There are so many wonderful things about attending a Northeast Girls camp, specifically an all-girls sleepaway camp on Sebago Lake Maine. The friendships made, the beauty of being outdoors, the personal growth of each camper – it all contributes to the magic that is summer camp. But Camp Mataponi wouldn’t be the special place that it is without its unique traditions and events. Some of these traditions go back 100+ years!
My absolute favorite, without a doubt, is Ropeburn. Nestled in the middle of Jamboree, Mataponi’s version of Color War, Ropeburn is the culmination of our Seniors’ camp leadership and sisterhood throughout the summer. Under the direction of the Marshal (staff color war captain), the Red and Blue teams compete to build a huge campfire and be the first team to break the rope hanging 12 feet above it. It’s exciting to watch as well as being an intense experience for the seniors, but the best part of Ropeburn comes before the fires are even lit.
It all actually begins with getting dressed. The Seniors dress in flannels and bandanas that have been handed down, year after year, from generations of Senior Mataponi campers. All camper-counselors and LITs (Leadership In Training Staff) that are at camp for the summer help the seniors get dressed sharing memories of past Ropeburns and encouragement for the event to come. The Seniors then walk, hand in hand, down to the waterfront while the rest of the camp sits on the hill overlooking the calm lake. Side by side as one long unbreakable link, the Seniors walk out onto the dock and on Dan’s count of three, jump into the still waters of Sebago Lake as one.
Soaking wet with lake water and emotional tears, they then lead the entire camp out to the campfire. Before the “competition” finally starts, the senior girls stand together, both the red and blue teams facing the camp as the campers sing them a custom song that they only learned a few days before. Goosebumps run from art to art as you feel the emotion and the inspiration the campers are hoping to impress upon the Seniors as they start their song.
It’s an emotional night for the Seniors. They have waited their entire camp experience for this camp event. And as for the viewers of this tradition, you can’t help but feel part of the Mataponi Ropeburn magic.