Waterbury’s summer day camp is designed to deliver the best bang for your buck. It gives children a wide variety of stuff to do all summer, and the director of parks and recreation, Nick Nadeau, has been working hard to improve it every year.
The camp runs weekdays 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. from June 22 to Aug. 14, a total of eight weeks. There are two programs available, 80 spots for children kindergarten through grade three and 60 for children grades four to seven. The older group is based at Wesley United Methodist Church, and the younger at the recreation building at Anderson Field.
The children are further split into groups based on age and have activities tailored to their abilities and needs. The kids also play games and swim at the pool — general kid stuff — but Nadeau added more fun last year.
“There was a longstanding tradition of something called Olympic week and there was Halloween, with a haunted house,” he said, so he decided to take those one-offs and spread them through whole summer. Last year, the first week had an adventure and exploration theme, and the next, which is during Independence Day weekend, was red, white and blue. There were themes of superheroes, sports, music, holidays — celebrating a different holiday each day — and of course the Olympic Games. They ended the summer with what Nadeau called “crazy carnival,” with a dunk tank and other carnivalesque features.
Each week features a field trip, too, and Nadeau tries to line it up with the week’s theme.
To name a few, on red, white and blue week, the kids visited municipal buildings — the fire station, highway department, the town offices and even the sewer plant — to learn how their American town ticks. For the crazy carnival, they went to Ben and Jerry’s for ice cream, and for the super sports week they traveled to Burlington and took in a Lake Monsters baseball game.
Nadeau might switch it up this year, but that’s the gist; every week brings something for the kids.
“That’s my main goal, to make it as fun as possible for the kids but make sure it’s affordable,” he said.
The full eight-week program costs $725 for residents and $800 for nonresidents, and is wildly popular. Two years ago, all the spots sold out in just over four hours. Last year, they were gone in under 21 minutes, and this year they were sold in four minutes. While eight spots are sold on a week-by-week basis — available to residents for $175 and to nonresidents for $200 — Nadeau wants to expand the program, saying it has the best prices in the area, and possibly the state.
“After it sold out in four minutes, I went to the public works center and asked how much it would cost to rent a temporary building,” he said. While it’s just an idea right now, he’s committed making the Waterbury camp accessible and exceptional.
“I grew up in foster care and I spent a lot of time bouncing around and going to programs,” Nadeau said. He understands the need for good, affordable programs, and he’s not slowing down. “I’m excited to keep improving it each year.”