As the sun rose over Camp Cheerio on the New River, some campers took to the treetops and kayaks, while others picked up bow and arrows and gaga balls. For some, like first-year camper Hugo, it was their first time going kayaking.

“I will say you should try it because it’s very fun and I recommend you do kayaking because it frees you from technology and it is so fun,” said Hugo as he pulled his kayak from the river.

While kayaking, someone’s paddle fell off their boat and began to float downstream. Brionna, who is at Cheerio on the New River for her second year, and another camper, got in their kayaks and chased the down the runaway paddle.

“It was fun riding the current down with me and one of the girls from stone,” she said. “The way up was definitely a lot harder, and we actually lost it temporarily and we thought ‘we’re going to have to go back for it.’ But then I saw it floating right by me as I turned around, and I grabbed it.”

She said that returning to shore and paddling against the current, with another paddle in her boat, was a hard process as the extra paddle restricted movement and speed. Despite the strong current and other troubles, she was able to return the paddle in no time.

Tree climbing was an activity that many campers were excited for, putting it at the top of their list of things to do. Some campers, like third-year camper Graham, ranked it as their number one favorite activity.

“You should do it, it’s fun,” he said before climbing to the top of the tree and ringing the bell.

Other campers, like Maggie, faced the daunting task with no hesitation and reached the top of the tree and rang the bell.

“I prefer arts and crafts, but this is my second favorite,” said the second-year camper. “Just don’t be scared. The ropes are really strong and just have fun.”

During second period, some campers went fishing, some went tree climbing, and others joined a music class where counselors showed them how to play a ukelele, a guitar, or the electric bass. Many had experience playing music, but some had never played any of the string instruments within the class. First-year camper Avi had experience playing the viola, but not a bass.

“That was amazing,” he said as he put down the bass and unplugged it from the amp. “And it was fun because I really like instruments with low sounds that can be really loud.”

By the end of the class, Avi was playing “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes, knew the first few chords to “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King, and was freestyling his own riffs.

After lunch, third period kicked off with arts and crafts, mountain biking, nature hikes, and snorkeling. While looking under the water a long-forgotten treasure was found by Ollie, a first-year camper and a first-time snorkeler.

“So, we are walking back, and I saw a little white shiny thing in the water. So, I picked it up and washed it off and saw it was an old-fashioned radio,” he said, holding up the dirt packed, algae covered radio with a smile across his face. The radio was the first item to be added to a collection of “Cool Things Found in the River.”

With so many campers trying things for the first time, or even coming to camp for the first time, Leo, a first-time camper himself, offered some words of wisdom. Words that not just campers, but everyone could benefit from hearing.

“You don’t need to be afraid about being bad at something,” he said, using his time at the archery range as an example. “Because no one is perfect.”

As the sun set over Camp Cheerio on the New River, River Fest, a small carnivalesque type festival, was hosted in front of the office. Campers played soccer, gaga ball, tether ball, or catch, while others participated in face painting, hula-hooping, and ultimate frisbee. The entire field was chock full of smiles and laughter from campers and staff.

-Authored by Orion Griffin