Pines Bible Camp in Grand Forks celebrated its 50th anniversary on Sunday in style with a celebration service in the morning featuring several speakers and the unveiling and dedication of a monument and a charter members’ bench. The afternoon saw a video interview with camp founder George Martens and an informal open mic time for former campers and staffers who shared thoughts and reflections. The event wrapped up in the evening with a worship concert.
“This is a big deal,” said Gene Krahn, executive director for Pines. “It’s a big celebration. We’ve got different people here at the camp from different eras sharing some of their thoughts and reflections.”
Krahn started with Pines 19 years ago and has seen many changes. He said that when he started, he was the only full-time staffer and now the camp employs five full-time, year-round staff members.
“Our core audience are kids and families, for the most part,” said Krahn. “We run summer camps all summer long. Day camps for kids four and five years old, right up to teen camps and family camps.”
Pines has also become a retreat centre where groups can come for family reunions or business retreats or similar events.
“We provide programming for team building or just a facility for banquets,” he said. “We also have a school program with outdoor education for school groups in the spring and fall.”
Krahn said the camp has had many changes since the camp began and the years since. The number of campers has increased from 400 when Krahn began to close to 1,400 in 2011.
“We’ve really grown in our summer camp programs in terms of numbers,” he said. “Facility wise, post-2012 windstorm, we’ve basically got all new cabins and new layout with a new dining facility. It’s got a whole new look. People don’t recognize it. Many of the old buildings are gone or have been removed.”
The camp now features a state of the art aerial obstacle course, a beach with kayaking as well as typical camp fare such as archery, rock climbing and rappelling.
“In some ways, it’s tough because there’s a lot of memories from over the years when the place looked the way it did,” said Krahn. “It’s the end of an era. But we’re looking forward to the next 50 years with the camp looking like it does today and all the memories that are going to come.”
Former camper and camp staffer Dylan Zorn was out at the event and took the mic to talk about how he met his wife at Pines.
“I came here as a kid,” he told the Gazette. “I kept coming as a teenager and eventually became a program director. I met my wife here. She came up from Aldergrove to be a counsellor and I was here and four years later we married. We’ve been married for 10 years now and have three kids.”
Zorn fondly recalls sleepovers at the camp and trips to the tuck shop to pick up candy for the day.
“You were allowed to do things you weren’t necessarily able to do at home,” he said. “Things like swimming in the river every day. That’s a highlight for a kid.”