North Star Camp for Boys

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Jam Packed Weekend Highlighted by Lumberjack World Championships

Each summer, there comes a point as we near the end of July where we turn up the heat and our "regular days" start getting filled with more special programs. Our regular days allow campers to really focus on their activities and get settled into a groove. We've hit that point for the summer of 2012 where special programs come left and right.

The fun started on Friday following our weekly services at the council ring. As Andy called down those who had been at camp for ten years or longer, a van full of visitors came up honking signaling the Big Ten. The Big Ten is a roast of sorts where we honor those who are spending their tenth summer at North Star. Its quite an achievement to commit that many summers to camp, and for so many of our Big Ten honorees, we've seen them grow up from campers to counselors.

The Big Ten is a surprise and very few people in camp know when the day will be, so as staff unroll a banner, the Big Ten guys don't know if its actually the Big Ten or not (we often have fake Big Ten's to build up the suspense). This year we honored counselors Willie Goodman, Andy Rodheim and Andy Stern. All three began at North Star as campers and we're thrilled to add them to the list of men and women on our Big Ten plaque.We had lots of great visitors come up for the Big Ten and we thank them for their efforts to make it to camp this weekend.

As Saturday rolled in, so did several "rookies". Each summer we hold two Rookie Weekends. These allow prospective campers and their families to come into camp for an extended visit. While we do tours all summer long, Rookie Weekends allow the parents to get their own tours of camp while the prospective campers got to participate in activities on both Saturday and Sunday.

After a Green-White Series on Saturday night, or campers awoke to what they thought would be a normal day. In the midst of morning announcements, Andy walked into the lodge in full lumberjack regalia. After he repeatedly screamed "Yo Ho!" (a lumberjack cheer), constantly interrupting morning announcements, we broke the news to camp that we'd be taking them to the 53rd annual Lumberjack World Championships. The Event is an afternoon full of competitions in lumberjack and logrolling events. The LWC used to be televised on ESPN. North Star always has an interest in supporting New Zealand native Jason Wynyard, one of the competitors. Jason visited camp a few years ago and showed off some of his tools and put on a display for camp. Jason is tops in the sport and this year he won his 14th consecutive All Around Men's Championship (as well as winning several individual events).

The day wasn't finished yet, however. We returned to camp and after dinner we played Glen's Game. Glen's Game is a camper favorite, where there are four areas that campers must get to. Those four areas, however, are heavily guarded by counselors. Campers have to use speed, smarts and other skills to get into a coned area. Once there, they get a mark and then head to another area.

Tomorrow is yet another day, and one loaded with special programs. With a regular morning in store, the afternoon will bring the Green-White Egg Marathon. Evening program will be an all camp campfire which will surely feature a talking contest and "I see a baaaar". Our campers were able to persuade Andy to call for a half hour later tomorrow, so we'll sleep in before another great day in the Northwoods!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Iron Chef North Star

A few days ago Leb's Ramblings featured the kick-off of College Days, a three day event where our senior village is split up into four days. Throughout the week the teams take each other on in a variety of events, mostly of the sporting variety. Over the past few years, however, several non-sporting events have been a part of College Days, events like a card tournament and the trivia challenge. 

One of the non-sporting events has reigned supreme since College Days' inception; the cook-off. In true Iron Chef style, each team gets a series of ingredients to prepare a meal for the cook-off judges. The biggest difference, however, is that the cook-off is all done over the open fire. 

At the start of College Days, each team is given a list of ingredients. They then request what items from the list that they want. They have a choice of meat options, starches/carbs, vegetables, and so on. They also request spices and other sauces for their dishes. After quite a bit of behind the scenes work from cook-off coordinator Kim McCormack, the teams pick up their food and get to work. 

