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.”
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“It’s always a joke: “Where you are on line? Did you get further on line?’ ” says Beth Rosenberg about the Visiting Day ritual at Trail’s End. Families started lining up at 9:30, anxious to race and find their campers. “It’s like the running of the Jews,” says Darcy Newman, Rosenberg’s sister-in-law. All photographs by Gillian Laub
“My daughter’s friend said, “Everyone gets a basket on Visiting Day, and you have to get all the stuff she needs for Color War,’ ” says Judi Stern, grandmother of 7-year-old Julia Weiler. “They have this hairspray that’s tinted white and face paint and nail polish”it’s all very 2009.”
Darcy Newman holds a care package for her niece Lexi Rosenberg. “It’s a bunch of bunk junk stuff”a silly flyswatter, candy, stickers, flip-flops, cute T-shirts, baskets to put stuff in.”
Charlene Rosenbloom, with her daughter Kloe’s care package. At stores like Infinity and Lester’s on the Upper East Side, and the Sweet Spot Shoppe in Plainview, parents pick up Trail’s End”branded merchandise.
“You would think they haven’t eaten in three years,” says Beth Rosenberg. She has three children at Trail’s End”Aly, Matt, and Lexi (each in green shirts). Her picnic menu included Chinese food, steak sandwiches, and Greek salads with extra feta cheese and special dressing.
Families rush to grab their favorite lunch spots. Here, the Weisses”grandmother Carole, father Scott, and camper Cooper.
“My memory of Visiting Day was getting such an abundance of packages and candy,” says Danielle Lenson, standing at left, who met her husband when they were both Trail’s End campers. “My mom would say, “Hide the candy so no one would find it.’ ” She brought her daughter Carly (far right) a care package with a poster of Selena Gomez.
Renee Epstein has her picture taken by a friend’s father at the lake. Afternoon activities include banana boats, a water trampoline, and a zip line.
Lexi Rosenberg pushes her father into the lake. “They had a big floating trampoline out there,” says Joe Rosenberg. “I was bouncing kids off the float in the lake.” “My mom got me that bathing suit,” says Lexi. “That came in the bucket, too. That was a surprise.”
Aly Rosenberg, in her bunk, surrounded by posters and photos. Parents download photos of their campers on the Trail’s End website and put them into scrapbooks, which they bring to their children on Visiting Day.
Devon Reisman sits on a friend’s bed in Bunk 13. Most of Trail’s End’s 540 campers live in bunks of about twelve kids and four counselors. The bunks have private bathrooms and showers. Every camper has a single bed”counselors sleep in bunk beds.
Aly and Lexi Rosenberg say good-bye to their parents at 4:45 p.m. “They know that the next time they see us, camp’s over,” says Beth. Camp ends on August 16 this year. “They cry more when they leave camp than on Visiting Day.”