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Cabarrus Magazine

Happy Campers: There’s Nothing Like Summer

Jun 01, 2017 08:30AM ● By Jason Huddle

Happy Campers: There’s Nothing Like Summer

Summer camp. Visions of campers – sans parents – cabins, canoes and comradery come to mind. Funny mental picture: Meatballs, starring Bill Murray. 

The earliest camps – in the 1870s and ‘80s – were designed to give older city boys a taste of the outdoors, a chance to commune with nature. The camps were typically small and private and targeted building masculinity. “Catering to the sons of elite families, many of these camps were located in the woods of northern New England, far from the temptations of city life and the refinements of the ‘feminized’ home,” according to

At the turn of the 20th century, summer camps in the U.S. numbered less than 100. Then the book, Adolescence, was released in 1904. Authored by G. Stanley Hall, a psychologist, the book stated that children needed to learn the same skills that prehistoric man learned…how to build fires, shelter, etc. Hall believed this was a natural and important component of child development. The book was a hit with parents and, by 1918, there were more than 1,000 summer camps.

The sharp increase in the number also stems from organizations like the YMCA, Boy Scouts, and churches and social welfare agencies stepping up to offer camp to cities’ poor. The first YMCA camp – for boys – was named Camp Dudley, founded in 1885. Some 23,300 boys attended each summer by 1916. 

Girls got in on the act in the early 20th century, “to foster a new, more self-reliant generation of young women,” according to Camp Fire Girls was established in 1911 and Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. in 1912.

Camp activities in those formative years included campcraft (survival skills), nature study, manual training (arts & crafts), calisthenics, swimming and sports. 

“Camp organizers frowned on baseball and basketball as too urban for camp,” says. “The evening campfire was the setting for theatrical entertainments, songs and storytelling, as well as special rituals to mark the opening and closing of camp.”

With the formation of the American Camping Association (ACA) in 1935, camps were divided into units based on the camper’s age. The American Red Cross recommended lifeguard towers and clearly-marked areas for swimmers based on their ability. Camp master planning manuals published in the 1940s saw more – and larger – camps being built, and for younger campers. 

“Camp counselors were younger, too. Even at 16 (the median camper age in the late 19th century), many postwar teenagers considered themselves too old for summer camp, prompting many camp organizers to establish Counselor-in-Training (CIT) programs to keep these youngsters coming to camp,” says. 

At the same time camp planning was becoming more regimented, there were those that worried about a lack of nature. says, “Camps began to feature movies, radio and tennis lessons. One leader of the camp movement complained in the 1930s that, ‘Every activity we can find to fit into the daily program is put in, but there is a notable lack of camping – living out in the open – the very thing that gave the movement its birth.’ ”

On the flip side, proponents of redefining camps saw it as more of a small society where children learned what is was like to be part of a group, to work well with others and not disconnect from civilization.

“Summer camps, then, are among the first institutions designed to educate the whole child, providing 24-hour care that fostered physical health, social development and spiritual development,” says. “Yet, if the general goals of summer camps have remained unchanged since the 1880s, the particular ways that camps achieved those goals have varied, as camp organizers grappled with changing ideas of what is best for children.”

Today, the question of what is best for children can have a multitude of answers. The wealth of summertime camps and activities in Cabarrus County focuses on what children enjoy, what they might have a skill or passion for based on age. And they’re not necessarily week-long trips away from parents. For working households, daytime activities are often the perfect option, giving kids something interesting to do.


4-H Summer Fling

Sponsored by the N.C. Cooperative Extension, this Cabarrus County Center 4-H program offers kids from 5 to 14 years old participation in leatherworking, archery, cooking, even rockets. Most activities take place at the Cabarrus County Center, 715 Cabarrus Avenue W., in Concord.

The 4-H Summer Fling also offers Residential Camp from July 16 through 21. Campers stay at the Betsy Jeff Penn 4-H Educational Center (BJP) for six days and five nights. A co-ed summer camp, kids sleep in A-frame, two-story, cottage-style cabins according to gender and age. Each cabin contains bunkbeds, restrooms and showers. Camp activities include canoeing, hiking, arts & crafts, horseback riding, archery and a climbing wall. The cost is $420.

For more information, and to register, visit Registration is also offered in-person at the Cooperative Extension Office. Registration continues through the summer with deadlines seven days prior to each session.


Boys & Girls Club

Boys & Girls Club of Cabarrus County is located at 247 Spring Street N.W., in Concord. From June through August, the club offers its Summer Program to rising 1st through rising 9th graders. 

