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.”