From high ropes courses to horses, and from archery to art, area camps are gearing up to offer something for just about everyone this summer.
Amanda Peloquin, a music teacher and Rochester parent, fondly remembers attending camp and is excited for her children to have similar experiences.
“My friends and I still bring up fun camp stories,” she said.
Peloquin will send her 9-year-old daughter, Nora, to day camps at Camp RCLS through Rochester Central Lutheran Schools. With classes in cooking, science and ukulele, Peloquin thinks the RCLS camp will allow Nora to “try nontraditional activities.” For her first overnight camp experience, Nora will attend Camp Victory.
“I want Nora to walk away with new friends, new memories, and love for the outdoors,” Peloquin said. “I enjoy watching her try new things and telling me all about her experiences.”
Peloquin said the camp options she's choosing for her daughters are following COVID protocols and offer ways to “socialize, get outside, and get creative.” She sees Nora’s experiences at camp as a way for her to take “the first step to independence.”
Becky Montpetit, owner of Rochester Mom, will be sending her children Teddy (5) and Evie (6) to several camps this summer.
“We love Quarry Hill Camp, Aldrich School Camp, and are really excited to try Sparkamp,” she said.
Besides the benefits of hands-on learning and lots of fun, Montpetit likes to be able to support her favorite local organizations, like Spark: Place of Play.
“I think it's really important for children to experience life in many different ways,” she said. “Summer camps provide these opportunities in ways that cannot oftentimes be achieved at home.”
Montpetit also said summer camps help her and her children know their community better.
While camps are following the Minnesota Department of Health COVID guidelines, Montpetit is having her children attend camp later in the summer when she hopes more people will have been vaccinated.
“We know that our children are desperate for social interaction and experiences outside of our home,” she said. “We home-schooled our children this year, which means they didn't see many kids their age throughout the school year.”
While Montpetit said the home-schooling experience has been “rich and fulfilling,” summer camps will give her children “experiences with other kids and other adults” before they return to public school in the fall.
In 2020, some area camps were unable to open due to the pandemic, and others had to dramatically alter their delivery. For instance, the Rochester Art Center’s Total Arts Day Camp had to pivot to a hybrid camp model, having guests sometimes join campers via Zoom instead of in person. They also had to decrease their camp size to about a fourth of its usual participants.
This is the 50th year for the Totals Arts Day Camp, and the Rochester Art Center has never missed a year in that tenure.
“We were determined to find a way to safely hold camp in the summer of 2020 and now into 2021,” said Amy Garretson, education and community outreach coordinator for the RAC. “Art can be a very healing practice, especially for youth, and in times of great national trauma, perhaps we need art to express our emotions now more than ever.”
This year, the RAC’s Total Arts Day Camp will offer half its usual occupancy, and will enforce mask wearing, social distancing, and extra sanitizing to help decrease the continued risks of the pandemic.
Garretson said the RAC’s day camp helps “combat summer brain drain.”
“Some school programs offer very limited or no arts curriculum at all, so arts venues such as the Rochester Art Center are here to fill those educational gaps,” she said.
Garretson also hopes campers are encouraged to realize that “artists are a diverse group of people with different viewpoints, and may express themselves differently across many mediums.”
The Total Arts Day Camp will offer six sessions this summer for students in first through six grades, and campers must register two weeks before their session begins. For more information, call 507-282-8692 or visit www.rochesterartcenter.org.
In addition to day camps, Good Earth Village (GEV), located near Spring Valley, will offer overnight camps this summer.
“We are spotlighting intergenerational overnight camps and day camps,” said Dianna Parks, executive director at Good Earth Village.
She said GEV will be the first camp in the country to offer a camp specifically for blended families. GEV is partnering with Guide Your Heart to offer a special experience for families that include stepparents and/or stepsiblings.
Because of COVID precautions, and in addition to masking and distancing, overnight campers will be limited to families or pods, and all their day camps will be held outside. The camp’s food service has also been formatted in a “to go” style.
In 2020, GEV’s onsite camp season was “decimated,” according to Parks. Unable to offer onsite camps, GEV created six weeks of content built around its core values of faith, friendship, community, service, openness, peace and fun, for a “Virtual Village.”
For 2021, GEV is taking reservations for onsite campers online at www.goodearthvillage.org or by phone at 507-346-2494.
“I’m excited to be offering camps this summer. Not having them in 2020 created deep grief for me,” Parks said. “I missed the singing, the laughter, the pure joy, and healthy chaos … It’s going to be magnificent and very healing for everyone.”