Running Monday through Friday from 7:30am to 6:30pm, breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack are provided. Activities include arts & crafts, computers, a game room, life skills, performing arts and physical fitness. In addition, weekly field trips include destinations like the Gem Theatre, Starlight Theater, Kannapolis Rec. Park and Fries Skating Rink. 

“Each group also gets to spend a few weeks at Camp Spencer, where they have the opportunity to swim in the pool, canoe, fish and participate in other special programs,” according to the club’s website. Call 704-721-2582 for more information.


Bricks 4 Kidz Summer Camp

Brought to you by the Town of Harrisburg, the 2017 Bricks 4 Kidz camps will be held in Harrisburg Town Hall’s Municipal Complex Room at 4100 Main Street. Children from 5 to 12 years of age are invited. A minimum of eight campers and a maximum of 20 is required for each session.

 From July 10 through 14, Galaxy Far Away will be held from 9:00am to 12:00 noon. Motorized and brick LEGO models will be constructed, representing spacecraft, characters and more from Star Wars

From July 17 through 21, Bat League will be held from 9:00am to 12:00 noon. Campers will build motorized models of the Batmobile, Bat Girl’s motorcycle and the Joker’s low-rider vehicle.

Also from July 17 through 21, Lights, Cameras, Legos! will be held from 1:00 to 4:00pm. Activities include building motorized and LEGO brick builds, making crafts and playing games. 

Each day the children will experience the world and characters from movies such as Harry Potter, Star Wars, Ninja Turtles, Jurassic Park, Minions, Pirates of the Caribbean and more.

From July 24 through 28, Brick City Engineers will be held from 9:00am to 12:00 noon. Campers will put their engineering and architecture skills to work as they build city-themed models using LEGO bricks. 

From July 24 through 28, Mining and Crafting (Minecraft) will be held from 1:00 to 4:00pm. Campers will craft shelters and some of the mobs, critters and tools using LEGO bricks and motorized LEGO builds. 

From July 31 through August 4, Pokemon will be held from 9:00am to 12:00 noon. Campers will build Dratini, Pikachu, Poke Balls and more with Bricks 4 Kidz motorized models and LEGO bricks.

 The cost per camp is $145 per child. Pre-registration is required. For more information and to register online, visit Or call 704-455-7275.


Cabarrus Arts Council

Cabarrus Arts Council/The Galleries is located in the old historic Cabarrus County Courthouse at 65 Union Street S., in Concord. Family Day takes place this summer on June 24, from 10:00am to 2:00pm. Parents are invited to bring their preschool- to elementary school-aged children to this free event. 

Three creation stations allow children to make their own artwork while the whole family gets the opportunity to see the Galleries on a weekend. Family Day might also include a performance or

movie in Davis Theatre or activities outside on the lawn.

During the Galleries’ regular hours of Monday through Friday, 9:00am to 5:00pm, families can come in anytime to participate in art education activities. I Spy Artwork Scavenger Hunt presents children with the challenge of what they remember seeing after touring the Galleries.

Elisabeth Thornton is the Cabarrus Arts Council’s public relations director. “Children are given a clipboard with little hints of artwork. They have to identify what gallery they’re in,” she says. “There are beginner and intermediate levels.”

Think About It! is an activity that prompts children to think more deeply about how artwork is created. They’re given a questionnaire full of colorful artwork with conversation starters: questions posed to the artist if he or she was really there.

Art Box is an activity giving children the chance to be artists during their visit. They’re given a box containing art materials that relate to the current Galleries exhibit, as well as instructions. They can create their artwork in the Galleries, outside on the lawn or on the front steps. 

Art-O-Mat takes retired cigarette vending machines and refurbishes them into art-o-mat machines. “The experience of pulling the knob alone is quite a thrill, but you also walk away with an original work of art. What an easy way to become an art collector,” the Galleries’ website says.


Cabarrus County Schools Camps

Cabarrus County Schools is offering a number of summer camp programs, a couple of which are outlined here. Please visit for a detailed listing. 

The 2017 Camp Invention Program is offered to rising kindergartners through 5th graders. From July 10 through 13, Beverly Hills STEM Elementary in Concord will host the camp; and C.E. Boger Elementary in Kannapolis from July 17 through 20. 

The following modules are part of the Launch program, and children will get to participate in all of them during their week at Camp Invention. The following information comes directly from the school system’s website.

