(This is an article I wrote for South Island Living on a very special family!)
Have you ever sent a child to summer camp and wished it was you going instead?
Wished you could be swimming in the lake, kayaking, boating, canoeing, eating in a dining hall? Staring at the campfire? Watching the sun set and the moon rise?
Dave and I had the privilege of visiting Ron and Janet Kolar at their Camp Winape in West Charleston, Vermont (in the Northeast Kingdom, very close to the Canadian border).
The Kolars are the current stewards of a special property that has been in their family since 1937.
The history of Camp Winape…by Ron Kolar
The camp was founded as a boys camp in 1911 by Sylvester Berry, Headmaster of the Irving School in New York. By 1921 there were over 100 campers and 15 counselors at camp during summer season. After “Chief” Berry’s death in 1928, the camp struggled during the Great Depression. From 1931-1934 Camp Winape was operated as a girl’s camp with Sass Kolar, Ron’s mother serving as head counselor. Sass had married Ed Kolar, also a head counselor at several boys camps in Connecticut and Maine. Both Ed and Sass loved the camping life and wanted to purchase and operate Winape themselves. Their dream came true in the spring of 1937.
Edward took on the name “Chief” from the boys nickname of the previous owner. Chief Kolar was Athletic Director, teacher and coach at Hoboken Academy in New Jersey while Sass was a teacher and coach for women in High School.
Over the years the Kolars made many improvements, making Camp Winape a first class camp.
Camp life at Winape was well organized, starting with a bugle call for reveille, flag raising, breakfast, activity periods, rest hour, general swims, meals, evening activities, camp fires, flag lowering and taps.
Winape was well known for its variety of activities and the training and preparation of the boys for long trips and outdoor camping. Athletics were an important part, with the boys learning and becoming proficient in softball, basketball, volleyball, tennis and lacrosse, target rifle shooting, archery and horseback riding.
After Chief and Sass renovated their residence in 1963, and installed a dorm, they conducted winter ski trips for boys, girls, and parents. In 1979, Town & Country magazine designated Winape as one of the outstanding traditional boy’s camps in the eastern United States.
The “End of an Era” for Camp Winape came in 1984 when Chief and Sass retired. They had operated this very active and successful camp for one hundred boys, each summer for 48 years. Children and grandchildren of previous campers and counselors had many wonderful memories of summers at Winape. The Kolars said at the time, “It has been forty-eight wonderful years since we first came to these hills which we now call our home. Each summer we have seen campers arrive without friends and with little confidence; we have been delighted seeing ‘our boys’ leave at the end of the summer, happy and fulfilled.”
Today, although many buildings and campers are gone, Winape continues to be used throughout the year by Janet and Ron Kolar and their sons, Eric and Alan, with their wives Megan and Jenie, and grandchildren Val, Shelby, Eli, Clayton, Sara, and Mary Caroline. Ron’s sister, Nancy Bowen and husband Ken live adjacent to Winape while Ron’s cousin, Erik Lessing and wife Rhealene spend summers just north up the lake.
For most of the summer the Kolar, Bowen, and Lessing families and friends enjoy the camp, especially the dining hall, which comes back to life just like the old days. The bell is rung for meals and the Winape tradition continues.
As for our visit to Camp Winape, it was a fantastic adventure. Knowing our time was short, Ron and Janet had jam-packed our days with activities. We began with a ride in a Kawasaki Mule and a quick tour of the camp buildings…with getting out on the water a top priority.
The Boat House
Camp Winape Canoes
Ron’s beautiful old Chris-Craft boat
The main, year round house is known as The Ski Lodge named for the winter ski trips orchestrated by Chief and Sass. It is unmistakeable with its white snow flakes adorning the walls.
The Big Lodge( built in 1911) in the foreground with The Ski Lodge behind.
When the entire family is visiting, The Dining Hall is where the family gathers for meals.
Meal times are a special treat with a job for everyone… cooking, serving, cleanup including hand washing the dishes.
Meals are announced by the “ringing of the bell” and is a coveted treat for the Kolar grandchildren.
We dined al fresco on our first night, sitting beneath Janet’s beautiful flower beds and the Big Lodge.
Two wood loon decoys adorned the table reminding of us the loon pair and chicks below us on the water. The cries of the loons were special.
Ron, Rhealene Lessing, Dave, Janet, and cousin, Erik Lessing.
Janet served a simple salad made special with her Vermont Maple Cashews and Vermont Maple Syrup Dressing.
- 2 cups cashew nuts or pecans
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon chili pepper mix
- These are delicious as a snack or on a salad.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix ingredients.
- Place parchment paper on a sheet pan.
- Spread nuts on parchment paper.
- Bake 10 minutes or more.
NotesThese are delicious as a snack or on a salad.
By Janet Kolar via KathyMillerTime
Recipe Printed from www.kathymillertime.com
- Candied Pecans or Cashews
- 1/3 cup Maple Syrup
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
- 3 tablespoons whole grain Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Prepare salad.
- Mix dressing ingredients.
- Shake well and toss.
NotesThe maple syrup dressing and maple syrup cashews make this special!
By Nancy Bowen via KathyMillerTime
Recipe Printed from www.kathymillertime.com
After dinner found us sitting at the lake, star gazing.
We were up at the crack of dawn the next morning for a kayak run. With the weather looking iffy we kayaked on the Seymour Lake and were back for breakfast before 8!
The afternoon brought more “muling” along many trails, used for snowmobiling in the winter and a hike up Mt. Elon for a view of Seymour Lake and Echo Lake. We even saw the maple syrup lines, tapped on property to make Camp Winape Pure Vermont maple syrup.
The Kolar family celebrating being together at Camp Winape
Janet says it best. “We have been blessed to be the caretakers of what God has created here in the Northeast Kingdom.” Janet stresses this statement…”It is not a treasure, if you do not share it with others.”
“It gives us so much pleasure over many years to share it…to see the excitement, fun and many activities that are new to children and friends—-we don’t want to take it for granted. It is all about making memories for family and grandchildren that will be their treasures in the future.”
And now with Ron and Janet carrying on the Camp Winape tradition, I can just imagine Sass and Chief looking down on the land, smiling, pleased that so many are enjoying their vision and labor of love.
And for all of you who have sent a child off to camp, Chief’s and Sass’ thought is worth repeating…
“Each summer we have seen campers arrive without friends and with little confidence; we have been delighted seeing ‘our boys’ leave at the end of the summer, happy and fulfilled.”