Campers soar to new heights

William R. Toler | Daily Journal Lincoln Parrish of Johnston County yells, “This is awesome!” as he swings back toward the tower on the ropes course at MIllstone 4-H Camp.

William R. Toler | Daily Journal Brcyon Hughes, from Kinston, nails the bull’s-eye of the target on the archery range.

William R. Toler | Daily Journal Bobbie Faircloth of Rockingham comes up for air after seeing how long she could hold her breath underwater.

William R. Toler | Daily Journal Payton Smith of Rockingham helps set the tables in the dining hall for lunch.

William R. Toler | Daily Journal Ropes course instructor Cory Carter, right, unhooks Charlie Garron of Harnett County from the swinging rope.

William R. Toler | Daily Journal Michael Anthony Barbee of Rockingham chugs down a bottle of water to cool off just before lunch.

ELLERBE — “This is awesome!” Lincoln Parrish yelled while swinging from a high ropes course late Wednesday morning.

Parrish, of Johnston County, is one of 108 kids from a dozen counties at Millstone 4-H Camp this week for the first of two traditional six-day camps scheduled for this summer.

Campers arrived on Sunday and will be checking out on Friday, according to Keith Russell, center director.

“It’s a good group of kids,” he said, naming off the counties represented this week: Moore, Hoke, Harnett, Lenoir, Duplin, Johnston, Pender, Stanly, Catawba, Union, Alexander — and the home county of Richmond.

While the older campers — the “adventurers” — were at the ropes course, there were also kids on the archery range learning how to shoot a bow and some were swimming in the pool.

Brycon Hughes of Kinston nailed the bull’s-eye of the archery target with his first shot.

Over in the pool, Bobbie Faircloth of Rockingham was competing with friends to see who could hold their breath underwater the longest.

Leaders in training, teens shadowing the camp’s counselors, were teaching teamwork-building activities in the recreation hall.

While Payton Smith of Rockingham and her group were busy setting the tables for lunch in the dining hall, the rest of the campers participated in several repeat-after-me-style camp songs led by the counselors.

Other activities for the week include canoeing and crafts.

The camp has a paid staff of 24 with 4-H agents and several volunteers helping out, providing 1:4 ratio with the campers.

With temperatures hovering near the 100-degree mark for two weeks, Russell said they had to make some adjustments to camp schedules, especially during last week’s horsemanship camp.

“We’re keeping an eye on everybody,” he said. “Lots of water and rest breaks. The children are coping very well with it.”

Millstone, which has run camps since 1939, is one of three 4-H camps in North Carolina, the other two being in Reidsville and Columbia.

Most of the buildings were constructed by the Works Progress Administration — later renamed the Works Projects Administration — during the New Deal era.

“They timbered, milled and treated all the lumber on site,” Russell said.

A decision was made two years ago to consolidate to get enrollments up. The Betsy-Jeff Penn 4-H Educational Center in Reidsville was originally on the chopping block, but has remained open.

“It seems to be working,” Russell said. “We’re running close to capacity at the camps.”

The locations are mostly self-sufficient, raising funds through fees charged for the weekly camps.

The cost for this week’s camp, and another scheduled for July 5-10, is $420 per child, which Russell said, comparatively, “It’s a real bargain.”

Millstone also makes money by hosting tournaments, retreats, weddings and conferences — including a barbershop quartet conference.

The camp is planning to construct a new building — the SECU 4-H Learning Center — with all private funds. Russell said the two largest donors were State Employees Credit Union and the Cole Foundation.

Other camps scheduled for this summer include a 4-H Day Camp, Boating Camp and the 33rd annual Fur, Fish N’ Game Rendezvous, where campers will work with instructors from N.C. State, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and the N.C. Forest Service.

At that camp, the kids will be able to participate in canoeing, riflery, archery, reptile study, snake identification, taxidermy, fishing and orienteering.

Reach reporter William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_Toler.