On my way to the office this morning, I noticed a group of parents loading their children onto a bus and telling them to have a good time. The kids were all wearing matching red T-shirts, and I guessed they were all being sent off to summer camp, because I live in the sort of neighborhood where there are luxury buildings and people can afford to spend thousands of dollars to send their kids into the woods to participate in color wars.
Don Steinberg wrote a story for Philadelphia magazine recently which discussed how much it can cost to send a kid to summer camp:
Overnight camps cost a lot to run these days, and they’re not cheap. The fee at Kweebec is $8,795 for seven weeks ($8,995 for older kids), which depending on your income bracket seems like either what’s wrong with America or the going rate for this kind of thing. Pine Forest and Canadensis, up in the Poconos, cost a little more. Saginaw, Green Lane and Nock-a-Mixon are a little less. The specialized Krinsky camps can run $6,000 for four weeks. These fees, now the norm, reminded me of Meatballs, the 1979 movie where Bill Murray plays a counselor at bargain-basement Camp North Star. In one scene, he does a local TV interview posing as a programs director for Camp Mohawk, the ritzier across-the-lake rival.
“How do you justify $1,000 a week?” the reporter asks. “Well, our political roundtable,” Murray says. “Yasser Arafat is gonna come out, spend a weekend with the kids, just rap with them. … The kids wanted animals, so this summer each camper will stalk and kill his own bear in our private wildlife preserve. … “
My family couldn’t afford to send me away to summer camp, but I was the sort of kid who would have enjoyed it. While at a friend’s house, I remember catching a glimpse of Bug Juice, a reality show that ran on the Disney Channel from 1998 to 2000 about teenagers at summer camp, and my friend would say, “Oh man, this is exactly how camp is.” It seemed fun.
I was the sort of kid who was in the band in middle school, and I did go to band camp, but instead of swimming, or archery, or color wars, we basically just practiced music for 12 hours a day to prepare for “sectionals.” Band camp lasted a week, and it cost something like $200, and yes, it’s one of the geekiest thing I’ve ever paid to do.