Everything is taken into account. Teams are scored on the obvious things, like taste and presentation, but also on clean-up. Teams prepare appetizers, a main course and a dessert for our judges. Various chicken dishes are the most popular, with chicken parm at the top of the list. Over the years, teams have come up with elaborate items while others have settled for more basic but high quality burgers. Being a judge is quite an honor and there are many requests from our staff to sit on the panel. Some of you may be envisioning your son, a bunch of ingredients, a pan and a fire, and thinking the worst. The food is actually fantastic. While there is an occasional culinary creation that doesn't cut the mustard, the majority of the time the food is great and the seniors have a ton of fun with it. This year was no different.
So for the parents of our seniors, we can attest that not only can your son help clean up after a meal, they can also help make it, too!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Senior Village Kicks off College Days 2012

Those of us who have been at camp for more than a few years sometimes have a hard time realizing how long some of our "traditions" have been around. To campers, the concept of "that's the way its always been" often may refer to something that has only been a part of camp for four or five years. College Days is certainly in that category. Some of us were around for the first College Days and at first it seems like something that is relatively new, and while we were discussing it we realized that its actually been a part of our program for 13 or 14 years. 

College Days was started in the late 1990's by Senior Village Director Seth Katz. In response to the need for more specialized programming for our oldest campers, a three day series of events was created. During this time, our oldest village does not participate in any of the programs that the rest of camp does, with the exception of meals. From the start of the day until nightfall, our 13-15 year olds have programming exclusively for themselves. From the start of College Days, the village is split into four different teams. There are no captains, giving the team the opportunity to create its hierarchy and allowing the opportunity for many to lead. Each team decides what college they want to be for the duration of the three days.

Initially the programming was almost exclusively athletic based, with one main exception, the cook-off (we'll write more about that tomorrow). Over the years, our Senior Village Directors have added their own touches. College Days has seen the addition of a bowling tournament, trivia challenge, team cheer contest and plaque making.

College Days 2012 kicked off today with much excitement from the Seniors. They look forward to this all year and it undoubtedly marks one of the highlights of their summer. While in years past some of the colleges chosen were the typical powerhouses, in recent years, the teams have opted for non traditional schools with really fun mascots. This year's teams are Bowdoin (Polar Bears), University of Alaska Southeast (Humpack Whales), Bard College (Llamas) and St Francis Xavier University (X Men). 

The opening day's activities started with traditional games of softball over first and second period. Post lunch, there each team split up to send participants to archery, riflery, swimming and waterskiing. Football consumed much of the afternoon before teams were given some free time to plan for things like the cookoff, mascot costumes and cheers. The teams participated in a wide ranging trivia contest in the evening, with NSC trivia as well as questions about college mascots, pop culture and general history. Capping off the evening was arm wrestling. While certainly a display of skill, it was an even more entertaining to see all the facial expressions. 

We'll pass along more updated as College Days progresses but after one day, the Seniors are having a great time!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Tin Foil and Other Surprises

These were two of the keylogs from our first-year campers tonight:

This keylog is for my cabinmates, counselors, cousins and new friends helping make North Star my new home.

This keylog is for everyone who makes camp possible, because North Star is the best opportunity I've had in my life.
Every Friday night we head out to the Council Ring for our Friday Night Service, a values based campfire program. One of the parts of this service is the keylog ceremony, where every camper has the opportunity to throw a stick into the fire and share something he is thankful for. The quotes above are two of the keylogs from this evening's service, and these are just two of the well over 100 keylogs like them that were given tonight. It has been a great first week of 2nd session, and these keylogs symbolize that.

Yesterday was our first Cruiser Day of second session, and it was a great one. Cruiser Days (typically Tuesdays) are a cabin day where each cabin group puts together their own plan for the day. The day starts with doughnuts and ends with a cookout dinner over a campfire, with lots of fun in between. The cabins can choose from all the activities around camp, and they get creative with more as well.
Each cabin takes one Cruiser Day as a Village where they go on a field trip together. Yesterday was the Junior Village Cruiser Day, and it was a great one. The boys headed over to the Hayward waterslide and mini golf for a morning of fun. From there the boys headed over to the world famous Hayward Lumberjack Bowl for a show and demonstration. Campers and counselors alike joined in to support their favoirte Lumberjacks with the customary cheer of “Yo – Ho!” After the show, the boys headed to Hayward Beach where they had their cookout dinner. 

Meanwhile back at camp, the Intermediates and Seniors had some fun of their own. Our Pine Manor campers spent the day hiking at Copper Falls. Many of our campers made up many shenanigans, but none topped cabin S-3 and their Super Hero Day. Each camper picked a super hero to dress up as and they did many activities as their favorite Super Heros.

