Sturgis Public Schools Orchestra Camp
It’s been a year since Sturgis High School orchestra students were trapped at the camp due to severe storms that ravaged the area.
Band camp has been held at Camp Fort Hill since the 1990s, said director Eliot Gitelman, and the week-long camp is held before school every year.
But no year has been like 2021 when students had to walk out of camp and leave their instruments behind.
When severe storms hit in August 2021, students still had a day and night of camp to do, Gitelman said.
About 45 students were at the camp that night when the storm hit, Gitelman recalled. Around 5:15 a.m., he went to get them out of their cabins and put them in the shelter.
The group has been in contact with school staff by phone all morning, Gitelman said. Nick Herblet and Nicole Gittinger put their own house troubles on hold and drove in search of a clear route to camp. Dave Northrop drove to camp and hiked through the fallen trees to meet the group. Doug Camburn pulled a school bus out once a clear roadway was found.
“We had to abandon all our cars because there was no road out of Fort Hill,” Gitelman said. “It was completely covered in fallen trees and in some places the road was actually gone.”
The group spent the morning cleaning the cabins, bathrooms and camp lodge and storing personal effects and instruments in the lodge for later. They picked up fallen branches to clear them out of the way for helpers later.
“We all walked what should have been the road, climbing over and under fallen trees (we had two students on crutches) and carrying only what we could fit into backpacks,” Gitelman said. . “We left all our food with the people clearing the trees.”
Camburn met the group at the corner of Klinger Lake Road and North Everson. There was no way to get the bus down to the street due to trees and power lines. The area fire department was also there to work on it. The group was bussed back to high school. When the camp was somewhat cleared, the campers were able to return to get their things, their instruments and their cars.
At camp last week, some students were hesitant to return to camp because they were there in the storm last year, Gitelman said.
Gitelman said meals were prepared by the senior class and the group spent camp learning new music, working on instrumental skills and organizing group activities to help the students get to know each other better so that they can work together during the year.
“But this year we had wonderful weather,” he said. “It was great.”