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Tonight usually begins a very big weekend in Brevard: the annual White Squirrel Festival. One of our camp parents owns, Mountain Song Productions, the business that organizes the entire festival. This weekend is usually very big at Keystone as well as it marks the gathering of our staff for the season. The girls have been arriving over the past week. Some check in and head off to trainings; others are with us for specific trainings we conduct. Our international staff arrive to recover from jet lag before they go to work. Trip staff training and life guard certification classes begin in earnest. We have completed our Mother-Daughter Weekends, and the camp kitchen has been feeding us for a couple of weeks by now.

Tonight is so very quiet. My family and I enjoyed take-out on the Phoenix patio. A few restaurants in Brevard have opened to inside dining for the first time since very early March, thanks to North Carolina entering Phase 2 of the reopening plan, but there is no festival, no crowds and no staff at camp. The week finished with more camps in our area and across the state deciding to close for the entire season. During dinner, I saw a tree up on the hill above Overlook I wanted to check. I am often teased about the fact that I walk around camp looking up…always checking for problem trees! It definitely has a few dead limbs, so I have added it to my list for my tree service to remove next week; yet another local business led by a Keystone parent! Since I had made it that far up the hill, I felt compelled to keep on going. As usual, I was accompanied by my fearless companions, KaCey and Apple. The light across the mountains could not have been more perfect. The sky was a bright gray after a very rainy week leaving us with 5 inches of rain in the gauge by the camp office. I spent a bit of time sitting on the new porch at Crows Nest admiring the view across the redone badminton courts, the new Crabapple and the new Pisgah, then I made my way down to the swimming lake. I admired the job the maintenance crew had done in hanging the water slide. I enjoyed the view of the waterfall, but the sound of the falling water was drowned out by the noise from the preponderance of tree frogs. It was nearly deafening!

As I sat on the diving board, I reflected on the past 3 months. We have endured so many very difficult days. Would we have any camp season? Should we open, should we not? What is our best service to our girls, to their families, to our staff? If we open, what will it look like? What can we manage? Our decision was that we wanted to open for our girls. We were willing to take a risk, to try new things, and to navigate the challenges of COVID-19. Our work culminated with our email to enrolled families on Tuesday evening. Since then we have been fielding so many phone calls and emails.

We all enjoyed a lift from some of our “old” girls who stopped by for a visit today: two former staff members and a current camper and her mom. We were able to talk with them about how we see the program playing out, how the cabin “families” would work, and our thoughts about the summer. The responses we received were so positive, and helped make us more excited for what we COULD do. Yes, it will be different, but we are going to have so much fun together!