The day ended as everyone prepared their dinners at their campfire sites. Last night’s dinner was Tin Foil Surprise, where you take hamburger patties, potatoes and vegetables and wrap it in tin foil and cook it over the fire. The result is a delicious dinner! And s’mores for dessert to top it all off. It was a great Cruiser Day and we’re looking forward to two more fantastic ones.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Leb's Visiting Weekend Reflections

The first session of year one under the direction of Andy has come and gone and it's an appropriate time to sit back and reflect upon the summer. First of all, this past weekend we had over 150 visitors and they were treated to a beautiful and moving Friday night service. The theme of character building and the camper chorus, counselor chorus, sermonette and of course, the key logs were moving and came from the heart.

Many parents in attendance were former campers and counselors with either Sue and myself or Lou and Renee. The comments I heard were how beautiful camp looked and how meaningful the service was. At the end of the program Andy spoke about how unusual it is is for a group of boys to be able to stand in front of a group of over 350 people and express their appreciation and thanks to their parents, counselors and people that meant something to them. It's very true that the community that came together on Friday night.... parents, campers and staff felt part of something very special.

The staff that Andy and Dan Lichtenstein, our associate director, put together is fantastic! Every one of them has committed to being part of a community centered around creating a community that cares about kids, that wants to have fun with kids, to be around kids and to make a special place for kids. I believe each one feels that being part of the camp community is special and a place that is bigger than themselves.

I believe that if our country and world are to be entrusted to the type of young adults that represent this summers staff, then I feel very confident about "our" future. I believe that every adult that visited this past weekend would concur.

Our campers are having a blast! Watching them play games; interact with each other and their counselors; come back from their cabin overnight trips; choose and participate in their favorite activities and get excited about special events such as United Nations Day; espionage and the 4th of July party with Birch Trail has been a lot of fun.

This weekend I was asked by a few visitors what it's like to have stepped down from the director and ownership. Some asked if it was difficult.

I'll share with you what I said. It has not been difficult at all! I'm loving being able to come and go as I please and to be able to watch a spectacular summer unfold. It is absolute pure joy to watch the kids have fun and love camp as much as they do.

And that's the real point! Camp is better than ever! Sue and I are POSITIVE that camp is in great hands. We are sure that North Star will continue as one of the very finest summer camps anywhere and that the values that North Star has represented will continue for future generations.

Most importantly, it's no longer a hope or a believe. It's now fact. The completed first session was as good or better than any other in our history! Andy's leadership is proven!

So, without being over dramatic, corny and completely over the top I can answer with complete and total honesty what's it like to be the ex-owner/ director.

Absolutely spectacular!! The satisfaction in knowing that North Star's future is rock solid is extremely gratifying! And with that knowledge I am able to sit back, relax and have a blast watch it all unfold.

And better yet, I am sure that your kids are having even more fun than I!

Chairs Up,

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Hot and Fast Start!

We knew second session would get off to a scorching start, but who knew that it would bring a 95-degree day! There is really no better day for swim tests, especially with the lake feeling like a bathtub. A strong breeze gave us the relief we needed throughout the day. Everybody was doused in sunscreen and well-hydrated and excited to be in the water to swim. One of the things that I love to see during swim tests is the way that the counselors all jump right in with their kids. No hesitation. They get right in the water and encourage their campers to do their best. And they swim alongside them the whole time.

This afternoon, the Junior and Intermediate Villages each played in their own game of continuous dodgeball. It is a great activity for the first full day, as it is not only a fun activity for all, but a great name game as well. The Senior Village took their guys down to swim point for some Water Polo. The 8-week campers, who had already gone through physicals and swim tests, went on several different day trips. They had the option of going tubing down the Namekagon River, going for a full day of waterskiing and wakeboarding on Round Lake, and going disc golfing at Fiddler's Creek in town.

The next display of the staff's enthusiasm happened during our Opening Banquet. The guys decided to dress up and celebrate the arrival of our campers with some good old fashion goofiness. As all of the campers entered the Lodge this evening for dinner, they were again greeted by a crowd of crazy and excited counselors. We have such a great group of campers here this summer, and we are so proud to welcome these guys (back) into the North Star family.

