home with her own fabulous craft projects. Later, she went to sleep away camp in the mountains of Tennessee and developed deep friendships, a love of practical jokes, and a strong sense of self-reliance.

In this issue, we bring you our annual pull-out section on camps, with its comprehensive listing of both local and sleep away camps that New Orleans kids and parents have loved for generations.

Also here is an inside look from our camp forum, held virtually in January, where camp directors and an expert panel give you their thoughts on this second COVID-affected summer. Being parents ourselves, we at Nola Family recognize that sending your kids to camp now requires more thought on your part. Rest assured, though, camp professionals are putting a great deal of planning and effort into ensuring this summer will be as safe as ever. And we’re betting your kids will have the same fun and friendships that we all have come to love.

Stay safe, be happy

 

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