Sixteen children ages 7-12 enjoyed a week of fun and educational activities last week at Fort Morris State Historic Site. According to ranger Arthur Edgar, the park manager, the Junior Ranger Camp is a one-week, annual event he’s led since he transferred from another state park 22 years ago.
Several volunteers assist Edgar in running the camp, including Donna Jolley, who documents camp activities with digital photos so the kids and their parents will have mementos of the participants’ weeklong adventure.
Edgar also was assisted by his wife, Debbi, and daughter Amylei. Amylei, 18, said she has participated in the Junior Ranger Camp since she was 3 years old. Several other teenage volunteers donated their time and energies in teaching and guiding campers during games, skits and craft activities.
“I’m the only paid employee at Fort Morris,” Edgar said. “Everyone else volunteers their time and talent. We have a lot of businesses and individuals who sponsor the camp each year, such as Sunbury Crab Company, Holton’s Seafood and Pizza Peddler in Midway, as well as Pizza Hut, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Dairy Queen and the Osteen family.”
The site manager said this year’s theme was “Friends, Foes and Flintlocks.” Campers began each day with an outside activity designed to help them learn about nature, like a marsh walk. They also studied the history of Fort Morris.
Edgar said on Wednesday, campers were greeted by special guest Jamie Keena, a Colonial re-enactor. Through Keena, campers learned about Fort Morris’ role in the American Revolution, including Col. John McIntosh’s defiant, “Come and take it!” response to a British officer’s demand that he surrender the earthen fort. Fort Morris was manned by both Continental Army soldiers and local militiamen.
Amylei Edgar said Keena began by leading the campers, armed with wooden muskets, around the park while beating a Revolutionary War drum. Keena later stood them in a skirmish line and ordered them to “attack the enemy.” The “bad guys” were a group of moss-covered oak trees, Edgar said with a laugh.
On Thursday, re-enactor George Strickland talked about animals during the Revolutionary War, including insects, work animals and types of animals that were eaten. Jolley said that on Friday, Strickland’s wife, Patty, told the children about camp followers and Colonial women.
Debbi Edgar said indoor activities included games, crafts and making daily entries in a journal, which the campers gave to their parents at the end of the week. Throughout the week, she said campers practiced skits performed for their parents on family day. Two skits they practiced were the Flags of the American Revolution and Animals of War. Campers also practiced a skit called the Sound of War, she said.
Debbi Edgar also taught attendees about the different sections of the American flag and went over some rules from the U.S. Flag Code.
“You’re not supposed to wear the flag as part of your clothing,” she said. “And you’re never to let the flag touch the ground. ... When the flag is being raised or lowered, you’re supposed to stop and salute.”
After the short block of instructions, campers were given worksheets to complete, testing their newly acquired American flag knowledge. The sheets were checked and returned for insertion into the children’s journals.
Edgar said the park’s next big event is scheduled for Independence Day from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. The program will include musket and cannon firings, Colonial music and children’s activities. Fort Morris is on Fort Morris Road, off Islands Highway in Sunbury. For more information, call 884-5999.