Trail’s End camp wouldn’t open to visitors until 10:45 a.m., but most of the 2,000 parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, siblings, and friends who arrived for Visiting Day on July 18 were in position by 9:30. Camp director Marc Honigfeld was a strict enforcer of the rope line, and as minutes passed, anticipation mounted. “I was standing in the front, worried about the balloons getting stuck on the rope as I was running,” says Heidi Birnbaum, whose son Adam’s birthday fell on Visiting Day this year. At Honigfeld’s mark, the race began: Find your campers, sign up for the day’s activities, and secure a shady picnic spot. “I went running like a lunatic down the hill, with the balloons, hysterically crying,” says Birnbaum. Darcy Newman, who came to visit her nieces and nephew, was more amused. “It’s like the running of the Jews.”
Trail’s End, just over the New York border in Beach Lake, Pennsylvania, was founded in 1947 by Joe Laub, and while Visiting Day has been around for generations, certain elements have become more elaborate. (This year’s was photographed by his granddaughter Gillian.) “When I went to camp, my mom used to bring up pastries we’d hide under the bed,” remembers Jane Rosenblatt. “Nowadays, you’re bringing up everything but the kitchen sink.” Items in her daughter Eva’s gift basket: nail polish, stationery, a pillowcase, bracelet, shoelaces, sweatbands.
Visiting Day is centered around a picnic, which visiting families are free to supplement (favorite requests from campers: Chinese food, sushi, shrimp cocktail). Parents said they enjoyed having a completely unplugged afternoon with their kids. And some were clearly impressed by the list of activities at Trail’s End, where tuition and fees are close to $10,000 for the seven-week session. “It’s like an Elizabeth Arden for children,” says Connie Kourtsounis, who was visiting her niece and nephew. “Picture a spa in Arizona, but for kids.”