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Summer Camp Chronicles: The Talent Show

May 26, 2011
Kentucky Mumbler

The best part of the show was usually the hosts. On the right is the Kentucky Mumbler and his interpreter is on the left.

You may have heard that a kid from North Carolina won American Idol last night. Or is it just in NC that everyone is talking about Scotty and it’s all over the news and a front page, banner headline in the newspaper? I have personally never watched a single episode of American Idol. This isn’t because of television snobbery, but because I can’t handle people making fools of themselves or watching judges be mean to defenseless kids on national television.

You see, I had my fill of embarrassing displays of attempted talent while working at a summer camp for six summers. More than my fill, actually. Every Thursday evening we would have a talent show. One in which campers could get on stage and do just about anything they wanted, whether it actually took talent or not. It is as thrilling as you imagine.

For some kids, this was their chance to be the center of attention and were in half the “acts.” For others, this was a genuine attempt at displaying their skills with the jazz flute.* Still others used it as a chance to express their inner self by signing a song with more melodrama than an episode of Will and Grace.**

What made it worse is that I had to take photos of each and every act from the front row or right beside the stage. Unlike the rest of the staff who could avoid eye contact with the talent by standing in the back, I had to endure from a mere few feet away.

I’d like to think that it was some sort of character building activity and will come in handy later in life, but I’m pretty sure it was just torture.

There were a couple of summers where one song made an appearance at least once at every single talent show. That song is, I’m almost certain, the most over-played song in all of Christendom. It is a song that has the ability to carve a hole into your brain and stay there for weeks on end as it slowly drives you insane with its repeated stanzas and sugary after taste. That song is the one and only “I Can Only Imagine.”

Even now I’m fighting it from boring into my brain. It can only be combated by playing a completely different song in style and taste.

Not only would campers sing this song, they would sign it or do a dramatic interpretation of it. Over and over and over again I heard this song. Don’t get me wrong—it’s a nice enough song. But listen to any song enough times and you begin to wonder if the songwriter’s intention was to ruin your life.

The last summer I worked at camp they put a limit to the number of talent show entries. They didn’t hold tryouts or anything, but attempted to be a little more discerning, so we wouldn’t stay up until midnight watching 17 kids blow bubble gum bubbles with their noses. It was the right thing to do.

Otherwise there’s no telling what would have happened. We could still be sitting there watching someone do an interpretive sign language montage of “Watch the Lamb,” “Friends are Friends Forever,” and “I Can Only Imagine.”

*You may be wondering, who brings a jazz flute to camp? Oh but kids do—they do indeed.

**I’ve been saving up that Will & Grace reference for a while. I kid, I kid. Or do I?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 26, 2011 2:26 pm

    Which camp was this, precisely? I worked four summers at two Boy Scout camps. We never had talent shows, but we did, as a staff, make fools of ourselves at every possible opportunity.

    • dtdorrin permalink*
      May 26, 2011 2:44 pm

      It was TVR Christian Camp ( A great camp! The staff at TVR spent a lot of its time making fools of themselves as well. Although it was on purpose, unlike the talent show a lot of the time…

  2. Josh Benfield permalink
    May 27, 2011 5:16 pm

    You make me laugh! Tracy and I both enjoyed reminiscing about talent shows. My personal favorite was the combo effort of the long-haired kid with the electric guitar who was playing some sort of death metal guitar riffs, while a skinny dorky kid stood next to him showing us how many times in a row he could bounce a ping pong ball on a paddle.

    It is so true that we would all look away at the awkwardness, I never considered that you had to maintain eye contact to take a picture.

    Great memories! I hope my kids get to make a fool of themselves one day at TVR! Maybe Wyatt will bust out his uncles interpretation of Tigger or the Kentucky Mumbler.

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