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Still having annual fun after 10 years at annual West Dundee neighborhood campout

Participants enjoy previous year’s neighborhood campout West Dundee. The annual traditinow its 10th year is held first weekend October. |

Participants enjoy a previous year’s neighborhood campout in West Dundee. The annual tradition, now in its 10th year, is held the first weekend in October. | Submitted

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Updated: November 1, 2013 6:09AM

WEST DUNDEE — When a group of local moms decided to host a neighborhood campout, they had no idea that 10 years later the initiative would still be going strong.

“There was a group of us that started a playgroup 15 years ago,” said Pam Griffin, one of the campout coordinators. “And in that playgroup, we all loved being outdoors and started talking about what would be a fun thing for all of us to do.”

They came up with the idea of going camping.

“Initially, we were thinking something very simple. Just throw tents up in the park in the neighborhood. But we didn’t realize you actually still have to bring everything you’d take if you were camping in Wisconsin,” Griffin said with a laugh.

They requested permission from the village to hold the campout at South End Park. The group is restricted to 75 overnight campers.

“It’s a bit of work,” Griffin said. “One year we had 150 people in attendance, so some of the parents would go home so we didn’t violate that rule. But we’re still cooking chili for 150 people.

“We just divvy up all the responsibilities and everybody pitches in. The kids absolutely love it.”

The kids also have taken on some of the responsibility for the campout. Six campers from the South End Park neighborhood went before the West Dundee Village Board recently to request permission to hold this year’s campout the first weekend in October.

Trustee Patrick Hanley said he can’t believe it’s already been 10 years since the inaugural campout.

“I’ve been on the board ever since you started this,” he said. “It’s a great thing.”

The kids were eager to share with the village board why they enjoy the campouts.

“My favorite thing is that you get to sleep in your own tent with your friends,” said Charlie Pape. “And we play Ghosts in the Graveyard.”

“I like sitting around the campfire,” said Mia Seaton. “It’s cool because you get to make a lot of good memories.”

The kids also roast marshmallows, tie-dye T-shirts, and sometimes canoe, among other activities.

Griffin said the kids who were young when they came to the first campout continue to attend each year.

“One year, we had the older kids organize game stations for the younger kids,” she said. “There was kickball at this station and capture the flag over here. But the younger kids hated it because they didn’t want any structure. They liked the games but didn’t want to have to stop to go to a different one. It was kind of a live-and-learn situation.”

For the most part, the kids are told when dinner is being served, and they stop in and eat when they’re hungry.

“It’s very unstructured,” Griffin said. “It’s basically, ‘Go, enjoy yourself and have a good time.’ ”

She encourages those who might to start their own neighborhood campout to check out the ones hosted by the Dundee Township Park District to get an idea of what is involved. Participants are required to bring their own camping materials.

Griffin is glad the campouts are still such a crowd-pleaser.

“You go into it planning for the moment,” she said. “I never thought it would last 10 years. But I’m glad it has.”

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