CANAJOHARIE – Some 40 youngsters started summer camp this week at the Canajoharie Youth Center’s summer program after the coronavirus pandemic essentially shuttered so many activities for children everywhere last summer.
Annually, the Canajoharie summer program — open to kids from Canajoharie, Palatine Bridge and Fort Plain — draws a significant number of attendees. In 2019, 75 children took part in the program’s extensive in-house and field trip activities.
“We have a lot of things planned for the kids and it’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Director Janice Dillenbeck of the 2021 program, where children from 8 to 13 are welcome to participate.
This year’s program was scaled back while the youth center contended with the constant regulatory updates during the summer planning process, Dillenbeck said. The guidelines, she said, shifted “on a day to day basis.
“I wasn’t sure what we could and couldn’t do,” she said. So, she simultaneously planned two versions of this year’s summer program. One plan considered comfort in the event that attendees had to be masked at all times, while the other was more relaxed. “I called so many places and talked to so many people” to determine how many kids would be allowed in various facilities, she said.
During planning, state regulations wouldn’t allow more than 36 kids per pod in a summer program. While the CYC had the option to host several pods, Dillenbeck said that plan simply wasn’t feasible. “You couldn’t intermix groups” including staff members, she explained. If employees were assigned to one group and there were several no-shows, those staff members couldn’t be re-assigned to work with a different pod.
“We were going to keep it at 36,” she said of attendance numbers, “just to keep it simple and easy.” When regulations were recently relaxed, the cap was raised to 40.
Since 44 children are allowed on a bus for field trips, that number felt right, Dillenbeck said. “We had a lot of interest in the program, but not necessarily enough to warrant a second bus with mileage and driver costs.”
If certain state restrictions had still been in place as of Monday, much of this year’s Summer Program would’ve remained local. But, said Dillenbeck, “because restrictions were lifted, we’re doing similar activities to ones in the past.”
Summer program attendees will visit Glimmerglass Park each Wednesday. Trips are also scheduled to High Rollers in Amsterdam, Albany Ninja Lab, Beaversprite Sanctuary in Dolgeville, and Six Flags/Great Escape in Lake George. Local trips will include bowling at Iroquois Lanes, and tennis lessons by CYC President Kathy Dopp at the Canajoharie Central School tennis courts.
An “Amazing Race” scavenger hunt will also be held throughout downtown Canajoharie later this summer, with many businesses participating.
Trips will also be taken to Riverfront Park — located a stone’s throw away from the CYC — where Dillenbeck said the kids will enjoy watching boats pass and dock. A trip will also be taken to the nearby lock, where program attendees will witness how the system works. Many in-house activities are also scheduled.
“I love seeing the kids run around and enjoy themselves,” said Dillenbeck, who noted the program has a no electronics policy. “It’ll be good to see them not sitting in front of electronics, or with a tablet in their face.”
As in the past, local graduates will assist with this year’s program, several themselves having grown up at the CYC. The community has also funded sponsorships or scholarships for some participants.
The support, said Dillenbeck, “is absolutely amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it.”