Creative Thought and Collaboration! Marathon – Part 1

Creative Thought and Collaboration! Marathon – Part 1

By Pati Egan

There is something about Camp Ondessonk that opens the mind to creative thought, collaboration, and a finished product that withstands the test of time. The Marathon Race is the brainchild of Dan Hechenberger. Dan was Program Director in 1975. Field Day and Water Carnival were getting stale and didn’t have the zip it once had. Dan wanted to create something fresh, new, and original. “I mulled over ideas and landed on the basic idea to tie all the activities together into something, since most campers spent the week, in part, working toward earning arrowheads in the activities. It didn’t take long to figure out that a relay race was the best way to tie the activities together,” said Dan. Big ideas never happen in a vacuum. Dan collaborated with Staff members like Bob Stowe, Gene Canavan, and Ranger Royce. It didn’t take long for the entire Staff to get behind this idea. Part of the challenge was that the Camp administration thought it was a crazy idea and would never work. “When I shared the idea with the entire Staff, I remember making the point that the administration thought the idea would fail. That insured a strong desire from the staff to make it work,” explained Dan.

I remember Bob Stowe suggesting the upside-down sailboat race. The kids had to use their hands to go from the Sailing area to where Lakeside is now. This was usually pretty amusing as the boat hulls did not cooperate!

Mount Your Horse…the Marathon has begun!

The Pony Express Riders!

Probably the most coveted job in Marathon was Pony Express Rider 1 & 2. Michelle (Kreppert) Bretscher recalls that the first rider started in the middle of lower Pasture D and rode to the gate of Pasture C. The next rider would leave from there and head to the new barn (before the new barn it was the hay shed). Geno either came up with the idea of the saddling and horse race component or added to an initial simple horse race, two campers from each unit would ride horses in a relay race. According to Chris Cahnovsky, “We used to run the horses from lower D to the C gate then from the C gate to middle of C. Too many kids came off the horses. Campers riding the horses stopped in about 1987. Then the kids had to lead the horses. I don’t remember much on that. By 1988, we selected the ponies and had the Pony Express Runner hold the horse while riders 1 and 2 both got on the pony bareback. We did this until I left being the equestrian director.”

The campers are clutching bread bags with their chip in it – no, not lunch!

This too proved to be not the best idea. Nikki Enderle recalls that by the time she was working in the stables with Kate Albrecht, “We were doing stick ponies when I began as a wrangler in 2001/2002. The live mounting went away sometime when I was a camper; my friend in grade school rode and got to do it. So as of sometime in 1996-2000 it was still a thing. We did eventually move the stick ponies from the arena to the grassy area in front of the fences by the new Dining Hall in the later 2000s.”

Feed Sacks?

The next three activities occurred in the pastures.

The Sack Racer carried all the chips collected thus far while doing an old-fashioned Sack Race to the Two-Armed racers (this is on the original script, but I recall the Two-Legged racers being in this sequence). All the while they would add their chip to the collection and hand off to the Pasture Relay Runner.

Off To The Main Area!

A Nail Pounding event was the next stop in the race! This happened at the Handicrafts Building. It was not very popular, and it was difficult to find 10 hammers.

There was a very cool tower attached to the Handicrafts Building.

There was a surprise event by the Original Dining Hall. This was usually something like eating crackers then trying to whistle.

The next challenge was a Word Find at the Original Administration Building. The camper would complete the Word Find, add their chip, and give all chips to the Grotto Road Runner.

The camper had to be fast, accurate, and remember to add their chip before handing off to the Fire Builder!

Who Paid Attention In Woodcrafts?

The Grotto Road Runner would hand the chips off to the Fire Builder. The Fire Builder would gather supplies to make a fire near the ends of the benches. The fire had to be big enough to burn a string.

We Need Our Best Swimmer!

A camper would Crab Walk across the beach, jump in Lake St. Issaac and swim with all of their might to the ropes and back. The Sailing Relay Runner would get a rubber band from the swimmer, that was added to all of the other chips. This person would run as fast as they could to the Sailing area.

No Experience Necessary – Sailors Needed!

Getting the sailboat from the Sailing area to old Lalemant shore.

The campers in the background are the Garner Relay Runners. The Sailboat Racers would have to get all the chips collected thus far to the Relay Runner. A bad throw from the Sailboat could spell doom for a unit.

Next Stop – Row boating – Oh No! Where Are the Oars?

Oars wouldn’t be much of a challenge for these experienced rowers.

Four campers would be in the rowboat and must somehow get to certain point just using their hands and feet, row back, and give the unit’s chips to the Spillway Runner.

And now…

The Grand Finale!

This was a true skill event. Three campers would be in the canoe; two paddling and one holding all the chips! They would head for the Boating Beach as fast as they could – but don’t tip and don’t lose your chips!

Dan Hechnberger felt it was important that the campers and Staff would have a chance to work together to win the race. The great equalizer was an original part of the race. Originally, the camper was given a little tag (later chips) that they must put into a container of some sort – designed by the Unit Leader and campers.

This was in the beginning of Girl’s Camp – notice, just a manilla envelope was used to collect chips. This must have been a new unit leader.

The race was broadcast “live” over two-way walkie talkies hooked up to the main Camp speakers.

By the end of the summer, milk cartons, pringles cans, and old containers from the kitchen were the norm for placing the chips. Chips were counted in the Program Office after all units completed the race. The winner was announced at dinner along with points toward the Golden Arrowhead.

The camper had to put their chip into the container and hand it off to the next camper. The winning unit not only had to be first on the Canoeing Beach, but also have all their chips. This made the race fair for the units that had the younger campers. The winner was the unit that not only had all their chips but also made it to the Canoeing area. A few times the unit that came in 4th, 5th, and 6th scored 1st, 2nd, and 3rd because the units ahead of them lost chips.

To be continued June 26th. Watch for “Heepwah for the Dreamers and Innovators – Marathon Part 2.”

Click here to learn more about Camp Ondessonk’s Mission & History.


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