At Adirondack, “the place where the mountains close in” (translated from the Algonquian people), we believe in the power of ritual and the importance of tradition. We are rustic by design, focusing on the simple things in life. Our days at Camp are marked by moments that harken back to the days when kids could just be kids.
On the girl’s line, we do wish boards every year — this is one of my favorite traditions because it allows me to look back on the memories when I am home. There are many traditions at camp — there’s candle lighting, taps, Awiskani, Gathering, Carnivale, Cabin Night, Polar Bear Swim, Blue/White, and ADKchella. When you add all of Adirondack Camp’s traditions, friends, family, Lake George, and the Spirt of the Eagle, you get an amazing camp — a place I am proud to call home.
The bugler sounds “Retreat” at 5:45pm, calling the Camp to meet at the flag pole where we lower the flag and fire the canon (something Junior Campers love to do!) before we head off to dinner. Campers and staff “dress for dinner” in an Adirondack Camp t-shirt and navy shorts; it’s a casual but classic way to formalize our day.
Through the summers, kids become increasingly aware that their lives are being woven into a story larger than their own — the century-long story of Camp and the many who have called our peninsula home.
The eagle is the symbol of Adirondack Camp. For centuries the eagle has flown high in our skies, and campers still see them overhead today. To Native Americans the eagle was a symbol of the spirit — it embodies wisdom, integrity, and freedom.
Blue/White is a series of summer-long events that are at the heart of ADK. Other camps might call it “color war” but we view Blue/White more as a spirited rivalry.
During the first week of Camp, each new camper goes through a Sorting Ceremony. Using a wizard’s hat, we draw names for each team. After your name is drawn your team cheers (loudly!!!) and welcomes you. Blue or White, your team becomes a lifelong family affiliation that is retained from generation to generation.
At meal-times we bang on the tables, chant crazy rhymes, and hang wooden plaques in the dining hall as each team racks up their score. Good sportsmanship and camaraderie are valued above all.
At Camp we say “Noonway” as a friendly welcome and also as well-wishes to those departing. Its origin is tied to the Lakota Sioux, Nunwe (pronounced somewhat similar to noon way), which is a way of saying “this is our prayer”.
We’re one of the few overnight camps left in the United States that still practices many military-style traditions such as having a live bugler, cabin inspection, Reveille, Taps, and Retreat.
Retreat is a flag-lowering ceremony complete with cabin formation, saluting attendance, parade rest, live bugle playing and cannon blasting. All of Camp stands in formation by cabin. Led by our Camp Director, attendance is taken before the bugle call ‘Retreat’ is played by our live bugler. One camper gets to fire a canon at the end of the call. ‘To the Colors’ is then played live as we salute the lowering of the American flag.
On Sunday evenings we sit on the rocks facing the sunset to speak quietly and honestly about how we feel. Some stand up and share how much Camp or their friends mean to them. Many bring guitars and lift their voices in song. This lovely, heartfelt tradition serves to bring our community even closer together.
Have a birthday while you’re at camp? Don’t worry, we’ll celebrate your awesome day in a way you won’t soon forget. A special cake is made just for you and your cabin and then, after dinner, the whole camp sings loudly for you while your cabinmates cover your face with frosting (only if you want, of course).
Wishboards are a traditional going-away gift for the Girls’ Line, unveiled at our final campfire of each session. These memory holders are crafted with care and are personalized for each member of our community.
Our oldest tradition, Awiskini (pronounced a-whisk-inney), a weekly ritual that takes place in a wooded area ringed by tall pines and bedrock cliffs, pays respect to peoples who lived here thousands of years ago, honoring their cultures and values. These incude environmental stewardship, respect for one-another, and nurturing a strong sense of community.
There are many games played at Awiskini but only those campers who have passed tests of silence, service, and memory, may compete. Almost a century later, this timeless event still evokes wonder in children of all ages.
One of the things campers memorize is our Code of Honor.
We believe in the Great Spirit,
Who is everywhere at all times.
We respect elders,
For with age comes wisdom.
We respect property;
Theft to the Adirondackee is unknown.
We speak with a straight tongue,
And think of a liar as a coward.
Our word is our bond:
Our promise we will not break.
We have courage,
For our people would suffer if we were cowardly.
We are not selfish,
But give of ourselves to Adirondack.
We are not wasteful,
For the things we receive are from the Great Spirit.
And we believe in so living our life,
That the fear of death shall never enter our heart.
Herbie is the mythical giant fish of Lake George. Campers get up early and fish for “him” as a special pre-breakfast event once a session. It is a nice, calm, quiet way to start the day.
After proving your ability to the swim staff, campers are invited to swim The Big Triangle — a swim from the canoe dock, to Anthony’s Nose, to Glenburnie Cove, and back again. A flotilla of canoes, kayaks, and our ski boats follow along. The swim ends with hoots, hollers, and cheers, and then a steaming mug of hot coco.
Each of the four-week sessions culminates with an awards banquet where accomplishments and achievements from throughout the session are recognized. Staff and older campers generally get dressed up for the event.