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When Joey Farley flew a Cessna 172 from Middlesboro to Jamestown last summer, he saw some kids inner-tubing and fishing down below. Pretty cool, considering he was only 10 years old at the time.

The Corbin youngster was just one of nearly 500 children ages 10 to 15 who took to the cockpit last summer as part of the Aviation Museum of Kentucky’s Aviation Camp, which is held annually in several cities across the state.

“It’s such an esteem builder,” says David Helm, Aviation Camp coordinator. “When campers go back to school and write their essay on their summer vacation, they can say, ‘I flew an airplane.’ And the other kids will say, ‘No way!’ But they can say, ‘No, really, I did!’”

So if the words “summer camp” conjure up images of mildewed sleeping bags and stale bologna sandwiches, your kids will want you to look again. There’s nothing stale about summer camps these days.

Whether it’s learning to fly or learning to play chess, backpacking or studying American presidential politics, Kentucky’s summer camps offer kids fun, engaging activities for just about every interest. The only prerequisite: a willingness to have fun!

Something for Everyone
Lindsey Jewett recalls the morning she awoke to a “gorgeous blue mist” hovering beneath the cliff on which she was camped in the Red River Gorge. It is one of the 16-year-old Nashville, Tennessee, native’s favorite summer camp memories—though as a veteran camper at the YMCA of Louisville’s Camp Piomingo in Brandenburg, she has many.

Her participation in the camp’s Trailblazers Program took her on a five-day backpacking trip to the Gorge two summers ago, and her five summers in Piomingo’s “challenging” Equestrian Program have helped her improve her jumping range from 2 to 3 feet, she says.

Lindsey’s exposure to both horses and backpacking while at the same summer camp illustrates the degree to which many camps today are specializing—and thinking beyond the mold of traditional camp activities—to meet the needs and interests of a wide variety of campers.

While Piomingo offers campers a chance to take part in fun, age-old summer camp activities like swimming, canoeing, archery, and the like, campers in its Traditional Programs also get to choose from among specialized “clinic sessions” where they can make pottery or jewelry, go mountain biking or caving, or work as journalists or photographers at the camp’s weekly newspaper.

Other camps, like the Woodford County Extension Office’s Sewing Camp or the KCY Summer Chess Camps held in Louisville, focus on just one specialized topic.

Fitting in is a big part of what keeps campers coming back year after year to Western Kentucky University’s Summer Program for Verbally and Mathematically Precocious Youth (VAMPY) says Sarina Sahetya, a Bowling Green native who attended the camp for four years and who worked as a counselor there last summer.

While Sahetya says sometimes new campers arrive at VAMPY thinking they have “three weeks of nerd camp” in store for them, they leave “amazed by the array of social experiences” and the chance to study interesting topics they might not be exposed to in their regular schools.

This year’s VAMPY campers can choose from among subjects like American presidential politics, genetics, Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, or molecular cell biology—all while in a setting that “gives campers an opportunity to be with others who think like they do and who share their interests,” says Dr. Julia Roberts, director of WKU’s Center for Gifted Studies.

Similarly, Eastern Kentucky University’s Stephen Collins Foster Music Camps—in their 70th season as the second oldest instrumental summer music camps in the nation—give junior high and high school singers and musicians a chance to “experience music in a new environment with dedicated musicians, outside of their schools, and help give campers a new perspective on their performances and how they can improve,” says Kristi Howe, the camps’ events coordinator and an alumna of the camps herself.

Try Something New
Last summer at Piomingo, 10-year-old Luke Geftos of Louisville shot a BB gun and tried his hand at archery. It was his first time for both.

When his mom, Tammi, picked him up at the end of the week, she could “tell how much fun he’d had by how dirty he was,” she says. When she asked if he was ready to go back next year, his response was a quick, “Oh, yeah!”

That’s what summer camp is all about, after all. Having a little fun. Getting dirty. Trying something new.

Girls with little or no sailing experience are welcome at Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana’s Bear Creek Aquatic Camp, says camping administrator Lisa Gunterman.

The only prerequisite for the KCY Summer Chess Camps is knowing the basic rules of the game, says camp director Andrew Porter.

And kids who’ve never sewn a stitch can take home their very own purse or pajama pants by the end of the week at the Woodford County Extension Office’s Sewing Camp, says Extension agent Jennifer Klee.

“It’s so self-satisfying for the campers to be able to leave the camp with a real life skill that will open doors to creativity and to have something that they made themselves, from start to finish,” Klee says.

The chance to expose kids to something new and fun is what motivates camp directors like David Helm and Larry Maxwell year after year.

“I want to see them enjoying it,” Helm says of his goals with the Aviation Camp. “I want to see them discovering some of the opportunities that are out there for them. There’s a lot more to aviation than just flying airplanes.”

