A ‘small town summer’ takes place in Cranbury

Photo courtesy of Cranbury Summer Recreation
Campers fish in the Cranbury Brook in Cranbury Township during the 2021 Summer Recreation Camp.

Already underway, Summer Recreation Camp has returned for children and families in Cranbury after being canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2021 camp has a special meaning, as it centers around the theme of a small town summer: each Thursday for the six weeks of camp, campers visit different destinations and locations within town.

The camp consists of six one-week sessions and entered its third week of operating sessions on July 19. Beginning the first week of sessions from July 6-9, camp is set to conclude on Aug. 13.

“We are calling it a Small Town Summer. Every Thursday, normally we would go on a field trip to the beach or the New York Aquarium or something like that,” Camp Director Tim Brennan said. “This year we are going to a different place in town. The first week we went to Dr. Wonder Comics & Collectibles. The kids got $15 to spend and a little tour of the store.”

The campers went to Cranbury Pizza last week and are set for Teddy’s Restaurant this week.

“We are doing a different eating establishment, except for the first week, like a Small Business Saturday kind of thing to help keep business going and give back a little bit,” Brennan said. “The sixth and last week of the camp we are going to the Cranbury Inn for a Thanksgiving dinner.”

There are four age groups: kindergarten through first grade, second to third grade, fourth through fifth grade, and sixth to eighth grade.

Each grade is separated during each day of the session weeks from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Currently, the camp has between 30-35 total campers and 10 counselors.

“We have been doing another local focus piece of this camp really for the next three weeks: art. This really is for the the older kids, fourth grade on up,” Brennan said. “We are focusing on the late George Stave, a local Cranbury artist, who was a watercolor artist that did landscapes, structures, houses and interiors of houses. We talked about him and his story and next week the kids are going to do exteriors of houses. They are going to draw houses for art.”

Outside of the local focused activities or destinations, campers and counselors are back to regular camp games and playing sports such as soccer, softball and tennis throughout Village Park.

Most of the days for the upcoming weeks will be filled with old school playing activities, there is a hammock village, and campers playing on the swings.

“For pickleball, a big shout to Pam Ornerg. She has been coming weekly to give pickleball lessons on the new pickle ball courts,” Brennan added. “And they are going fishing almost every single day, there are 15-20 kids who go fishing. They bring their own gear and it is catch and release. They go to Brainerd Lake and right behind the firehouse to the Cranbury Brook.”

In 2020, even though organizers for the Summer Recreation camp were prepared to resume camp, due to the pandemic and low registration numbers, the camp was ultimately cancelled.

The planning for the summer camp to occur in 2021 began last year. At the beginning of April this year, the camp was officially given the green light to resume this summer.

The camp’s return in 2021 is a welcome sight and is a little less structured, Brennan said.

“It has been so much fun. Normally, we are loading kids on a bus three days a week to go to the pool and two days a week on trips. This year is a real nice homegrown feeling,” he said. “Campers are playing the entire time, all day, and just having fun. You can see that kids are just excited to be out and just play.”

The camp has maintained social distancing guidelines and safety protocols during its weeks of operation. There are also tents for each of the age groups.

Additionally, all of the camp staff is vaccinated and had been provided special training.

“The kids are socially distanced and in small cohorts all day. We clean and wipe down stuff all over. The bathroom gets cleaned almost every hour,” Brennan said. “We have some kids who are masked all day long and some kids are out without any masks. Masks are not mandatory.”

For the fourth, fifth and sixth weeks left of camp there are currently openings still available for more children to participate as campers this summer.

“They can always reach out to me and call me to find out exactly where our numbers are,” Brennan said. “But so far we have not had to turn anybody away,” Brennan said.

For more information, visit www.cranburytownship.org. or contact Brennan at [email protected]