Alums representing nine different decades gathered at Camp Horseshoe on July 13th, 2013 to share in the special events of the day, enjoy time with old friends, and see the camps of the reservation in action. The day was declared as "Ron Sykes Day" in honor of this former camper and staff member's past contributions to the lore of the camp. This year marked the 14th consecutive summer reunion; the event having been initiated in 2000, shortly after the founding of the HSRAA. While each year's reunion has a slightly different schedule of events and a different group of attendees, the format generally includes afternoon socializing and camp tours, group photos, dinner, and an after-dinner program.
This year saw the addition of the inaugural Masters Challenge that had a cohort of the group competing in afternoon activities that involved coiling and throwing ropes, tying knots, starting fire with flint and steel and judging heights and distances. Tomahawk throwing was relegated to "exhibition" status this year but also drew considerable interest from the field. When the final scores were tallied, A.J. DiAntonio came out on top and took home bragging rights, along with a custom-made trophy hand-crafted in the tradition of the camp. Look for another staging of the Masters Challenge at a future reunion.
After a late-afternoon photo shoot (look in the HSRAA Virtual Museum for the results) most of the alums ventured across the Picnic Grove to take up viewing positions for the Saturday night retreat ceremony. This camp tradition continues in much the same way it has for years with the troops marching to the beat of the camp drum line and the camp bugler sounding the Retreat and To the Colors calls. And the cannon blast that used to punctuate the ceremony just as Old Glory begins her descent? Well, they still do that and the first-time viewers still jump with surprise when they hear it!
After Retreat and just prior to our dinner, a large contingent of the current camp staff made an appearance at our Goodman Pavilion locale for their participation in our program. First, this year's Chapel Choir performed a hymn as part of our pre-meal blessing. Then, while the current staffers were still present, we presented another inaugural award: the HSRAA Camp Staff Member of the Year. The HSRAA Board decided to initiate this award as a way to highlight our mission by recognizing a current staff member who has made major contributions toward preserving and promoting the spirit and heritage of Horseshoe Scout Reservation and its camps. The 2013 award went to Josh Taylor. Josh has been a long-time staff member at Camp Horseshoe and served as Director of Field Sports in 2013. Look for another article, coming soon, with more on Josh and this new award.
Following a barbeque dinner that met, but did not exceed, expectations (spoiler alert - expect a new caterer next year), the group ended the repast with a sheet cake decorated with the new HSRAA patch design. Look for another article, also coming soon, with more about the patch and the story behind it. At the conclusion of dinner, we imposed on former Camp Horseshoe Director, Ernie Heegard, to lead us in song. He kindly complied and, in no time, had our group of modestly talented crooners working a three-part round to near-perfection. Scouts from the TV show, America's Got Talent, were on hand but were unwilling to sign the group after the brief audition.
The after-dinner program also included the presentation of our Distinguished Alumni Award to Ron Sykes. Ron was a camper and staff member beginning in 1942. As detailed in 2012 and 2013 issues of our newsletter, The Octoraro Loop, Ron was instrumental in establishing some of the traditions that survive today. All in attendance were rapt in attention as Ron recounted some stories from the past.
In the fading twilight, the formal reunion program concluded. Alums were invited to stay and attend the Saturday Night Campfire with its traditional Indian Pageant and presentation of awards to the current batch of campers. With fond farewells all around and promises to see each other again at future reunions, the 2013 reunion concluded.