For evening program, we played our first game of All-Camp Capture the Flag of the session! We start by dividing the whole camp into two teams, and then create flag circles on completely opposite ends of camp. We rang a bell and they were off. The whole camp was in high-gear in pursuit of the other teams flag. It was a great showdown, with 11-year-old Jonah L. bringing the flag across the line for the game winning point.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

2nd Session is Underway!

Second session is officially underway! The buses pulled into camp ahead of schedule to  the welcome sight of 85 staff members jumping around like crazy. As we announced cabin assignments around the flagpole, we saw tons of smiling faces as the counselors had their new cabins doing dances and skits in front of the whole camp. We are so proud of our counselors this summer who have again made camp such a warm and caring community. Right as the boys got off the bus, as they all introduced themselves to the campers, it was easy to see both the passion and the skill that these guys have for working with kids. I know the boys will love their counselors.

The campers are now unpacking and all of the new campers are getting tours of camp. The staff are running games so that they can all of the campers can learn each others names.  At 6:15pm we will have a delicious dinner of hamburgers and fries. The food this summer has been fantastic, and we're looking forward to a great dinner and many more great meals.  After dinner, each camper will sign up for his first week of activities. He will get a list of about 100 activities, and, with the guidance of his counselors, he'll narrow it down to six.

Tonight each cabin is playing in challenge games with another cabin, which will be followed by our traditional opening candlelight ceremony. As is tradition, the counselors will lead a cabin meeting that includes further introductions, goal-setting and sharing everyone's expectations for the summer.  The candlelight ceremony is part of the team-building process at camp, which the counselors continue to develop all summer long.
The Cabin Lists are attached.

Tomorrow we get right to it.  The kids will get checked out by our medical staff, take their swim test, and play several games of continuous dodgeball. The 8-weekers will he headed out on some great day trips. Evening program will be our first game of All-Camp Capture the Flag. And on Tuesday, we'll be right into regular activities. The boys will have their first three instructional periods that they chose tonight.

As one of our returning campers said on the bus, "I love camp. The worst thing about camp is that it takes so long for it to come, and when it comes it goes by too fast!" We're looking forward to a great four weeks that will surely fly by.


This is the first of a series of Letters that we call "Leb's Ramblings." (Same name, new author) They will be posted on the website at in the The Lodge under the Media Room and called Leb's Ramblings. You can also access the site directly at

We post pictures online on a regular basis, and starting this summer you will be able to access those from your CampInTouch page. To access your CampInTouch page, go to and click "login" in the upper right hand corner. From there you can click on "Photos" to see those smiling faces. If you'd like to set up guest accounts for friends or family you can do that from your landing page by clicking on "Guest Accounts."

You can also stay informed on Facebook and Twitter.  You can read a little bit more about what is going on at camp on North Star Camp's Facebook Fan Page or our Twitter Page. You can even access the pictures via the Facebook page by clicking CampInTouch on the left hand side.

We are looking forward to an incredible second session of 2012!



Monday, July 9, 2012

United Nations Day 2012 Recap

The sun and the stars are all ringing, with song rising strong from the earth;
The hope of humanity singing, a hymn to a new world in birth.
United Nations on the march with flags unfurled,
Together fight for victory - a free new world.
Together fight for victory, A free new world. 

This is the opening verse of the March of the United Nations, a song that has been a part of the North Star songbook for decades as part of our celebration of United Nations Day. The day is made even more special with many folks that travel to Wisconsin from around the globe. This year we're glad to have campers and staff from Australia, New Zealand, England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, Mexico and Slovakia.

Last Sunday marked the start of United Nations Day week at camp, with the selection and announcement of our UN Day captains. Four campers were chosen from each of our three villages, nominated and then elected by the village counselors. This is a difficult task as there are many worthy captains and we ask our staff to select captains who display great sportsmanship, care for their fellow campers and the ability to take on the responsibilities to lead their teams. Each of our captain trios select an adviser to help them. After teams were chosen on Monday, we took a few days off for Cruiser Day and then the 4th of July.

Thursday began the action. Each day leading up to UN Day, we practiced one series of events and teams were responsible for coming up with a cheer for lunch announcements. We saw a lot of unique cheers and attempts to parody popular (and not so popular songs).

