History of Camp NORR in the U.S.A
The first session of camp N.O.R.R. in the United States opened in 1967. During the first two years, the camp operated on land that was generously offered to our organization by a Russian Orthodox foundation. This land was located in the Catskill Mountains near the town of Monticello. Protopriest Seraphim Slobodskoy, then rector of the Holy Virgin Protection Church in Nyack, NY, actively participated in this initiative, helped in every which way, and was the spiritual leader of the organization right up until his death in 1971.
The first two years clearly showed that it was vital to acquire our own land. Thanks to the efforts and energy of a small group of people, appropriate land was found and purchased in the spring of 1969. Much work needed to be done in order to be ready for the camp opening in July. First, a kitchen and slab for the dining area were built, as well as hot water showers in the boys’ and girls’ camps. All this was possible only through the hard work and volunteer efforts of parents, young adults, and friends. It is hard to imagine today how this area looked in 1969. Small houses or bungalows (“dachi” as they were called) stood along the road, along with a three-story house and a spacious building, the so-called clubhouse. There was also a small house behind the clubhouse, which was used for storage. Instead of today’s chapel, a tent was set up to serve as an altar on the field above the flagpole near the stone wall. The worshipers stood in the open air. The wooden flagpole stood much lower than the current one. A large canvas tent located above the dining area often leaked under large amounts of pooled rainwater, making it necessary to move tables and prop up the corners of the tent with benches. Instead of the large swimming pool, there was a much smaller, shallow pool. In the years that followed, our volunteers bubbled with work, building with their own hands the chapel, large swimming pool, filter house, a fully equipped kitchen, ball fields and courts.
As the years went by, much more was built – a pavilion over the dining area, a new pool in the place of the old one, a basketball court, new showers, new tent platforms; also, new tents were purchased – too many things to enumerate. It is a joy to see young families, originating from campers of the early years, bringing their own children and continuing to volunteer helping with this important, but challenging cause.
Some of the activities that N.O.R.R. campers have enjoyed include trips to historic sites such as the West Point Military Academy, days at various lakes for swimming and canoeing, one day hikes in the mountains for all campers, 2 and 3 day hikes for older campers and participation in local town parades. Popular activities in camp include soccer matches for all ages including spirited games against parents and alumni, volleyball, swimming and water-polo, steal the flag games, “NORR Olympics”, basketball tournaments, etc. Evening activities consist of singing, board games, movies, group discussions on history and recent events and good natured camaraderie.
Each year, one of the highlights of the camp season is the “celebration” weekend when campers march in a festive parade, become members of the organization in a solemn ceremony, sing around a campfire and remember those who have served in the organization before them. This weekend comes to a wonderful conclusion on Sunday with a joyous afternoon during which every single camper participates in a dancing and singing performance for all parents and guests.