Duct Tape Billionaire: Your child will experience invention with a twist. Children can choose to explore their imaginations and invent from scratch, or they can select a basic design to make their own. They explore patents, hear how to launch a business and present their products to mock investors.

Mission Space Makers: This mission takes your child out of this world to locate and prepare a new planet for human habitation. Mission Control sends teams challenges to design inventions that transform the atmosphere, terrain and ecosystem of an exoplanet. They set up a Space Lab to hatch eggs and grow crystal trees, take on the jobs of tomorrow and explore beyond our galaxy.

Have A Blast: Your child will fling, fly and float through high-energy air battles while using physics to boost their advantage. Children engineer a variety of working tools, including ‘snowball’ throwers, a giant air cannon and more. Everyone builds their own high-tech Bubble Blaster with flashing lights to take home.

Operation Keep Out: Children create the ultimate Spy Gadget Alarm Box to keep treasures secure. They must decode a note written in invisible ink to find a missing tool, use spy glasses to catch a toy thief, and discover that both spies and engineers write in secret codes!

VEX/VRC Robotics Summer Camp invites middle school students aged 10 to 15 to Jay M. Robinson High School in Concord. Pairs of campers design, build and program a Vex Robotics Base Bot during this four-day summer camp. 

Session I-Beginners takes place from 8:00 to 11:00am on June 13 through June 16; Session II-Advanced takes place from 12:00 noon to 3:00pm on June 13 through June 16; Session III-Advanced takes place from 8:00 to 11:00am on June 19 through June 22; and Session IV-Beginners takes place from 12:00 noon to 3:00pm on June 19 through June 22.

A maximum of 20 campers is allowed per session on a first-come, first-served basis. Any overflow will have the option of participating in another session. All sessions cost $100 each.


City of Concord Parks & Recreation

The City of Concord offers two aged-based summer camping experiences. Summer Playground is for children 6 to 10 years old and Summer GoneAlot is for those 11 to 13. Both programs last eight weeks – June 19 through August 11 from 7:30am to 6:00pm. (Summer Playground is closed July 4.)

Summer Playground takes place at three locations: Myers Park, Logan Multi-Purpose Center and

Caldwell Park. This program includes both indoor and outdoor recreational activities, creative arts and day trips. 

Activities include twice-weekly visits to McInnis Aquatics Center; tennis at Myers Park; arts & crafts; and trips to a movie theater. Major trips for all include Carowinds and Wet-n-Wild Emerald Pointe.

Camp GoneAlot is held at Academy Recreation Center.

According to the City’s website, “This program is geared to motivate and stimulate the participant’s willingness to learn through field trips and age-appropriate activities. 

“Camp GoneAlot is true to its name. Almost every day, these campers are traveling to a new adventure in addition to their weekly activities and major trips. They may be at Grandfather Mountain, playing paintball, canoeing or visiting museums. In addition to the ‘fun’ stuff, they will participate in a community service project.

The City of Concord resident fee is $375 and the non-city resident fee is $530.

For more information, contact Sara Rodgers, athletic supervisor for Concord Parks and Recreation, at 704-920-5600.


Charlotte Motor Speedway

Babette Huitt is STEM and tour services manager at Charlotte Motor Speedway (CMS). STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, and CMS offers three-hour field trips to zMax Dragway to learn how the motorsports industry is closely related to these technologies.

Designed and built by NASCAR, Huitt says, “NASCAR was trying to get more people involved in the science and engineering fields. In the summer, we hold it on Wednesday if there’s enough interest. 

“Up to 150 students come to zMax Dragway with the backdrop of the dragway; we usually host 5th, 6th and 7th graders.”

Five stations take students from a van ride on the CMS track to racing radio-controlled cars. At the first station, students observe the banking of the track and determine the van’s speed versus time. At the second station, they utilize various materials in learning about traction and friction.

At the third station, they learn about the velocity of a car in relation to slope and angle. The fourth station sees students studying U.S. Legends cars with regard to the weight of each wheel, what each wheel can carry and cross weight.

The last station has students racing radio-controlled cars, changing its four tires to a set with a different texture and comparing the race time of both. 

This program is offered Monday through Friday at a cost of $20 per student. Contact Babette Huitt for more information at 704-455-4473.


Discovery Day Camp

Presented by Cabarrus County and held at Frank Liske Park, children between 6 and 12 – and 13 to 14-year-olds for Teen Camp – experience educational sessions, arts & crafts, trips, games, sports and movies. Campers take part in interactive projects, physical activity and nature.

