Byron Ezell and his helpers spent an evening last week filling 280 water balloons in preparation for the much anticipated water balloon fight July 25 — the final day of BREC summer day camps — and as the BREC summer camp director predicted, the ammunition didn’t last long.
“If you can believe it, some of these kids have never been in a water balloon fight,” Ezell said, shaking his head and pausing periodically to warn campers against squirting their water guns toward the charcoal fire that was grilling hot dogs.
Ashante Brown, a camp counselor who worked for BREC during her summer break from studying journalism at Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was manning the fire in the hot midday sun. Brown said she, personally, would welcome being attacked, though it might delay the fire and, therefore, the food.
The campers had no trouble seeing the wisdom in that logic — they’d worked up an appetite not just with the water wars but also with an inflatable playhouse and a tug of war rematch.
“For the first match, we had a strategy — we all leaned back and almost sat on the ground,” said Sanora Cole, who is officially recreation manager for BREC and unofficially the girls’ tug of war coach. “But when they sat back, they let go of the rope and ended up losing. So I asked for a rematch today.”
The second time, they won.
“They’ve been having a great time, though, as you can see,” Ezell said.
A’nyah Coleman, 7, admits she didn’t want to come to BREC summer day camp at first. When she first walked up to BREC’s Mayfair Park eight weeks ago, she barely knew anyone there, she said.
That wasn’t unusual for campers, said Ezell, the camp director. “But by the end of that first week, they’re saying, ‘It’s time to go home? I don’t want to go yet.’ ”
Coleman spent several minutes carefully guarding her own water balloon — she wanted to keep one — from all the friends she’s made over the summer.
Chelsea Chube Buckley, 11, agreed that it was scary at first, but then she met Kristian Johnson, 9.
“Now we’re really good friends,” Chube Buckley said.
“I’d tell my friends to go to camp, because you can have a lot of fun and be yourself,” she said.
“And make new friends,” added Johnson, who will miss camp but is excited to get back to school in a couple of weeks.
Over the course of eight weeks, the girls, and 50 other boys and girls from 6 to 12 years old, have learned how to fish, canoe and skate, and have taken field trips to the Louisiana Art & Science Museum, Liberty Lagoon water park, Bluebonnet Swamp, the Baton Rouge Zoo, the Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans and much more.
Though the eight-week summer camp program has been running at many BREC parks for many years, this marks the first year the program has come to Southside’s Mayfair Park, Cole said.
“It was one of the things I wanted to do,” she added. For a long time, the Mayfair facility was used as a field trip location for other BREC day camps.
“They stored the inflatables in there,” she said. But this year, convinced the neighborhood residents would welcome a camp, she spread the word every way she could think to spread it.
“I went to schools, passed out fliers; I went to churches and businesses. I walked the neighborhoods and knocked on doors. When I found someone interested, I’d give them fliers and ask them to spread the word at their churches, at work, to their friends and relatives,” she said.
All the hard work paid off, because the camp signed up 52 participants for a camp that maxes out at 55.
“We hope that these kids will tell their friends. We want this camp to grow — it’s a great location,” she said. If their participation grows enough, she said, they may have separate boys’ and girls’ camps next year.
BREC offered the camp at a lower rate of $45 per camper, with scholarships available for those who qualified. Most BREC camps cost almost twice that, she said.
For more information on BREC, visit brec.org.
To view a photo gallery from the summer camp, click here.