Mixville Recreation Area is a quintessential summer destination for many Cheshire residents. The park offers swimming, hiking, large fields for sports, and, for the campers of Cheshire Park and Recreation’s Adventure Camp, a perfect backdrop to let imagination soar.
Camp Director Ian Beling has been dedicated to bringing summer fun to life for his campers, despite the hardships the past year has presented.
“This summer, it (was) all about being together,” Beling explained. “These kids just wanted to get outside, run around, and have the time of their lives. That’s what we’re here to do — safely, of course”
The pandemic is at the forefront of every councilor’s mind, with the new delta variant seeing an increase in younger-aged children getting sick and in the number of cases in town.
“There is a small uptick in the cases this summer among kids, so we always have that in the back of our minds,” Beling said. “But, remember — we’re here to have fun.”
And fun is exactly what Adventure Camp is all about. Campers from age 4 all the way to the seventh grade descend on Mixville to experience everything the outdoors has to offer.
“We do everything with the kids,” explained assistant camp director Callie Fritz. “We try to make sure everyone has the same amount of time out on the boats or in the water as they would playing volleyball or hiking the trails. When there is bad weather, which unfortunately we’ve had a lot of this year, we shift to arts and crafts, beads, card games, things like that.”
Even in the rain, campers and counselors can be seen, and heard, having an epic dance party or singing along to their favorite songs, both on the radio and made up.
Both Fritz and Beling are Adventure Camp alumni, having spent many summers themselves exploring Mixville and its array of activities.
“Camp is seriously the best,” said Fritz. “Even though things are a little different, camp is still camp, and I think these kids need it the most this year.”
Cheshire Parks and Recreation program supervisor Elizabeth Mayne knew that planning camp this year was going to be different than any year before.
“We have no more than 10 students in a group, and we have the luxury that we are entirely outside, so it gives us a little more freedom,” Mayne added. “We also ask that any outside people we invite to the camp wear masks. For example, we had a tattoo artist come and do different face painting with the kids. Everyone wore masks that day.”
Campers are not required to wear masks at camp, although some might choose to.
“We really try to respect whatever their parents want, if they come to camp with a mask on and mom or dad wants their camper to have it on, we do our best to honor that,” Beling explained. “We really try to keep our distance between cohorts, and so far it’s gone pretty well, all things considered.”
The tattoo artist who came to the camp was part of a week-long celebration of pirates and exploration called “Out To Sea” week, where campers and counselors alike played games and did crafts centered around the seven seas.
“During ‘Out to Sea’ week, we’ve done a lot of stuff out on the beach with the kids, read them pirate stories at lunch, and have some very nautical-themed arts and crafts,” laughed Fritz. “It’s just a lot of fun, simple as that.”
Other themed weeks have included “Wild Safari,” “Space & Time Travelers,” and every year they end camp with the “Olympics” theme to close out the summer.
“Everyone gets excited for the Olympics,” Mayne added. “Especially this year with the actual Olympics going on, the kids get really excited, counselors, too!”
Olympics week is full of tournament-style games like volleyball and dodgeball, and campers are placed on different teams to compete throughout the week.
Despite the end of summer nearing closer and closer by the day, Mayne, Fritz, and Beling were determined to make this one just as special as every other. And, given the smiles on the campers faces, they managed to do just that.