About a week before Color War begins, the doors of the Directors offices, which normally welcome visitors, suddenly remain closed for large portions of the day. The owners speak in hushed tones at their Dining Hall table, and the secretaries field calls from places responding to our curious requests with interest. The conversation begins with something like this: “Let’s get horses to ride in and the spirits will jump off and say their thing and then we’ll go to Peckham Park…No, to the tower…Or maybe the hockey rink…And we can get a marching band to lead everyone from place to place…Wouldn’t it be cool if we had a Color Guard that could twirl fire?…Where should we do the fireworks? There has to be fireworks…Can we get a military tank?…Or do a joust with the horses?…How will we ever top Bob Bulloch’s elephant entrance?”…and on and on it goes.
The plans are tweaked for days on end. Anticipation builds. College League cheers morph into the classic “1, 2, 3, 4, We Want Color War” chant. The day before the break, everything falls into place. An elaborate project plan is created and all jobs are assigned. Just one psyche move requires multiple parts (Dig hole in Indian Village, line with wooden boards, cut hole in one board so Jay can breathe through a tube that sticks out of the ground, cover hole with board and layer of dirt, have photographer ready to capture shocked looks on faces of campers when man emerges from the ground…). A team of body painters is deployed to paint the spirits, ex-chiefs, horse riders, and of course, the Chiefs. Torches are strategically distributed to guide the crowds through our carefully planned series of stops. We plan the timing of lights, fireworks, entrances, speeches, war clubs, headdresses, and finally, the official beacon of Color War, the Color War sign, which must be lit just moments before the campers reach it because it burns quickly. The anticipation around camp builds as we approach the big moment. The masterminds of these big plans become giddy with excitement knowing what’s about to happen, and campers and staff sense the build-up and respond with their own nervous energy. When the moment comes, everyone takes his place, walkie talkies are set to a secret channel for communication, and finally we watch as an extensive series of tasks and directions transforms into the newest chapter in camp history. The horses and fireworks will be permanently etched in our camp memories, while the messages from decades of ex-chiefs will be etched on our hearts.
Color War has broken.