Camper drop-off begins at 7:00am each morning with pick-up by 6:00pm. This year’s camp runs from June 19 through August 18 (closed July 3-4). Registration is required. Contact Jon Poole at 704-920-2702 or [email protected] to inquire about cost and available space.


Hive 2017 Summer Camp

Hive, formerly Trashed Studio, hosts art classes and art education workshops. This year, they’re offering summer day camps, half-day programs for inspired young artists.

According to Hive’s website, “Each day, we plan a well-paced line-up of projects involving a wide variety of materials, subjects and art principles. Throughout the week, students could have the chance to explore decoupage, painting, drawing, chalk pastel, oil pastel, sculpture, papier mache, collage or printmaking.”

Children from 5 to 8 years old are invited to participate from July 11 through 13 and July 25 through 27; and those 4 to 6 years old may attend from July 18 through 20. Camps run from 9:00am to 12 noon daily and each session costs $125 per child. This includes materials, and snacks and drinks. A minimum of five campers is required.

Located at 3 Union Street N. in Concord, registration is offered online at or via email at [email protected]


Wings of Eagles Ranch

A non-profit therapy horseback riding facility located at 4800 Faith Trails in Concord, Wings of Eagles offers summer camp experiences to all children. The Good Ol’ Days is the 2017 camp theme and while all camps are at capacity, the ranch is taking waiting list applications.

Outdoor Adventure I Camp (ages 4 and up) is specifically designed to accommodate our special-needs population, as it is staffed with the OTA students from Cabarrus College of Health Sciences. Camp is held from 8:00am to 3:00pm on June 12 through 16 at a cost of $250.

Outdoor Adventure II and III (ages 4 and up) camps are designed for the special-needs who are more independent and their typical developing peers. OA II is held from 8:00am to 3:00pm on June 26 through 30 while OA III takes place during the same hours on July 10 through 14. Both cost $250 each. 

Horse Lover’s Camp (ages 7 and up) is very independent and designed for those wanting to learn more about horses and horse care. Campers will be required to groom, tack and lead horses along with riding independently. Camp is being held from 8:00am to 5:30pm on July 24 through 28. The cost is $350.

For more information, call 704-784-3147 or visit


YMCA Summer Day Camps

“Kids find their voices and achieve more at the Y’s summer day camps,” says. “It’s all about giving kids time to be who they want to be and to live out loud! Fast forward to a summer of self-expression, learning, adventure, active play and friendship. We make sure our campers have fun while making new friends, building self-confidence and becoming more self-reliant.

“Our traditional summer and preschool camps encourage kids to explore new adventures through hands-on learning. Youth can find out who they are in Teen and Leaders In Training (LIT) camps. Cannon Y summer camp is a safe and engaging place!”

There are numerous age-appropriate camps offered by the Y throughout the summer. Please visit for detailed descriptions and pricing.

Camp Connections is offered through the Kannapolis YMCA, 101 YMCA Drive. Please call 704-939-9622 for more information or send an email to [email protected]

Camp Horizons is offered through the West Cabarrus YMCA, 5325 Langford Avenue in Concord. Please call 704-795-9622 or send an email to [email protected]

Camp Pinnacle is offered through Covenant Church of Harrisburg, 6900 Hickory Ridge Road. Please call 704-454-7800 or send an email to [email protected]

Camp Horizons and Camp Pinnacle take place June 12 through August 25; Camp Connections takes place June 12 through August 23. All camps run from 7:00am to 6:00pm; there is no camp on July 4. says, “The ACA reports that there are about 7,000 overnight camps and about 5,000 day camps in the U.S. These camps are attended each year by more than 11 million children and adults. Of the 12,000 camps, about 9,500 are operated by nonprofit groups, and 2,500 by for-profit operators, employing more than 1.5 million adults.”

So while our county’s children reap the benefits of fun and educational hands-on activities, our economy benefits as well.

Twenty-first century summer camps have also evolved into educational adventures just as much as recreational ones. Cabarrus County offers something for every interest, so enjoy!

NOTE: Registration for some of these camps may have expired or some may have reached their maximum participation number. Also, this is just a sampling of what Cabarrus County has to offer. Keep the information handy for future summers!

Article By: Kim Cassell
Photos Courtesy: Wikipedia, Cabarrus County Boys & Girls Club, Town of Harrisburg, Cabarrus County Schools, City of Concord, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Cabarrus County Parks & Rec., Hive, Wings of Eagles Ranch, Cannon YMCA

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