Area campers mug for the camera before boarding a bus to Camp Keuka Lake on Sunday, July 27.
LEWIS — Under a steady Sunday drizzle and errant peals of thunder, six North Country children waited patiently for a tour bus to ferry them downstate to Camp Iroquois on Keuka Lake.
Most were giddy at the opportunity to hang with 130 other kids at the annual Sheriff’s Association Summer Camp, a week-long blast designed to give economically challenged kids from across the state the quintessential American camping experience.
Donald Dufault, a 10-year-old from Ticonderoga, bounced around the lobby of the Sheriff’s Department and ticked off a number of activities that he couldn’t wait to tackle:
“I’m going hiking, canoeing and fishing,” he said, “and kayaking, too.”
His father, Earl Dufault, grinned:
“I’m happy,” he said.
“It’s going to be quieter around here,” said Jessica Carpenter, his mother.
An ebullient Essex County Sheriff Richard Cutting presided over the group, steering incoming parents to hot coffee and road treats for the kids.
Cutting said he visited the camp two weeks ago.
“It’s a great place,” he said.
Each year, Essex County provides rotating slots for eight kids, two each from four towns, to attend the camp designed to foster a sense of community.
This year’s participants, who were selected by school officials, includes kids from Ticonderoga, Lake Placid, Moriah and Westport.
Elizabeth Vondwingelo, 11, said she was nervous about the long trip but happy to be going.
“I think she’ll have fun,” said Mary Dever, her mom. Molly Robichaud said the same about her son, Frank Boyd, a quiet 12-year-old from Witherbee:
“I think it’s going to be awesome for him,” she said.
Blake Callaghan, 10, hung back and cooly surveyed the group.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I’ve been to a lot of other camps. I’m looking forward to playing football because that’s what I play at home.”
Callaghan’s mom, Erin Horton, beamed.
“We’re just so fortunate that we got to do this,” she said.
When Blake gets back, she said, the family will dine together as he regales Mom, Dad and his two younger brothers with campfire stories.
“We’re hoping he’ll take more pictures this year,” she said.
Not all children were as excited as Blake, Donald, Elizabeth and Jared Webb, a 13-year-old from Ticonderoga:
One opted not to go at the last minute. Even the best efforts of Cutting, who tried to convince the kid as the bus idled in the parking lot, fell flat.
Team Essex County boarded the bus. The clouds parted, the rain thinned, and the vehicle pulled out onto Stowersville Road and disappeared into the mountains.
As Cutting surveyed the landscape, a parent approached:
“When are the deadlines for next year?”