Summer camp spots filled at record rates throughout the mid-valley this year as pandemic restrictions loosened and families scrambled to get their children into social activities again.
Organizers say there might be a few spots left, however — if you hurry.
"They've been extremely popular this year," said Lacey Moore, outdoor environmental education and camps coordinator for Corvallis Parks & Recreation. "This summer, everybody wants to go to camp."
Most of the Corvallis programs are full, Moore said, but she encourages parents to check out the website anyway, https://www.corvallisoregon.gov/parksrec/page/parks-and-recreation-activity-guide.
"I still think it's worthwhile for parents to get on the wait list, because if we can open up more sections or cohorts for students ... we have some more flexibility in terms of adding students and again increasing cohort size as long as we have the staff for it."
Which brings up another point, Moore added: Corvallis is still hiring day camp leaders, for people who meet the requirements and are looking for a job. For more information, see the city's site at https://www.corvallisoregon.gov/hr/page/employment.
Moore said she's heard parents have been disappointed at how fast things filled, and noted the calendar for next summer will come out in March or April if anyone wants to get a head start on looking for it.
She chalks up the extra interest this year to the COVID-19 restrictions that kept kids home from school and sports for more than a year.
"Kids are in need of more socialization," she said. "Definitely, parents want their kids around other kids, is what I'm hearing a lot."
That doesn't mean the pandemic is forgotten. Camps are still following Oregon Health Authority protocols. Campers and counselors wear masks inside and stay in cohorts that don't mingle, although the cohorts are larger this year: 20 students as compared with 10 last year.
Handwashing and other cleaning practices are still the order of the day, and most materials aren't shared. At check-in, campers go through a COVID screening that involves a temperature check and a series of questions about exposure and symptoms.
The pandemic caused changes in other area camps, too. The Majestic Theatre in Corvallis usually mounts a full Broadway Junior-style stage production, but felt an outdoor program was the way to go this year, said Rachel Kohler, who is in charge of the Majestic's educational programs.
"Without the stage, and with our reduced cohort sizes for safety, doing a full play didn't seem practical. So instead, we decided to create a pair of skills-based camps for two different age groups that would produce showcase performances at the end," she said.
Registration is closed now, she said. "The parents who signed their kids up signed up very quickly."
In Albany, Misha Lind, the recreation coordinator for Family Programs at Albany Parks & Recreation, said a few spaces are still open in the "Junior Explorers" camp for elementary ages.
"We started out with 25 spaces in those camps and expanded them to 60 at this point," she said. "There is definitely a lot of interest in those. They've been super popular."
Lind said part of the reason for the extra popularity might be that Greater Albany Public Schools gave the camp program a grant for scholarship for all GAPS students to attend camp for free."That's been super exciting," she said. "People didn't believe us when we told them."
Like Corvallis, Albany ran camps last summer, but also under much stricter provisions. Camps had spaces for 30 attendees total between two groups and didn't usually fill up each week.
"It definitely seems like people are more comfortable this summer," she said. "People are excited about something to do."
Attendance has changed but precautions haven't, Lind said. Masks are still worn inside, COVID checks take place at check-in and there's plenty of handwashing and sanitizing of spaces.
"We plan activities that are going to facilitate distancing," she said. "You're not going to see us playing tag this summer."