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The Labor Day weekend is usually the last hurrah of the camping season, full of families who are finishing out the summer with one last camping trip on a three day weekend. Now the campground is sparsely scattered with campers throughout the week… mostly couples who are either passing through or who simply want a few days of solitude and quiet around the campfire in the crisp cool fall air.

I was told that there would only be one other weekend that would be fairly busy… the weekend before Halloween when a lot of campers would come out as they traditionally have in groups to have an impromptu celebration. So since I knew it would be a somewhat festive weekend with more kids here than the usual fall weekend would usually see, I made plans for a few decorations around the campsite and an impromptu pumpkin painting contest for the kids who would be here. I spent the week ringing the site with ghosts on stakes and concocting a lighted spiderweb to string between the large trees in front of the camper. I readied the paints and the pumpkins I had available for the artistic endeavors of Saturday, thinking back over the years when Amy and I would sit and paint pumpkins together at our kitchen table and make final plans for her costume.

I was ready…. I was prepared…. NOT!!!

By Wednesday it was becoming apparent that this was not just going to be a busy weekend… this was going to be the busiest weekend we’ve had, topping every summer holiday weekend. The campers pulled in non-stop on Wednesday, continued pouring in on Thursday in the pouring rain, and by late afternoon on Friday we were full. No room… not one space left! I battled writers cramp while writing ticket after endless ticket. I told parents about the pumpkin painting contest, warning them that since there were only 20 pumpkins available they might want to bring their own if they didn’t want to take the chance of there not being one when they got here. I watched campers set up their Halloween decorations before they even set the camper. I gave out balloons to hang on posts so that the kids would know who was open to trick or treating on Saturday night. I ran out of balloons to give to campers to hang on their posts.

This was not going to be a busy weekend… this was turning out to be HUGE!

After 8 hours straight of writing out permits on Friday, I wandered around the end of the camper that provides an overall view of the campground and my jaw dropped. Campers had not just decorated their sites… they had created masterpieces of light and sound and sight that resembled a carnival midway in preparation for the trick or treating Saturday night. I was speechless as were many of the campers who happened in.

Saturday dawned sunny and cold. The morning was spent getting tables ready for painting and the small prizes put together for the “winners”, knowing full well that 20 pumpkins were going to go fast and hoping the paint and varnish would hold out. And coming to grips with the fact that we could only go as far as the supplies allowed. The whole point was for the kids to have fun.

And they did! All 36 of them that showed up from the ages of 3 to 12, some taking pumpkins that were provided but most bringing their own. The next hour and a half was spent watching bright shiny faces slathering paint on pumpkins in all manner of design… some discernable and some not. There were 10 year olds who agonized over the next color to place on their creation and 3 year olds who were happily slapping paint on in random order just like the bigger kids. And there were smiles and laughter… what it was all about.

The parents that came with them? WOW! They pitched right in helping me write names and site numbers on the bottoms of pumpkins, opening jars of paint. helping mop up spilled paint and smiling bigger than the kids were if that is possible. More than a few said “You ARE doing this again next year aren’t you?” Well of course! A bit more finetuned perhaps, but that is a definite!

It was for the kids… but it wound up touching the parents as well.

At 5 the awards were given and the extravaganza began! The sky over the campground was filled with light and the sounds of children. There were arches of orange lights, graveyards with spooky sounds and fog machines rolling, Halloween spookhouses, hanging ghosts and ghouls, bouncy bins in the shapes of ghosts and pumpkins, a 10 foot tall bowling pin walking the campground with a Spongebob Squarepants, and a pirate urging the pickup truck he was riding in the back of to “Go faster matey”. There were spooky costumes and cute costumes and more Hannah Montanas than I could count. So many kids that I ran out of candy (4 big bags worth).

By 9 the campground was quieter than I’ve heard it all summer… kids tucked around the campfires digging through their candy bags, giving all the adults time to sit and breathe.

As I sat around the campfire with friends who had come for the weekend, one of the women who helped me beyond belief that day leaned over to give me a hug and say “Good job Susan… just wait till next year!”

I can’t wait!