Summer Camp That’s All Grown Up

Unique camp focuses on Eastern European traditional arts
August 25, 2015 Updated: August 26, 2015

Some of our best childhood memories are from summer camps where we tried new activities, made new friends, or had a crush on our favourite counsellor. But what if you are feeling nostalgic for those bygone days or you didn’t go to summer camp and wonder what it might have been like?

There’s a plethora of adult summer camps that offer everything from sporty endeavours like kayaking or rock climbing to learning yoga or a musical instrument, all in the name of fun and self-expression. Individuality is on the agenda as skills, friendships, and memories are made that can rekindle your inner child.

A unique grown-ups’ camp taking place this week is Folk Camp, a weeklong camp near Grafton, Ont., that offers cultural experiences based in Eastern European heritage. The founders want to provide a program that has meaning for people with the aim of revitalizing peasant folklore. It gives participants the opportunity to learn older traditional arts like paper cutting, weaving, embroidery, and chair caning, along with folk music and dance from Slavic countries and elsewhere.

Numerous workshops let attendees master traditional skills and experience an earlier way of life and pace of living.

As a way to connect with nature and retreat from the hustle of daily life, there are woodland walks and evening bonfires. There’s time for swimming in a pool or in nearby Lake Ontario. Numerous workshops let attendees master traditional skills and experience an earlier way of life and pace of living.

Folk Camp is the brainchild of four Toronto women of Ukrainian heritage who in 2010 formed Kosa Kolektiv, a group that aims to revitalize peasant folklore in an urban context. The summer camp is one of many projects run by the group.

“Kosa Kolektiv values honest, simple, beautiful practices that bring joy to people and restore harmony in nature. Its goal is meaningful practices based on folklore traditions, as understood by its members,” the website says.

The group envisions the camp as fostering “a growing community built around learning and embracing traditional village ways, through folk art, song, dance, and food,” as well as “engagement in all the best aspects of village life,” according to the website.

Participants, instructors, and volunteers sing together. (Carlos M. Gárate)
Participants, instructors, and volunteers sing together. (Carlos M. Gárate)

“By exploring and sharing the cultural heritage of this land, and of Eastern Europe, we preserve and cultivate ancient knowledge and wisdom into a vibrant and spirited living tradition.”

The cultural immersion camp runs from Aug. 24-30 and takes place at the Plast-Ukrainian Scouts campground close to Lake Ontario. Several cabins provide dorm-style living, while camping and trailer sites are also available. Although the setting is rustic, the accommodation does include showers and flush toilets.

In the many workshops offered, participants can choose to learn traditional food preparation and preserving; baking, including traditional bread-making; Eastern European village songs; crafts such as printmaking and handwork; and European folk dances.

In keeping with the philosophy of traditional village living, meals are organic and the produce comes from the camp garden or from local organic growers.

Each evening there is a dinner, singing and dancing, and music, which is provided either by local groups or camp counsellors. The dinners may encompass the cuisines of many other countries. A bonfire and a mix of singing circle, storytelling, or musical jamming follow.

Organizers say that attendees come from various provinces and they would like to see people from across Canada learn about the camp and experience it, too.

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