Opening Ceremony

The opening ceremony has the following goals:

  • create a sense of wonder and awe
  • make it very clear what is most important for the week – making friends and creating community
  • introduce some achievement goals for the week

Act 1: Processional

Campers are lined up in the entry path with Clipper Fleet at the north end (boys on the east, girls on the west) and Sloops to the south. The Sloop Fleet Captain starts the processional by leading his/her fleet through the line, and each kid gives all the other kids a hand shake or high five. Each Fleet files into the amphitheater in this way, Clippers last and in the rear.

Act 2: Fleet Assembly

Each fleet now makes a formal request to join Camp Ot-Yo-Kwa or Camp Chickagami. Maybe they are summoned to the stand by a bosun’s whistle. They are asked to repeat an oath of loyalty to their shipmates and to be true to the aims of Camp Fitch. Each fleet's oath could be a bit different. When their request is accepted, a cannon is fired in salute to the new fleet. Someone from the fleet will raise the flag of that fleet on a flagpole attached to the uprights of the retaining wall in Friend Circle. They will take an already lit lantern from their flagpole back to their harbor and hang it on a special pole where it will stay lit all week.

Leader pipes an All Hands call on a Boatswain's Call. When the gathering has quieted, he says:

Welcome to Camp Fitch! We are glad you are here and hope you are up for adventure! Although you are physically located at Camp Fitch, you are not yet an official part of our fleet of ships because we do not yet know your intentions. Does any Fleet here wish to join the Camp Fitch Fleet?

Fleet Captain: “The Sloops do!”

Leader: “And what are your intentions, Sloops?”

Sloops: “We . . .”

Leader: “We accept the Sloops into the Camp Fitch Fleet!”

Gun sounds, flags fly.

Leader: “Representatives may now come take the Lamp of Truth back to The Line and The Hook . There are three rays that shine from this Lamp.

  • The Orange Ray of Truth: Hold your word of honor sacred, anyone not bound by Truth cannot be bound.
  • The Blue Ray of Faith: Worship God and respect those who worship Him in His many forms.
  • The Yellow Ray of Wisdom: The minute we are born we began to learn, and as we get older it is tempting to stop. Resist that temptation.

With the help of your skippers we expect you to focus this week on living out these three important virtues.”

Leader: “Representatives may now come forward to take the Lamp of Fortitude back to The Cove and The Landing. There are three rays that shine from the Lamp of Fortitude:

  • The Purple Ray of Responsibility: Take responsibility for your actions, both good and bad. Play fair as you strive.
  • The Green Ray of Service: Do not be afraid to serve others even at your short-term expense.
  • The Silver Ray of Reverence: Listen to those more experienced than you and consider what they have to say.

With the help of your skippers we expect you to focus this week on living out these three important virtues.

Leader: “Representatives may now come forward to take the Lamp of Love back to The Point and The Square. There are three rays that shine from the Lamp of Love:

  • The White Ray of Purity: Be Clean and Pure to both yourself and the place you live. Understand and respect your body, it is the sacred temple of the Spirit.
  • The Red Ray of Goodwill: Be kind and do at least one act of kindness every day.
  • The White Ray of Joy: Seek the joy of being alive and find beauty and joy in the natural, wild world that surround you whereeter you exist.

With the help of your skippers we expect you to focus this week on living out these three important virtues. Leader: “Does any remaining Fleet here wish to the join the Camp Fitch Fleet?”

Leader: A representative may now come forward from the Outriders to take the Compass of Courage back to the Equestrian Center

  • Have courage this week to tame the wild animal that lives in all of us.


The leader then makes an official, scripted welcome to all campers, reinforcing achievement, belonging and friendship.

On behalf of 100 years of shipmates who have journeyed before you through this Great Camp on a Great Lake, I can now officially welcome you to the Fleet of Camp Fitch. Now that you have declared your intentions, you are one of our band of adventurers sailing toward a life well lived.

Camp Fitch is not a destination, it is a journey. Some of you are starting this journey today, others started it several years ago and are cruising through our waters again this summer. In either case, this journey will make you stronger in faith, in mind and in body. I'm proud to have you aboard.

Your duty as a shipmate of your fleet is to accomplish something extraordinary: that accomplishment could take the form of forging a strong connection with a shipmate you've never met before; honing a skill like archery, climbing or sailing; or discovering the power of the Holy Spirit that lives all around us.