Saturday began 30 minutes early and after our opening ceremonies, the nations of Canada, France, Kazakhstan and Oman opened up competition. The day has four different series, two in the morning and two in the afternoon. We saw some great games in the morning, from great defense on Lou's Diamond (softball) to great marksmanship in riflery. Our mid day scores saw very close competition, with the top three teams within five points of each other.

After lunch our staff hit the fields for games of speedball (a combination of soccer, football and basketball). These games count for no overall points, but they mean a lot in terms of both pride and something else. We have a big dinner, and our eating order is based on the results of the games. Before our third series began, the entire camp gathers on the athletic fields. We hold running relays and then camper and staff tug-o-wars.

Our afternoon featured more great competition. The standings shifted around throughout the day and as the entire camp gathered at swim point for our final series, there was again only a nine point gap between 1st and 3rd places. 4th series is a great way to end the day, with the final event being our innertube relay. We have our staff advisers lead off the relay for their respective teams! 

Dinner on UN Day is a big deal. Our kitchen puts a ton of effort into the meal and one of the North Star traditions is that we serve deviled eggs. Following dinner, we gathered for our evening program, which is just reading the scores. You may ask yourself how a simple reading of scores can take an entire evening program. We've perfected the art of the stall here at North Star, and what may usually take about 20 seconds, we're able to stretch into a good hour and 15 minute extravaganza.

At the end of the day Oman came away in first, ahead of France by one point. As we say at camp, however, "it just doesn't matter". Lots of fun was had by all as another UN Day is in the books.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Camp to the 4th Degree

It has been a great week in the Northwoods. The heat wave that swept across the country brought 90-degree heat for much of the week, and we combated the heat using a combination of sprinklers, slip & slides, our waterfront and a brand new water fountain on the athletic fields. It's hard to believe that an 80-degree day at camp would be welcomed as a cool one!

We had a great Independence Day at camp. You could feel the energy in the air right from the start of breakfast. The chants of "USA" and the spontaneous eruption of the Star Spangled Banner kicked off a great day. And amidst the patriotic cheers, we took a moment to talk about why the 4th of July is special at camp. North Star's first summer was in 1945, and with the country at war, one of the main goals of camp was to teach our young men to be great citizens. While I'm sure they never imagined that 68 summers later, we would have campers and counselors from 13 different countries at camp, the Fourth of July continues to signify the importance of being a good citizen of camp, the country you come from and the world we all live in.

The morning was our Green-White Marathon. This is a relay race that includes nearly every event in camp. It starts with a running race and includes fun-bugging, swimming, canoeing, climbing, archery, riflery, biking, skipping, tent building, tennis volleying, bed making, basketball shooting, bucket filling, singing, and more, before leading to Boil Water Boil. In this final event, the whole camp gathers around as the two teams compete to build a fire that can boil a tin can full of water over the top first. It was a very close race with the White team making a late comeback during Boil Water Boil to take the lead and win the Marathon. The spirit for Green-White has been fantastic and it has continued to be a close competition all the way through the summer.

After lunch, we gave the boys some time to pretty themselves up for our Fourth of July picnic with camp Birch Trail. The ladies of Birch Trails were great hosts, and put on a Hunger Games themed social. Worry not, the campers were not left to fend for themselves with selected weaponry. Our boys were armed only with their wit and their charm! As we got off the buses, we were escorted through the trails where our staff members were kidnapped in the woods to become Tributes for the 2012 Social Games!
The Birch Trail staff planned a series of icebreaker games that got all of the campers mingling. After a great barbecue dinner, the music started and there was a great dance party. It was so neat to see our guys dancing carefree, just like they do when we're at North Star, even with the girls around. It was a great Fourth of July!

Tonight we wrapped up a great Friday Night Service on attitude. Even through a hot and humid week, our staff and campers kept their spirit and energy up. We had a great sermonette by Andy Rodheim on how quickly a positive attitude can spread at camp, and it really does. Around camp, you see the positive attitudes spreading everywhere. We see it at the activities all the time as our boys take on new challenges over and over until they succeed. Those great attitudes are just one part of what makes North Star campers the greatest kids in the world!