From cuisine to circuses, summer camps target bored kids

Tue Jun 26, 2012 6:00pm EDT
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By Jason McLure

HIGHGATE, Vermont (Reuters) - Ten-year-old Max Oreck had been planning to spend much of his summer vacation playing computer games and watching television.

Then his mom told the Asheville, North Carolina fifth-grader he was going to summer camp.

Now Max is learning to wield a melon-baller, carve an orange into a basket-shaped dessert garnish and make flowers out of frosting at the Kids Culinary Camp of Vermont, one of dozens of summer camps that offer alternatives to traditional fare.

"I came for two reasons: I like to cook a lot, and my mom made me," says Oreck, dressed in a chef's hat and smock during a break from preparing grilled bacon and cheese sandwiches in the camp's commercial kitchen.

From high-wire walking to plankton propagation to posture lessons, summer camps are offering an increasingly diverse range of activities compared to the traditional canoe trips, swim lessons and marshmallow-roasting.

The popularity of alternatives is helping fuel growth among the estimated 12,000 summer camps in the United States.

Despite the stagnant economy, revenues at day camps grew by 23 percent between 2008 and last year and by 7 percent at sleep-away camps, according to the American Camp Association, which says the 2,400 organized camps it accredits have combined annual revenues of $2.8 billion.

"We see more specialty camps cropping up every year because there seems to be more of a demand for it," Peg Smith, chief executive of the American Camp Association, said in an email.   Continued...

Zeke Andreassen, 11, cuts an orange into a decorative basket in the kitchen of the Vermont Kids Culinary Academy during a residential cooking summer camp in Highgate, Vermont June 19, 2012. REUTERS/Herb Swanson