Activity Idea: Color Wars

Many longer session camps and some shorter session ones, sleepaway or day, have a version of color war or olympics…and some of you might want to try to start a color war for your camp. Ours has so much tradition and spirit in it. It’s really emotional when a PC chief gets up on a chair to make a goodbye speech to the camp at the end of the war, thanking everyone who made the war special for her and her friends, or when a counselor chief gets up on the chair and talks about making her dream of the team she’s been dreaming of since she was in the youngest age group as a camper a reality. Another special thing is seeing a girl in the youngest age group wearing a blue or grey shirt that she wrote “let’s go blue/grey!” on and cheering at an activity using her counselor chief’s megaphone. Not to mention seeing the teams at sing on the last night, singing the songs so passionately that they’ve worked so hard to learn for 4 days. Nothing compares, in my opinion. Here’s how color war at my camp works, hopefully you can follow it:

AUGUST 1ST CHEERING- Color war is spoken about all summer at my camp, and the color war songs from previous years are sung in the mess hall all summer, but the official buildup for the war begins on August 1st. That is when the oldest girls at camp (the PC’s) start the camp in cheering for the war at a meal.(1,2,3,4, we want color war, 5,6,7,8, we don’t wanna wait, plus other cheers that our camp specifically has). To the rest of the camp it is a secret surprise as to how and at which meal the PC’s will cheer. The cheering on the 1st is only for 1 meal, to get the idea of the war in everyone’s heads. After that, it is stopped for a few days until the war gets closer.

TAPPING- Also around August 1st is when the counselors that are going to be “in” the war as counselor chiefs, assistant chiefs, keymen, and artists for the scenery are “tapped,” or told in secret by the director of their position in the war. The campers do not know that this is happening. After those counselors have all been tapped (1 chief, 1 asst., 3 keymen, and 1 artist for each team) there is a meeting for them with the director after lights out that night, where the chiefs reveal the themes they have chosen for their teams to the other counselors in the war, (example Blue Nickelodeon and Grey Toy Story, Blue Under the Sea and Grey Explorers, or Blue Africa and Grey Wonderland). It is then the job of the artists to begin planning the scenery to go along with the theme to decorate the walls of the mess hall and social hall. It is the job of the chiefs to order their team t-shirts for themselves, the assts, keymen, artists, camper chiefs, etc.

MUSIC- After the tapping meeting, each counselor chief meets w/our piano director to discuss the songs they will write their color war songs to for sing on the last night of the war. Alumni who have been counselor chiefs before also talk to the chiefs and help them pick and write songs. Each chief has to write a march, new alma mater, and cheer, plus choose an old alma mater from a previous color war.

SCENERY PAINTING- To make the scenery process less difficult for the artists, each night after taps until the war the counselor chiefs, assts., and keymen go to the paint shack under the mess hall to help the artists paint the scenery. The campers don’t know about this, it’s another secret…obviously, since they don’t know who the involved counselors are! The people “in” the war have to make sure to talk to their co-counselors and their groupheads to get someone to cover for them. the campers usually think they’re just on a night out. They usually don’t get back until like 3 AM or later.

CHOOSING THE PC CHIEFS- Sometime in the beginning of August, before the war, a lot of thought by the director with help from the PC grouphead and counselors goes into choosing which PC’s will be the camper chiefs of each team. The PC chiefs are chosen based on leadership, kindness, and behavior throughout the summer and the ones before that. The PC chiefs do not find out they are chief until the war breaks. Each team has 1 chief and 2 asst. chiefs. It is a huge deal and a huge honor to be chosen to be chief or assistant, and girls get so nervous about it!

MAKING THE COLOR WAR SHEETS- Once it has been decided who the camper chiefs are, the director must make the color war sheets, the list of who (including every counselor) is on each team to “appear” when the war breaks. Each grouphead is in charge of making their teams, balancing athleticism and strong personalities. Once each grouphead has made their teams, they get together to switch people around so that all sisters are on the same team. On the PC list, the chiefs and assts. are the 1st names. It’s harder than it sounds! A lot of thought goes into it, it takes a few days to get it straight.

CHEERING- The cheering a few days after August 1st is the “real” color war cheering, cheering, starting the same way including many of the same cheers. The difference is that it continues at every meal until the war breaks.

THE BREAK- This is the start of the war. It can be as simple as placing the color war sheets on each camper’s bed while they are at a meal so when they get back they just see them, or as complicated as hiring a celebrity to throw out the sheets or having them dropped from an airplane. Be creative with this, it can be almost anything. The most important part is the 3 booms from a small cannon that make it official. When the war breaks, everyone finds out what team they are on, the themes, and who are the counselors and PC’s in charge of their teams. There is a lot of hugging and crying, especially the PC’s, those who are chief and those who aren’t, because PC color war is just so special to them and they’ve waited for it forever.

OPENING CEREMONIES- Where the director officially begins the war by introducing the people in charge to the camp and reminding everyone that although we will be divided into Blue and Grey for the next 4 days, we are still a family, and we respect and help each other, regardless of teams, just like always.

MESS HALL SCENERY HANGING- All of the counselors in charge of the teams meet after taps to hang the new scenery up and decorate the mess hall.

THE 4 DAYS OF THE WAR- In the mornings during color war, each age group is separately playing their own color war activities, which are the sports, 2 activities per morning. You can pretty much pick any sports for the kids to play. An official color war judge is at each activity and reports scores once the morning is over. After the morning activities each team meets for a song rehearsal where they learn and practice the songs that the chiefs have written for sing. After lunch, there is a whole camp color war activity. For example a track meet one day and a swim meet another day. After that, there is another song rehearsal. after dinner each night, the PC’s play some of their color war games in front of the whole camp, one night is basketball, another is volleyball, etc. The last afternoon of the war is spent entirely with song rehearsal for both teams.

SILENT MEALS AND INSPECTION- During color war, the campers don’t eat with their bunks as usual; they eat at assigned tables within their teams, made once the color war sheets are made. Each table has a couple of kids from the team in each age group and 1 or 2 counselors. The counselor and PC chiefs, assistants, and keymen on each team eat together, 1 table for each team, at the front of the room. Meals are silent, talking results in the judges deducting points from the talking team. The only speaking is at the end of the meal when one of the people in charge from each team gets up to make a speech. At the beginning of the war they’re pump-up speeches, and at the end they’re sentimental, thanking everyone for a great war and talking about how much color war means to them. After the speeches there is lots of cheering, and then the scores from the morning/afternoon/evening are read, followed by the dismissal of each team separately. Also, during the war, bunk inspections are for points. 1 team cleans the inside and 1 cleans the porch and grounds (it switches off every inspection) and the judges come around and deduct points from the team that didn’t do their jobs.

SING- Finally, after all of the planning and practicing it’s time for sing on the 4th night of color war. Each team performs their 4 songs and are judged on them. The marches are first and they are sung twice: once in a formation in the middle of the social hall and once w/the teams on the benches. Songs are “led,” (which basically means conducted w/hand movements), as follows: march-PC chief, new alma mater- one of the PC assts, old alma mater-counselor chief, cheer-other PC asst. At the end of sing the sing scores and final scores for the war are read, and everyone runs into the center of the social hall hugging and crying, it’s a really emotional and bittersweet night, because when the war is over camp ends 2 days later.

There are many other little traditions in our war too. I want to hear about everyone else’s color war! If you have an explanation similar to mine (but probably shorter) share it with us! Also if you have any great color war stories. I do but I’ll wait to share them.

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