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What Is Your Favorite Camp Algonquin Memory?

As Camp Algonquin says farewell and closes its doors, Patch asks: What were your favorite Camp Algonquin memories?

After 103 years, Camp Algonquin closed on Sunday, March 13, with a bittersweet farewell party.

The camp was managed by the McHenry County YMCA, which recently filed for bankruptcy. Because of the bankruptcy, the YMCA was unable to honor their lease with the McHenry County Conservation District. The McHenry County Conservation district chose to close the camp while they determine how the property will fit into their long term objectives.

Former campers, staff members, and community members were present at Sunday’s farewell party. Members of an area Beatles ensemble group who regularly used Camp Algonquin as a weekend retreat, performed songs made famous by the fab four in the rec hall.

Randy Osborn, the former program director for Camp Algonquin, made a large dreamcatcher for the farewell party. The dreamcatcher was hung in the woods with hopes that “the long story of Camp Algonquin will keep on being a long story.”

We asked those in attendance: “What were your favorite Camp Algonquin memories?” These were their answers:

  • “During family camp everyone would make these dreamboats out of popsicle sticks and whatever craft supplies they could find. We’d put a candle in each boat and set it afloat in the pool. Everyone would share their dreams and their goals for the future,” said Julie Weightman.
  • “This isn’t my favorite memory, but it sticks out. One year half of the Senior Camp was Russian, and whenever you would confront a camper for breaking the rules or doing something they weren’t supposed to be doing, they would pretend to not speak English,” said Barbara Braun.
  • “The cultural diversity and variety of people that we met. Campers would come in from Chicago, and the camp participated in international programs that brought in staff members from other countries. We have friends all over the world now,” said Tracy Soos-Walker.
  •  “At the ribbon cutting for one of the trails a few years back, there was this real stately old African American woman who brought postcards that her grandmother had given her from Camp Algonquin in the 1920s. The continuity was just amazing,” said Randy Osborn.
  • “I loved working with the seniors…you never saw a bunch of seniors get young as when my friend over here started playing stuff from the 40s and 50s,” said Randy Osborn.
  • “The Cary-Algonquin Jaycees helped out with a haunted house here and it was very successful. It’s a shame, this is a beautiful camp,” said Rick Gammel.
  • “I first found the place last November. I was surprised and amazed this place was here. It’s like a little oasis,” said Rich Gordon.
  • “[My husband and I] met at camp – we were counselors, I worked on the waterfront. I came from Scotland and was supposed to stay for a year. We made a lot of close friendships and had a mini reunion a few years ago. We all feel such a close connection – there must be something about this place,” said Sarah Stumme.
  • “I would come at New Years for the off season party. The fellowship of the group and the opportunity to bring in the New Year among friends was wonderful. We would do this thing where we’d melt down lead remnants and cast them into the water. How they froze would be an indication of the upcoming year,” said Kathy Renfro.
  •  “I slept out on the porch once because all of the beds were taken. It was a beautiful night – just looking up at the stars. I don’t have any bad memories here,” said Richard Pettengill.
  • “There’s this circle of tree stumps, and all of the stumps are spaced pretty far apart. I remember watching my friend Alton jumping from tree stump to tree stump. It was the most beautiful thing. We were all freaking out,” said Lisa Romacho.
  • “We made thanksgiving dinner here with a turkey fryer and a microwave. It was better than any Thanksgiving,” said Kim Zimmer.
  • “Sitting out by the campfire and hearing Led Zepplin on a banjo. It was like a full concert every night,” said Maureen Stimming.
  • “Playing “Sundae Sundae Sundae,” where counselors would actually build a sundae in your mouth,” said Alec Jones, a repeat camper since the age of 7. “This place really has been a home for me.”
Gus Garcia March 15, 2011 at 03:38 PM
When I lived in Illinois, I helped out one Halloween at the haunted house. I truly enjoyed seeing and hearing the young kids and teenagers dressed in their costumes and laughing after getting scared. I hope those young kids remember and cherish the fun they had that night at Camp Algonquin. Growing up and being raised in an area where we did not have similar camps or activities for children, I could only think of how much I had missed as a child. Later on I moved back to my home state of Texas. Our region went through Hurricane Katrina and I saw the influx of Louisiana evacuees being housed in hotels and motels in Texas. I wondered how they could feel at home living in a small box for months on end. I then heard that Camp Algonquin provided their facilities to some families from Louisiana and thought what a wonderful gesture to provide a real "home", with kitchens, porches, family rooms and a place for children to go out and enjoy the woods. They provided more than just a place to stay. They provided a home. Their reach of good acts went from Illinois all the way to Louisiana. From those two instances I saw the positive work that Camp Algonquin made not only to their local community but to other communities from far away states. A place for good and positive actions is now closed down. It surely will be missed. Gus Garcia
Savannah Ziegelbauer March 15, 2011 at 04:00 PM
Thanks for sharing the memory, Gus!
Thomas F. Jeffers April 19, 2011 at 09:47 PM
It's very sad to see Camp Algonquin close.I just found out about it the other day when I went to the Camp's website in my "Favorites" section.Our family went to this wonderful camp in 1960 & 1961.I posted some pictures that include my father Frank d.2008, my mother Catherine d.1963 & my brother Mike,myself & two sisters Kathleen & Pat. As a kid,it just seemed to be this magical, larger-than-life kind of wonderland with the beautiful Fox River & the rolling landscape that made up it's grounds.My mother was able to get us in this camp even though we did'nt have much money & she was battling cancer at the time. I thought that letter writer, Gus Garcia,wrote a wonderful account on how the camp helped some families from Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.
Savannah Ziegelbauer April 20, 2011 at 03:16 PM
Thanks for the memory and photo! It sounds like Camp Algonquin was important to a lot of people.
Carmela July 11, 2012 at 09:18 PM
I went to Camp Algonquin for the summers of 1978-1980; it truly was a great experience. I have very fond memoris and will never forget my experience as a camper there.
Richard Zeis January 14, 2013 at 05:57 PM
My whole family went to camp algonquin 73-84. Had a blast . It was a great experience I wish all kids could have.
Little Billy March 23, 2013 at 02:28 AM
OMG, How Sad to here of this Camps closing, becouse of money, My brother and I attended camp there in the early 70's til about 75 , so say 4 -5 summers straight. Mom was single and disabled, how she found this camp for us, I think was cathlic charities. Breakfest lunch and dinner, singing at the singing tree, pool, canoeing, row boats, great Staff always fun, swim ribbons, camping out in " Haunted' old man "Carter's property, don't get caught by him ! that little old abanded shed on his property''. The Big Hill' alt path to the dining facility,frogs, the stream,Fox River, the Legion of the Foo Shit Bird,dont wash it off ! or Die ! The cabins we stayed in, daily craft classes, activities, swim. So many warm memories, to all past staff, THANK YOU' ! for touching my life, as a child with such a wonderful experience . It was so Fun starting with the Big train ride, from the Big City, to get there. Oh, can't forget the Big Hot Air Balloon event from Cyrstal Lake , every summer. Thanks Mom.................... little Billy Clavette

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