The 2020 Camp Voyageur Summer

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Fortunately, we have taken advantage of this most unusual summer to spruce up camp, preparing for 2021 (Voyageur’s 70th anniversary) and beyond.

With summer in our rearview mirror and fall in the air, we’d like to again thank the families, alumni, and staff who supported camp during this summer season. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, work camp lasted all summer long. While we did not have campers in a traditional sense, we made lemons out of lemonade with the help of many collaborators.

The season kicked off when alumni and seasoned volunteers like Jim Bergman assisted with numerous projects, including firing up Edna (our cantankerous dishwasher). Kevin O’Kane showed up with toilets, multiple plumbing fixtures, and tools to install a new, on-demand water heater in the sauna. Could this mean a Hollywood shower will no longer deplete the hot-water supply?

Thanks to you all:

  • Families and alumni’s generous donations to Voyageur make it possible to employ staff and offset summer operating expenses. We much appreciate the notes, emails, and phone calls from folks far and near concerned about the affect the pandemic had on the camp season.
  • Most camper families rolled over some 2020 tuition to next year, providing a foundation for 2021 fall recruiting season.
  • Several adventurous camp and alumni families outfitted and took guided canoe trips this summer at Voyageur including: Vasco and Giuseppe Mangano, Syan and Surya Patel, William Cracas, Finn Wilson, Bryce Commerford, Danny Pfotenhauer, Jonny Chen, Mike Mussay, Pete Taft, Tom Gardner, Tom Running, Walt Glazer, Todd Nesvold, and Cole Ruehle.
  • Phil Dodge, with help from Suzanne and Charlie Erdmann, removed 5 acres of spruce bud worm diseased balsam firs around buildings and along the lakeshore of the peninsula. The last few years we have taken advantage of the DNR Firewise grant to battle balsams, by reducing fuel loads and improving the health of our forest at camp.
  • Faithful counselors Mikey Meves, Jack Diedrich, Kyle Montgomery, CIT’s Harrison Pratt, Bodhi Broderick, Isaac Fegelman, Trip Director Alex Kvanli and wife Zar, Program Director Bill, Vicki and John Burgman were at camp all summer even though we had no campers. Veteran counselors Ethan Biederman and Bryan Halverson stayed for shorter stints. And a big shout out to Chelsea Crane DeMarre, our registered nurse. She pre-screened all camp visitors and helped Alex Kvanli develop our health safety procedures for in camp and on the trail. The daughter of alumni Richard and Sherry Crane, Chelsea kept the camp community safe and gave us the confidence to softly open for limited business this year.
  • Our dedicated kitchen crew of Evelyn Kuzma and Jan Rue provided amazing food to “feed the machine” all summer long.
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Maintenance Projects Completed in 2020

When our staff was not outfitting or guiding trips, we tackled major maintenance projects with the watchful eye of local handyman Caleb Cowden from Embarrass, MN. The pandemic created an opening to pursue maintenance projects we cannot attempt during a regular camp season. Camp is almost ready for the 2021 season!

  • Planted and caged 200 red pine and birch trees between the Mess Hall and Pine Stadium.
  • Reroofed the tool shed, staff head, and cabins 3, 4, 5, 6, and 9.
  • Shored up foundations on cabins 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, the Craft Shop, and the Rec Hall.
  • Hand-dug and installed a French drain on the lakeside to improve water drainage under the Mess Hall.
  • Installed state-of-the-art new Kuuma sauna stove and Enerzone Mess Hall fireplace insert with blower for those cool mornings.
  • Rebuilt Cabin 6 following the collapse of the roof last winter, tragically damaging two of camp’s wood and canvas canoe collection.
  • Remortared the stone sign foundation Gene Behnke created 50 years ago to welcome visitors at the entrance to Pine Stadium.
  • Installed removable frame cabin screens on Cabin 6 and 7.
  • Painted all boys cabin floors grey, and most doors with trim green.
  • Repaired the metal webbing and springs on all bunks on the hill.
  • Counselor Kyle Montgomery nearly completed the restoration of two Old Town wood and canvas canoes.
  • Under Caleb’s supervision, rebuilt both Mess Hall docks.
  • Bill Burgman painted new signs for Rec Hall and Nurse’s cabins, replaced window, door, and screens on the Pullman, and stained the front of the Girls’ Cabin.
  • Repaired all camp’s lightweight Kevlar canoe fleet.
  • To decrease fire danger counselors cleared several acres of diseased trees around buildings.
  • Under Alex Kvanli’s direction, we caged hundreds of young pines.

Our First-Ever Virtual Camp Voyageur

Counselors hosted our first-ever, eight-week virtual Camp Voyageur. To engage campers, alumni, and friends, eight weekly features included camp news and how-to-videos. The virtual season allowed campers and alumni to participate in several favorite camp activities from home. Counselors enjoyed engaging camp families from a safe distance on Facebook, Instagram, the camp blog, and FlipGrid.

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Looking Ahead to Summer 2021

Canceling the Camp Voyageur season summer was the right decision. Now we look forward, as you do, towards 2021 Voyageur…and celebrating our 70th camp season! We hope to mark this milestone with an all-camp gathering at Voyageur in August 2021.

While Minnesota regulations prevented opening as scheduled this year some camps, however, were able to operate safely. Nearly 70% of our campers moved their summer registration forward to 2021. Camp sessions will mirror this year’s offerings with two four-week sessions (or eight weeks) and a couple of shorter options. We will announce our 2021 session rates and dates soon.

Family outfitting and guided Boundary Water canoe trips were popular this season and we will expand outfitting services so more Voyageur families can venture into the nearby lakes and woods next year. Consider lodging at camp pre- or post-trip or the whole time on site enjoying meals and taking day trips for what we call “family camp”. Whether taking a canoe trip or staying in-camp, we can facilitate your Northwoods family vacation. Cheers!

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