We are steeped in almost a century of history. Camp Mont Shenandoah has preserved a number of long-standing traditions, many of which have been with us since our beginning in 1927.
The Teams: The Greens & The Buffs
Probably our oldest and most established tradition is the continuation of our two teams, the Greens and the Buffs. At the start of each three-week session, all new campers are placed on one of the teams. Once a camper becomes a member of the Buffs or Greens, she will always be a member of that team. Throughout the six weeks, the two teams compete in a variety of activities that are both sports and non-sports related. Each ten days an Honor Meet is held and the team leaders of the winning team (the team that has accrued the most points during that period) has the privilege of carrying the symbolic torch to Vesper Hill to light the campfire.
At the conclusion of the six weeks, the team that has accrued the most points for the entire summer gets the honor to carry the torch to the Final Honor Meet.
We are a camp that likes to sing! We sing after meals, during campfires, at the end of an evening activity, at team meetings. Our rich musical history is born out of Songfest, one of the non-athletic oriented competitions between the two teams, the Greens and the Buffs. After working for weeks writing words to current tunes and with each team learning four songs (two to the camp, one to their own team and one to their sister team), they are performed and judged the final Tuesday night of the six weeks. These songs work their way into our hearts and become an important component of the CMS experience.
At each Honor Meet, Honor Campers are announced and recognized. They are selected by the counseling staff based on a positive attitude, willingness to help, ability to assume a leadership role as well as their reflection of our Five Virtues (Love, Loyalty, Friendship, Sportsmanship and Spiritual Awareness) and Twelve Laws of Woodcraft.
Camp Spirit and The Twelve Laws of Woodcraft
It is assumed that each and every girl entering through our gates has camp spirit. At the end of each summer, however, one camper is selected as Camp Spirit by all campers and staff. She is the camper that best personifies The Twelve Laws of Woodcraft that are born from the four lamps of Beauty, Truth, Fortitude and Love of the Great Fire. These Twelve Laws are: Be brave, be silent, obey. Be clean, be strong, protect wild life always. Speak True, be reverent, play fair as you strive. Be kind, be helpful, glad you are alive. They guide us as a way of being and allow us to live in harmony within a natural and community-based setting. The girl selected as Camp Spirit is revealed at the Final Honor Meet the last night of the six weeks. The Camp Spirit ceremony, as well as The Twelve Laws of Woodcraft, is based on Indian beliefs and traditions.
To be a member of our secret society of the Fives, a camper must have attended camp for five summers for three or six weeks (Roots & Shoots sessions are excluded). Little is known about the group except who is a member. Each summer, the Fives have a special trip away from camp. The Five Virtues of Love, Loyalty, Friendship, Sportsmanship and Spiritual Awareness are what Camp Mont Shenandoah has come to mean for each of the Fives. They are the representatives of these Virtues and encourage all others to incorporate them into their everyday life.
Similar to the Fives, the Tens are counselors and staff, and on rare occasion, a Junior Counselor, that have attended camp for ten summers as a three or six week camper.
Vespers and Church
Wednesday evening Vespers and Sunday Church services conducted by campers and counselors are character and morally based, often following Judeo-Christian principles, our Five Virtues or the Twelve Laws of Woodcraft. While we are not a religious camp we do find the spiritual in our everyday life here, especially during the quiet and reflective moments that Vespers and Church bring.
Each new three or six week camper gets initiated the second evening of each session. The JCs dress up with the intent of creating a thrilling and suspenseful theme. Each new camper is brought in front of the JCs and is told what or whom she must dress up as. After lunch the next day, for “Forfeits”, each camper shows off her outfit to the entire camp.
Every July 25, we celebrate Christmas at camp in the spirit and tradition of giving. A few days before Christmas, each girl draws a name and that person becomes her Will-o-the-Wisp for whom she makes small gifts and performs kind acts unbeknownst to her benefactor. On Christmas night, a larger handmade gift is given to her W.O.T.W and her identity is revealed!
Each summer, we have a musical performance the final weekend of the six weeks in which all six week campers can participate either on or off stage. Past performances include, Grease, Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, Tom Sawyer, Annie and The Sound of Music.
A tradition that is based on an ancient Japanese ritual, Wishing Boats are held the final Wednesday of the six weeks. That evening, all campers and staff line themselves along the bank of the Cowpasture River. As each person’s name is read aloud, a small boat made of bark with a lit candle is placed in the water. As the tradition goes, if your boat makes it to the top of the rapids without going out, your wish will come true.
Preceding our Final Honor Meet on the last night of the six weeks, the counselors put on a grand performance for the campers creating closure and commemoration of another summer session. The counselors work all summer in developing a theme for Final Banquet, writing songs and a script and creating scenery and decorations that transform the Feed Bag into a fun and festive environment. Past themes have included, Harry Potter, Winter Wonderland, Dr. Seuss, Where the Wild Things Are, Willy Wonka and Alice in Wonderland.
“This place shaped who I am today more than any other place, activity, or experience I have ever had. I met a 60-some year old woman at the gym and we instantly bonded. We had long conversations and one day she was telling me about how this summer camp had shaped her whole being…I laughed knowing she wasn’t from the same town. I said I had the same thing in my life. It gave us chills when we realized we were both speaking of Camp Mont Shenandoah…so many years between our experiences, but so much the same.“