4-H camp is honestly been one of the most important parts of my summers for the last 8 years of my life. Every summer my mom would ask me if I wanted to go to 4-H camp again this summer, and with every single time she asked me that I always respond with a whopping yes! This camp is held at the Tar Hollow State Park of Hocking County, Ohio. Every year we have a theme from Ancient Greece to Superheros. The camp is open for kids starting third grade to kids in eighth grade. Once you begin high school you are eligible to become a counselor for the camp.
The camp has always been held during July and this year will be July 13-16. When you pull into the camp there is a huge lodge and eventually after you check in you’ll learn that that is the place where we’ll eat the honestly great food. Also on either side of lodge, there are paths that lead to the boy’s and girl’s hills. After check-in, your parents can help you go up the hills with your luggage and find your cabin. Then you can meet your counselor(s), and this is when you will discover how seriously we take our theme during 4-H camp.
Each counselor arrives at camp a whole day earlier not only to continue the necessary training, but to decorate our cabins based on which group you got placed in for the theme. For example, last year for the mystery theme we had, a few groups were SWAT, police, and the FBI. Also, each group has their own flag that they carry with them literally everywhere for the next three days. You can also buy a T-shirt that has the theme for camp for the design. To go back to the cabins, there are also four bunk beds in every cabin. On all of the hills there are shower houses where there are several showers, sinks, and toilets.
Now to go over all of the fun things that we do at camp first I’d have to tell you about the lake that you’ll see it as soon as you pull into the grounds. In the lake we do everything from swimming, kayaking, canoeing, and tug-a-war to even seeing the counselors fight over a greasy watermelon. The lake has a permanent water slide, restrooms, and a pole that sprays you off after you swim and splash with friends till your body feels like a pile of noodles.
But if you're not up for any of the lake activities, you can do a number of other activities like go on a nature hike, make something at the craft house, or learn how to line dance. Even if you don’t feel like doing any of that you can still either play gaga, volleyball, basketball, or soccer. But my favorite parts of camp have occurred at camp fire and during the cabin parties. On the last night of camp, we have camp a huge camp fire while the fire is lit, we learn some of the Native American language. I don’t want to give away to many spoilers of camp so that is all I’ll say about this campfire I love so much.
Also on the last night of camp we have our camp parties where you can go see the other cabins and hang out with any new friends you made, as long as they’re on the same hill as you. One thing that makes 4-H camp different than any other summer camp is the Gizmo. Basically the Gizmo is a rock wrapped in probably four-hundred layers of duct tape. It doesn’t sound so great with that description, but the rock is a huge deal at camp. In between every meal, the Gizmo gets passed around with campers, but someone can’t have the Gizmo more than once while at camp.
The fun part is that if there are not enough campers have had the Gizmo during the time in between meals, than the person who has it can get ‘punished’. One year, someone had to walk all the way to the lake and get a spoonful of lake water. The Gizmo helps the campers to make new friends, and can be a great conversation starter. But if you pass the rock to enough or more than the number of people needed than you get a reward. Which brings me to the dance, my personal favorite.
The dance is also on the last night of camp, and for the people reading this that were born with two left feet we’ve got an alternative for you. People aren’t expected to wear like dresses and ties to the dance, most of us just come as we are. We have a canteen that is open for all the people that can get hungry or thirsty after dinner, and of course, we dance like chickens with their heads cut off. But as mentioned before the people that don’t want to dance, we have a night hike to discover the nocturnal animals of the park.
4-H camp has created a number of great memories for me and because of it I have made new friends every summer. My older sister was a camper with me for many years, and then she became a counselor. After going to camp for six summers, this summer I am going to be a counselor this summer. If you’re interested in attending camp this summer, you should know that in order to attend the camp you must be a 4-H member. The registration materials are available on the Pickaway county extension office website. Registration is due June 5 and this year if you are a first time camper you get a 50% discount for your camper fee.
If you’re still a little hesitant about our camp, but are still interested, there is 4-H camp open house on June 9 at the Tar Hollow State Park from 1-7 pm. Here you can explore the camp grounds, find out what the heck gaga is, go fishing, and lots more. This camp has changed my life for the better. I hope that this camp will change yours too.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.