SPARTA, NJ – Nearly 200 children had the opportunity to spend the summer unplugged at Camp Sacajawea in Sparta. Thursday was the second to last day of camp that ran for eight weeks. Everywhere you looked the children, from pre-school through incoming freshmen, were playing and laughing. They were talking with each other and the counselors. They were engaged in all kinds of activities. Not a cell phone, ipod or electronic device in sight.
It was Carnival day. The highlight of fun and games that signals the ending of the season. The young campers, Kindergarten, first and second grade, began their day with face painting, bean bag buckets, parachute, hula hoop toss and a bounce house. But before they went out to play they gathered in a close cluster around fellow camper Michael, to sing Happy Birthday.
Junior Camp Art Director, Kathy Pattin said many consitered it “the best day of the summer,” before heading out to do face painting.
Lee Roeder, Junior Camp Assistant Director has a long association with the camp. She has worked at the camp for eight years, five in her current role. She also attended the camp as a youngster, as did most of the counselors. There were three pre-school counselors, eight to 10 counselors for the Junior camp, 12 Senior camp counselors and four life guards.
“We are probably one of the largest summer employers of kids in Sparta,” said Donna Jenkins of the Sparta Recreation Department.
Senior Camp Director Nancy Hansen has headed up summers at Sacajawea for 16 years. Some of the campers even call her mom.
“This is a wonderful place for your kids to grow up,” she said. Her four sons attended the camp children, returned to work as counselors and one is still there as a counselor this year.
The senior campers have choices. “They get to direct their day. They can go swimming, do archery, play whiffle ball or tennis. If they get tired of it, they can do something else,” said Hansen.
There were field trips as well, to Mountain Creek and Medieval Times. Camp Adventure went to visit the Intrepid in New York, Zip Lining, Rafting, Liberty Science Center, Horseback Riding, Circle Line Tour, Sandy Hook, Rockville Climbing, Fun Plex and others.
Lisa Elias is the Director of Pre-School. “The happy director,” she said. Together with counselors Meghan Vreeland and Gianna Guardillo they watch over the youngest campers. They have their own self-contained cabin where they make macaroni necklaces, share show and tell, read, sing and play.
The Sparta Parks and Recreation Department runs the summer camp. Registration begins in the spring. Families can choose which weeks their children attend. Cost varies per week beginning at $24 for the three year- olds, $35 for four and five year-olds, $60 for junior campers, $100- $195 for senior campers and $248- $273 for Camp Adventure.
When asked about their favorite part of camp, several were eager to share their thoughts.
Elizabeth said, “Field trips, Mountain Creek, Medieval Times, Carnival day with snow cones, cotton candy and face painting.”
Jason said, “I like to go into the maze where we get to play a lot of different games like capture the flag and manhunt. It’s pretty cool.”
Grace enthusiastically added, “It’s very hard to choose. Special fun days, going swimming and, of course, seeing friends.”
Ryan said, “I love it here, good friends and having fun.”