When thinking about the traditional summer camp, it's typical to envision songs around the fire, swimming and outdoor activities.
But students at Harand Camp of the Theatre Arts, in Kenosha, Wis., have a lot more to occupy their time.
Kids and teens from across the Midwest and the nation congregate at Harand Camp to learn and enjoy the performance arts as well as sporting and recreational activities.
The camp, with headquarters in Evanston, Ill., got its start in 1955 as the brainchild of sisters Sulie and Pearl Harand and their husbands Byron Friedman (Sulie's spouse) and Sam Gaffin (Pearl's spouse). It actually began as a studio with workshops taught by the Harands, who had experience in Chicago's musical theater community. They offered workshops throughout Chicagoland.
The family later operated their camp in Elkhart Lake, Wis., then in 1989 moved the venue to Beaver Dam, Wis. As of 2005, Harand Camp is enlivening the entertainment and recreational scene on the grounds of Carthage College in Kenosha.
"This is our 56th season," said camp co-director Janice Gaffin Lovell, daughter of Pearl Harand. The camp offers one-, three-, and six-week sessions every summer for students ages 8 to 18. The first session begins June 20.
"We get students from the Chicago-area, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota as well as the East Coast and the West Coast," Gaffin said. While many come from across the country, Gaffin said they've even had students from England and France.
Through the years, notable individuals from the entertainment field have also called themselves "Haranders." They include actors Billy Zane and Jeremy Piven. Piven's parents Byrne and Joyce of Piven Theatre Workshop even taught workshops in acting during early Harand studio days.
Currently, Sulie, her daughter Judy Friedman Mooney and Pearl's daughter's Nora Gaffin Shore and Janice run the camp. During a recent Harand Camp Scholarship Fund event --- the first Blue and White Bash -- attendees honored Sulie for her dedication to education and the arts world.
"Sulie's still around and going strong," Gaffin said, adding the camp's co-founder still views the mission of the camp as encouraging students' imaginations, nurturing their talents and instilling in them a sense of self-esteem.
"One of our creeds is 'No man is an island,' Gaffin said, adding they believe in everyone working together and allowing all students to take a starring role in productions.
Among courses on the Harand roster are a variety of musical theater classes as well as tennis, softball, soccer, video, arts and crafts, photography and more.
Elly Gross, 10, of Schererville, has attended Harand Camp for three years and will participate again this summer. Her sisters Rachel and Sami are also Haranders.
"I like theater, singing and also sports," Elly said. "That makes me want to keep going back. And I've made new friends there," she said.
Elly has enjoyed meeting people from different states and she particularly likes performing in the camp's finale musical, which all students take part in.
Elly learned about the camp from her sisters.
"I'm hoping one day I'll be a counselor," she said.
"Our older sister Sami went (first) and we went to see the shows and that made me want to go to Harand," Rachel Gross said.
Rachel, 12, who is in her fifth year as a camper, said she likes to sing, dance and act.
"They have excellent teachers," she said.
Among shows the Gross sisters have been in are "The Wizard of Oz," Cinderella" and "Peter Pan."
"They teach us about theater, dancing and singing but they also teach us about independence and friendship," Rachel said.
According to Rachel Williams, Human Resources manager for Avatar Corporation in University Park, attending Harand Camp as a kid was a wonderful experience. Williams, of Frankfort, said she attended from the age of 8 to 18.
"It was one of those things that just grows on you," she said. "It's magical. I was an only child and it helped build my confidence."
Williams said she wouldn't hesitate to send her children to Harand if they were interested.
Kyleen Likas, 14 of Crown Point, is embarking on her sixth year of attending Harand.
"It's really fun and I've met a lot of people from around the country," she said. Putting on musicals at the end of the session, she said, has always been one of the highlights. Likas has performed in the camp's productions of "Bye, Bye Birdie," "Babes in Toyland," "Oklahoma" and other musicals.
For Indianapolis resident Kevin Bomberger, Haranders were like family.
"I'm still in touch with a ton of my old friends from camp," said Bomberger, who grew up in Munster.
He said the skills he learned in theater and the building of self-esteem helped him in his current sales career.
Bomberger started going to camp in the '80s at the age of 13.
"Uncle Byron was there and Aunt Pearl and Sulie. You felt like you had your grandparents there at camp," he said.
Harand Camp dates and prices
One-week session: June 20 to June 26 ($895)
First Session: June 20 to July 11 ( $2,635)
Second Session: July 12 to Aug. 1 ($2,735)
Full Session: June 20 to Aug. 1 ($5,025)
The camp also has the Harand Scholarship Fund which awards scholarships to students based on financial need and application essays