On Monday, June 17th, YMCA’s Camp Onyahsa will open for its 114th season. The following week, on June 25th, the Boys and Girls Club at Chautauqua Institution will begin its 119th season. Camp is a summer staple for kids throughout the country, and especially on Chautauqua County’s waterways where summer camps have provided fun and nurturing learning vacations for youth for generations.
Founded in 1898, Camp Onyahsa is one of the three oldest “Y” camps in the nation. It is nestled in a wooded bay on the northeastern side of Chautauqua Lake and offers traditional residential and day camp sessions along with horseback riding camp, teen camp activities, and leadership development programs. While most of the staff and campers come from western New York and Pennyslvania, there is also a good chance you might meet a staff member or someone attending camp that traveled from as far away as Sweden, Spain, France, or Canada.
Considered one of the oldest day camps in America, the Boys and Girls Club at Chautauqua Institution began its first season in 1893. Now over 120 years old with a full basketball court, the Seaver Gymnasium is still a central part of Club activities today. Participants in Club are grouped accordilng to the grade they will be entering in the fall starting at age 7 and continuing through 10th grade. Each day, participants rotate through various activities such as kayaking or rowing, field games, instructional swimming, arts and crafts, music, exercises in the gym, and sailing. Club runs each weekday during the Chautauqua program season from 9am – 4pm with a recess from noon to 2 pm.
Also at Chautauqua Institution, the John R. Turney Sailing Center creates a camp like experience for youth with half-day sailing classes each week for beginners through advanced levels of experience. In addition to classes, the Center offers sailboat rentals and private lessons for both kids and adults. And, at the Chautauqua Golf Club Learning Center on the hillside above, young golfers can join junior golf clinics and camps led by LPGA teaching professional Suellen Northrop all summer long.
For years, fond memories have also been formed at church and scout camps such as Mission Meadows, the Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center, Camp Findley, Bethany Camp, the Dunkirk Camp & Conference Center, Camp Merz, and others. But, in Chautauqua County today, summer camps include much, much more than water and lake activities.
At Infinity Performing Arts in Jamestown, students ages 8 to 18 are anxiously awaiting the start of eight different camps involving a variety of experiences including music, art, Suzuki strings, theater and literary arts, and S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, arts and math). Students, ages 8-12 will be immersed in all kinds of arts including music, art, theater, literary arts and dance with two sessions available, July 16-20 and August 13-17. Youth ages 13 to 18 will have more intensive opportunities for study in specific forms of art, including imaginative engineering.
Since 1976, children entering pre-k through high school aged youth have been attending summer day camp programs at the Jamestown Audubon Center. Most camps are held at the Audubon’s property just south of Jamestown, while teens have the opportunity to explore other natural attractions in the region. All camps are designed to get kids outdoors and to help them feel at home while learning about their surroundings.
The State University of New York at Fredonia and Jamestown Community College both provide summer youth learning camps as well. At Fredonia, it’s all about music with music intensive camps starting in June and running through August. The four week NYSSA Choral Studies program begins July 1st and includes performances at the King Concert Hall at SUNY Fredonia’s Rockefeller Center for the Arts and in the Amphitheater at Chautauqua Institution. At JCC, learning and fun happen through a range of experiences from building catapults and sling shots (engineering, science and math) to creating edible art. There’s even Wee College Camp for kids ages 5-7.
For more summer events and activities for youth, as well as adults, visit the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau website at www.tourchautauqua.com. There’s a special What to Learn section with a directory and links to classes and camps offered regularly, seasonally and all year long. If you need help planning a trip to Chautauqua County, call 866-908-4569.