Maine Summer Camps Look Forward to Busy Summer Season as Parents Return to Work


Camp Director Sarah Davenport  for Grils Scout Camp Pondicherry, Bridgton, at the Fair This Afternoon.  “We Opened Registration in Mid-Janaury.  The Response has Been Tremendous.”

“This is the smallest Camp Fair we’ve had.  So many camps are full already,” said Ron Hall, Executive Director of Maine Summer Camps. .  “Some parents are desperate to get kids outdoors and involved there.  Parents are going back to work and are looking for child care,” he said.

Before the pandemic there were usually seventy (70) summer camps participating in this popular Camp Fair on Munjoy HIll said  Ron. This afternoon there were only twenty-five (25) summer camps participating in the 10th annual Fair at EECS.  This in sharp contrast to previous years.  The 10th Annual Camp Fair was held at the East End Community School, North Street this afternoon.

Camps exhibiting today were as diverse as the students who flocked to the Fair to learn more about them. . “As new technology develops, the interest is there for diverse camps.  Parents want their kids to be well-rounded and to improve skills and be current,” said Gail Bickford, who with her husband Tom, Directs  STEM Outreach, at the University of Southern Maine.   “Camps offer opportunities that kids may not get during the school year.  It reinforces what they can get at school.”  For some,  camp is a socialization opportunity that students may have missed because of school remote learning in the last two years. There was a camp for every interest;  There was a theatre camp, an ecology camp, a robotics camp, sports camp as well as several traditional camps.

“We opened registration in mid-January.  We had a tremendous response,” said Sarah Davenport, Camp Director for Pondicherry Camp, in Bridgton, one of the traditional camps represented at the Fair.  Eighty (80) girls signed up immediately.  “As we have been able to hire staff, we added some camper spots.”  A factor holding back full camp attendance has been the inability to hire enough staff.  A full staff would be thirty (30) people at Pondicherry. The staff so far includes many from overseas as well as from Maine, Tennessee, Maryland and New York.  “I am genuinely excited about the staff we have coming to us,” Sarah said.  A Girl Scout Camp, Pondicherry is 53 years old.  It’s activities include:  archery, canoeing, creative arts, hatchet throwing, nature education and much, much more.  Pondicherry Camp is one of three Girls Scout Camps in Maine.

“In a normal summer, Maine camps hire 13,500 staff for the season  And for the last ten years, positions have gone unfilled because not enough qualified applicants apply.  In a normal season we hire over 3,000 international staff and last year we only hired 400 of them,” said Ron. “That was because of COVID-19 and because Trump closed the borders.”  Ron attended camp as a kid.  He was a director of a camp in Sebago.  More recently he worked in the administration at Wayneflete School, a private school that prepares its students for college educations.  “Working with kids is my passion,” Ron said.

Bobbie Metcalf, who works for the Portland Parks and Recreation Department,  attended Pondicherry back in 1974.  “I loved it.  We had a good time.  I loved archery and arts and crafts,” she said.

“It was a wonderful Fair.  There was a large variety of camps participating.  We got a list of potential campers,” said Alex Grindle, of The Ecology School, Saco.  “We are still looking for staff.”

Maine Summer Camps is a non-profit that provides a variety of services including educational programs, serves as a liason between the state and camps on regulations, helps camps market their product and is generally a resource for camps.  It holds job fairs and camp fairs, and workshops.  Maine has almost 200 summer camps and 184 of them belong to Maine Summer Camps.

“In current times, with the increase in technology and personal handheld devices which have contributed to our disconnect from nature and face-to-face communication, I believe having youth attend a summer camp is more important than ever.  Maine summer camps provide this important opportunity for children to connect with Maine’s natural abundant resources, learn valuable lifelong skills and personally connect with each other,” is a statement issued by Maine Summer Camps, in its 2021 Maine Camp Directory.

(This blogger admits to a bias in favor of the Girls Scout Camp, Pondicherry, Bridgton.  My Aunt Nancy Peffer Brown, who was a Field Director for the Kennebec Girl Scout Council, founded Pondicherry Camp 53 years ago. She’d be so pleased to know it is still active and well run).