Camp Concessions

By Melanie Minch

Every summer from age six to 18, I sang and hiked and played in the hills of beautiful Camp Wyandot in central Ohio. At the time, the concession stand (camp store) was just the dining hall transformed into a makeshift, once-a-week store. But as a child, it was pure magic.

Miss Connie would sit behind the tables and wait patiently as I made my big choices. The postcards were spread out, and I’d buy just the right one. I’d send one home every year with pretty much the same message scribbled on it:

Hi, Mom and Dad,
having lots of fun.
Miss you,
Love, Melanie

(Years later I found all those postcards saved by my dear mom.)

My favorite decision was what candy to buy! Let’s see: M&Ms or Skittles? Necco or Swizzlers? At six, it took me forever to decide. With my purchases hand-written on a file card, Miss Connie would hand them over to me with a smile. I’d tear the candy open with my grubby little fingers and eat it like it was the best thing in the whole world! By the time I was eight, I knew just what I would buy at that store, and I’d be sure to get there first for the best selection!

Cho-Yeh Camp
Today, concession stands and camp stores are still popular. Moms still treasure their postcards and campers still need this year’s T-shirt. But candy is only a small part of all the tempting food now offered.

Cho-Yeh Camp in Livingston, Texas, provides concessions for its campers at The Trading Post. The camp and conference center is a co-ed, Christian-based, non-profit camp in Piney Woods, northeast of Houston. Jason and Kim Brown bought the camp in 1990 and had 386 children attend that first summer. There are now more than 2,500 children attending, ages six to 19. Jason says that they “struggle in camping and as parents with what our children eat.”

To keep their kids as healthy as possible, the Brown’s only open The Trading Post on opening and closing days of camp. This automatically limits the number of times the campers can visit (and the amount of bad choices they can make). Bank account balances are easily tracked on the camp computer system.

The Trading Post is stocked with camp clothing, food, often bought at a bulk price at Sam’s Club, candy and favorite kid fare like pizza, chips and hamburgers.

CEO Jason Brown says: “We want kids to enjoy what they’re eating. Plus we know a week at camp is physically demanding.”

Matching Inventory To Philosophy
This summer, Texas Children’s Hospital is collaborating with Cho-Yeh Camp on a new camping experience called “Kamp K-ana,” which means health in a native Alabama Indian language.

“The camp is for kids who are clinically obese,” says Brown, “which is not our normal camp population.”

The idea for this new camp came from Dr. Keith McPherson, the camp pediatrician who operates a private practice in Conroe, Texas. McPherson was concerned about the growing number of obese children he saw in his practice (he estimates there were 450,000 clinically obese children in the greater Houston area alone) and wanted to do something about it.

McPherson, Texas Children’s Hospital and the Browns hope that Kamp K-ana will introduce kids to a healthy, active lifestyle. To help them along, the camp will stress what types of food are good for them and what types are not.

During the camp session, Dr. McPherson and the registered dietician on staff will closely monitor the total caloric intake of each resident, focus on community building and emotional support, explore attitudes toward food and keep their bodies active and their minds off food in the hope of helping his campers both lost weight and motivate them to change their lifestyle.

Because of this, for this camp session, The Trading Post will only offer healthy selections like fruit and vegetables and cut back on candy and other high-calorie food. The concession stand will still be a fun part of camp; it’s just that the definition of fun foods will change.

Concessions Confessions
There’s no doubt the camp store and wonderful concessions offered are a fun part of camp, one that can also provide a learning experience for your campers. Your challenge is to decide how to balance offering kids what’s good for them and offering them what they want.

In some cases, a little candy after a week of activity might not be a bad thing. In other cases, it might undermine your entire week’s work. The goal is simply to match your inventory with your philosophy. Your campers will let you know if you succeeded.

Melanie Minch is a freelance writer in Medina, Ohio, and a regular contributor to Camp Business and Parks & Rec Business magazines. She can be reached via e-mail at gardens@zoominternet.net.

For more information about Cho-Yeh Camp and Conference Center, or the weight-conscious Kamp K-ana camp, please contact Jason Brown, CEO or visit www.Cho-Yeh.org.

For more information about Camp Wyandot, please contact Camp Fire U.S.A., 1515 W. Lane Ave., Suite #10, Columbus, Ohio 43221, or visit www.ohiocampfire.org.