I would wish you best of luck, but you don't need luck. You have great skippers here to help you make new friends and learn new skills. Our journey together will be fun, but not always easy. With determination, and if you keep in mind that you aren't in this alone, you will prevail.

Leader: “Now that you are officially aboard, let's teach you one of our sea songs – this one is about us!”

Teach the Camp Fitch Bunch.

Act 3: Sing-along Song

How about Great Lakes Song? Would be great if this could be a band of people – maybe some hand drums, a bass, a fiddle, other percussion? Would like to have many voices, and have this practiced.

Leader: “We have many songs that we sing here besides the Camp Fitch Bunch. This song is about the Great Lakes, and everyone can sing!”

Act 4: Friendship/Acceptance Skit

The overall idea of this skit is that Camp Fitch makes an alliance with the Pygmies, and we welcome a Pygmy camper to one of our ships. The point of the skit is to model behaviors that we want campers to exhibit toward their shipmates.

The script is a bit long, so it has it's own page and is still a work in progress with regard to the formatting. Please check it out and make comments and add your ideas.

Act 5: Sing-along Song

Welcome to the Family led by Brian Rupe

Act 6: Introduce the Sails

“A ship without sails is just drifting in the current.”

At camp your ropes activities that you signed up for today will build the sails that help guide you on your journey. There are six Sails that are made up of many Ropes. In each Sail mates have the opportunity to move through different ranks working towards mastery in each of the Sails. The Sails are Artisan, Athlete, Marksman, Philosopher, Voyager, and Naturalist.

As your camp story unfolds, each year you come back you have the opportunity to continue to move through the ranks in each Sail. Starting with Novice and Apprentice, moving on to Journeyman and Expert and finally Mastery. To track this each mate will receive a paddle like this (show example paddle with stickers on it). You will gain stickers for different achievements to mark your time at camp. Highlight Polar Bear and Pygmy Island Fellowship stickers. Your skippers can help explain the details of this later. Good luck this week and welcome aboard!

Act 7: Song

Leader: “Today starts your journey as a shipmate of Camp Fitch, and it's an exciting thing to be starting a journey. This is a song about sailing journeys and how no matter how far away you go, you can still feel close to your home and your roots – and indeed sometimes the journey leads you to a new home – this is what we hope for you, that Camp Fitch can be one of your many homes throughout your life.”

  • Sailing Down My Golden River (themes of sailing, journeying, but not feeling far from home or alone because, perhaps, of faith in God or the accompaniment of good friends. It's a simple song, that could be a sing along, but is upbeat)
  • When I'm On My Journey (this is a cool song, but the “don't you weep after me” line leads me to believe it's about death, which doesn't seem like an opening ceremony theme. Could be a closing ceremony theme, since the weeping then could be due to the parting that we're going to make. Moving this to the Closing Ceremony.

Act 8: Dismissal, Raise the Perry Flag

Before each fleet is dismissed, we tell the story of Oliver Hazard Perry and raise the Don't Give Up the Ship flag to remind ourselves to be determined in the face of hardship.

Over 200 years ago, in the waters of Lake Erie there was a big naval battle between a very young United States and the British, who were still sore they lost the Revolution. In this pivotal battle, now called “The Battle of Lake Erie” the US fleet was led by a guy named Oliver Hazard Perry – he was only 28 years old that fall. The day before this big battle, Commander Perry had asked for a special flag that would allow him to signal the other ships in his fleet to engage in the battle. The flag was to contain the last words that one of his best friends uttered before he died: “Don't Give Up the Ship”. A group of ladies in Erie, Pennsylvania sewed him this flag and gave it to him before the battle. Commander Perry raised the flag aboard the Lawrence, which led the battle. The ship was torn apart in the face of the British cannon – 4/5 of the crew were dead or wounded and the ship was useless, nearly sunk. The British thought that Perry would have to surrender, and they let up the pressure a bit. But Commander Perry never gives up – he and two other crew took his special flag down, lit the last salvo from a canon on deck and rowed to the Niagara, a half-mile astern of the foundering Lawrence. Upon boarding the Niagara, Perry raised his signal flag again, and led the rest of the fleet to break through the British line and force the surrender of the British – two warships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop.

Two hundred years later, we adopt this as a motto at Camp Fitch: “Don't Give Up the Ship”. When the going gets tough at Camp – if we're scared by a storm, miss the comforts of home, or some activity isn't turning out the way we thought it would – we can look out on Lake Erie and remember Commander Perry and his flag. “Don't Give Up the Ship.” It will remind us to keep moving forward, and to never give up.

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