In an era when the family dinner is hard enough to schedule, a week at family camp has real appeal. We visited one in New Hampshire and asked campers to tell us why it floats their boats.
THE JOCK FLOCK
The Geuthers: nephew Carson Sample, 16, from Tampa, Fla.; son Scotty, 16; mom Laura; daughter Kate, 19; son Dan, 21; and dad Jim, from Bay Village, Ohio
Singles tennis, mixed doubles, log wars, basketball championships, the big softball game—at virtually all the camp sports competitions, you can bet that bank manager Jim Geuther will be the first to show, and his kids (once they roll out of bed) will be right behind him. Jim's wife, Laura, came to Sandy with her family as a child. She and Jim, high school sweethearts who still live in their Ohio hometown, have been bringing their family to the island since 1997. Along the way, the Geuthers have explored plenty of vacation alternatives, including sailing the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas, their all-time favorite. "But everyone agrees," says Laura, "Sandy is a very close second."
Years attending: 13
Year-round camp reminder: Jim's psychedelic boxer shorts, worn under his banker's suit—"On Wednesdays at camp, everyone tie-dyes up a storm."
Favorite food: The Sunday omelets. "The rest is marginal," says Kate, "but there's always peanut butter and Fluff."
Request to the management: Bathrooms in all the cabins.
It happened here: "During capture the flag, Dad collided with a player and then had no idea where he was," says Dan. "Now, it's the one game he skips."
Why We Come: "After 13 summers, we have lifelong friendships with so many other families. I'm sure that someday our kids will want to share Sandy with their kids." —Laura
Donald Fraser and his 5-year-old daughter, Fiona, from Rosendale, N.Y.
What's it like to be a newbie camper at the age of 52? That question arose for Donald Fraser after his wife, Lori Gross, a former Sandy Islander, called the camp on a whim and lucked into a cabin thanks to a last-minute cancellation. And so, with daughter Fiona, the family (Lori is a massage therapist and Donald an educator at a historic mansion) drove north, lugging a cooler of blueberries and energy bars. Although concerned the place would be cliquey, they made their first friends on the boat ride over. And Fiona immediately settled into the Little Red Schoolhouse, a gingerbread-trimmed building where kids 3 to 5 spend their mornings singing, painting, and planting seeds. Freed up, Lori headed to her old hangout, the crafts cabin, while Donald put his name at the top of every sign-up sheet. By the end of the week, he had taken tennis and sailing lessons and tried to get up on water skis, all firsts for him. Next year's goal? "Learning the camp dance steps."
Years attending: 1
Talent-show performance: Donald and Lori played an old-time Appalachian banjo duet. The two passed most afternoons strumming on a bench under the pines.
Craft-shop creations: A silver pendant and a T-shirt with a batiked dragonfly.
Favorite hangout: The kid-filled sandy beach on the island's northern end.
Fiona's description of camp: "It was like heaven."
SANDY ISLAND'S BRADY BUNCH
Liz Fiore-Ward and Britt Ward, of Medway, Mass., and their brood: Aurora, 8; Richard, 10; Antone, 20; Devon, 21; and Michael, 12
In 1982, when Britt Ward and his (now ex-) wife first arrived at Sandy, it was 14-year-old camper Liz who showed them the shuffleboard court and other key attractions. In 1995, Britt and Liz, each newly divorced, were the only single parents during their week at camp. And each had a young son, so they "kept crossing paths at all the activities," says Britt. Their wedding took place two Augusts later at the Sandy Island outdoor chapel, with the entire party, including bride, groom, and fellow campers, in tie-dye. And in quick succession, their kids Michael, Richard, and Aurora arrived—and joined the fun.
Years attending: Liz: 32. Britt: 28. As a combined family: 13
Most useful lessons learned: How to swim (Michael), how to dance (Aurora and Richard), how to open a bottle using a lighter (Devon).
Secret perk: No need to write letters home—at least 30 relatives from Liz's family come the same week every summer.
Annual highlight: The water carnival, a day of canoe wars, shaving cream races, and log fights.
Favorite camp dance: Liz's vote: Rock Lobster. "We jump around, we spin, and at one point, everybody gets down on their knees and starts banging on the floor."