During the first weekend of Culver Summer Schools & Camps, Woodcrafters and Upper Schools students are required to stay on campus to help them bond with each other.
And, since 2014, Woodcrafters have used that time to enjoy the annual carnival.
Past campers will remember the carnival being conducted near the end of camp. But Woodcraft Director Heike Spahn moved it to the non-permit weekend so campers get a weekend of fun. Holding the event on Sunday also gives the Woodcrafters more time to enjoy a full day instead of just an afternoon.
“I thought it made sense to move it to that Sunday since there is not permit that first weekend,” she explained. “We need something to keep the kids busy and happy. This also allows the carnival to go longer since there are no classes on Sunday.”
How the carnival originated is unclear. Retired Summer Schools & Camps Director Tony Mayfield ’65, who started as the Woodcraft director in 1987, said the event was happening when he came on board.
Some people even call the carnival “Tony Mayfield’s Birthday.” But he debunked that rumor.
“As I recall, I came out for the summer and someone said, ‘Oh, we got this carnival, or this kind of event that we do,'” he explained. “But by-and-large, the biggest thing is that we started calling it ‘Col. Mayfield’s birthday.’ It wasn’t my birthday, it’s in March.”
That didn’t stop campers from coming up to him and wishing him a happy birthday. “And I would say, ‘Well, thank you very much. I appreciate that.’ just to add to the experience, really.”
Mayfield remembers he would always be the first one in the dunk tank to excite the campers. At one point, he started bringing in a live musician. And, sometimes, there would be a picnic.
Spahn has continued to add more activities, such as inflatables and more games.
This year, the Woodcraft Carnival was held on June 30 in the large field between the boys’ side and the girls’ side, which Mayfield refers to as “the world’s biggest backyard.”
The description suits it well during the carnival, with activities occurring from the edge of the amphitheater to the parking lot of headquarters. Activities included the dunk tank, a hayride, ring toss, a soccer kick game, a target game, a basketball hoops game, an inflatable obstacle course, an inflatable slide, a bouncy house and the very popular “water wars,” which involves campers, in teams of two, using slingshots to shoot water balloons to try and soak their opponents. Campers also kept busy with regularly available activities like “gaga ball” and ping pong.
Campers had their choice “between having a snow cone or an ice cream, but they can’t have both,” assistant activities director Clay Kingsbury ’16 said. Kingsbury spent most his afternoon handing out ice cream to campers and staff alike, while campers formed a long line for the snow cone truck so they could get that sweet, refreshing taste of fruity flavors, such as mango, lemon, cherry, and even birthday cake.
For three hours, the campers lived in total bliss, playing an array of games, hanging out with friends from all sides of camp, and consuming as much sugar as possible.
When asked what their favorite activities were, campers responded with different answers. “Probably the slide,” Sawyer Wilson of B3 said. “Talking with friends and meeting new people,” said Ian Allen of D5. Reed Grim from D4 answered, “I’d say kicking the soccer ball.”
When asked about their favorite shaved ice flavors, Scarlett Sadlowslki, C2, answered with raspberry. A few others, including Victor Delgado of D7, answered with a classic: cherry.
Who would they most like to try and dunk in the dunk tank? For Wilson, it was her major. Other campers said their lieutenants.
And how would they describe the afternoon in one word?
“Opportunities”, said one unnamed camper. “Action,” answered Grim. “Amazing,” responded Wilson. “Fun,”, said Allen and Logan Hinton of D3.
By the end of the carnival, many campers were sitting in the grass talking with their friends, or getting in their last chance to enjoy the inflatables, or playing one final game of gaga ball. Many campers and staff gathered in the shaded areas, still enjoying themselves, but it was obvious they were worn out from all the excitement.
Once the clock struck 4 p.m., everyone began to make their way back to their units, waving goodbye to their friends, to get ready for some cold, refreshing showers, dinner, and the weekly, highly-anticipated, awards ceremony later that evening.
“It’s a really great, fun thing for the kids,” Kingsbury said. “We have fantastic weather today. It’s an annual tradition. We love the carnival here at Woodcraft.”