Maxwell, executive director at Camp Piomingo, makes sure that evenings after dinner at his camp are full of skits, scavenger hunts, “time for kids to have fun and be outdoors and be kids.” It’s something he feels is “more important today than it ever has been” as kids spend more and more time “inside in front of TV and computer screens.”

Summer camp is a chance to enjoy the simple pleasures, “to hear the steady patter of rain on a cabin roof, the sounds of night outside your window, a cool refreshing break in the pool, and the warmth of a campfire,” agrees Donna Fox, an Extension associate for 4-H and Youth Development who helps coordinate Kentucky’s four residential 4-H camps.

For today’s kids, summer camp is a time away from the day-to-day routine and into a special place that’s just for them. At Camp Piomingo, visitors are greeted at the front entrance by a canoe emblazoned with the words “Let the Magic Begin.”


A gold mine for anyone searching for Kentucky summer camp opportunities is the annual Camps for Kids & More! Family Planner, which focuses on camps in the Louisville area, but also includes listings for several other camps and activities throughout the state and nation. The guide is available for $12.95 at your local bookstore or online at You can also find out more about this summer’s residential and non-overnight camp offerings—with a focus on those in Louisville and Lexington and surrounding counties—at two upcoming camp fairs this month:

Summer Camp Kickoff
Saturday, April 16, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Free admission
River City Indoor Soccer, 3383 Freys Hill Road, Louisville
Camp scholarships will be offered as door prizes. Call Nicole Clark at (502) 485-7004 for more information.

Lexington Family Magazine’s Third Annual Summer Camp and Activities Fair
Saturday, April 23, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Free admission
Kentucky Indoor Soccer and Sports, 404 Sporting Court, Lexington
Door prizes and free giveaways will be offered.

Check out the magazine’s 2005 camp listing at,
available online after April 30, or call Laurie Evans at (859) 223-1765 to request a print copy of the guide, found in the magazine’s April issue.

Detailed information about camps across the U.S. is available online, and some sites offer parents free assistance in choosing the right camp for your child’s interests.

Finally, don’t forget to check out camp opportunities through your local library, YMCA office, county Extension office, city parks, museums, or schools, many of which offer a variety of day-camp programs each summer.


From aviation or basketball to theater or music, there’s likely a summer camp to fit your children’s interests. Here is a sampling of the types of camps being offered in Kentucky this summer:


The Summer Camp for Academically Talented Middle School Students (SCATS)
Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green
Ages: students who have completed 6th-8th grades
Dates: June 12-24
(270) 745-6323

The Summer Program for Verbally and Mathematically Precocious Youth (VAMPY)
Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green
Ages: students who have completed 7th-10th grades
Dates: June 26-July 16
(270) 745-6323

Transylvania University Computer Camps and Academic Camp
Ages: 8th-12th graders
Dates: various sessions, June 5-July 1
(859) 233-8228


Eastern Kentucky University Athletic Camps (click on Camps)

Morehead State University Athletic Camps (Choose sport from drop down on left, then click on Camps)

Murray State University Summer Youth Programs

Transylvania University Athletic Camps

University of Kentucky Athletic Camps (click on Camps)

University of Louisville Athletic Camps


Stephen Collins Foster Music Camps
Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond
Ages: 6th-12th graders
Dates: various sessions, June 12-July 1
(859) 622-3161


Aviation Camp
Bowling Green, Danville, Glasgow, Lexington, Louisville, Madisonville, Pikeville, and Somerset
Ages: 10-15
Dates: various sessions, June 6-July 29
(859) 263-4068

Eco Camp
Louisville Nature Center/Louisville Zoo
Ages: 8-12
Dates: June 20-24 and July 25-29
Times: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. (Spring & Summer Class/Camp List, then Eco Camp)
(502) 238-5382

Jenny Wiley Theatre Summer Camp Workshops
Ages: 7-16
Dates: July 5-18
Times: Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. (click on Education)
(606) 886-9274

KCY Summer Chess Camps
Ages: 7-14
Dates: June 13-16, June 20-23, June 27-July 1
Times: morning sessions, 8:30-11:30 a.m.; afternoon sessions, 12:30-3:30 p.m.
(502) 568-3926

Kentucky Humane Society Pet Paradise
Jefferson, Oldham, and Henry counties
Ages: 6-13
Dates: Jefferson County, various sessions June 6-
Aug. 12; Oldham County, July 11-15 and July 18-
22; Henry County, July 25 (one-day camp)
Times: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; Henry County one-day camp runs 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
(502) 515-3145

Louisville Zoo
Offers a variety of camps including Safari Day Camp, Teen Safari, Zooper Kids, Two by Twos, Two by Threes
Dates & Times: various June-August
Ages: 2-15 (Spring &
Summer Class/Camp List)
(502) 238-5382

Murray State University
A wide range of camps including: Robotics Camp, Young Authors, Sports Medicine, Summer Art, Trumpet Workshop, Wind Workshop, and Sports Camps including basketball, tennis, track and distance, and volleyball.
Ages: variety from grade 2 through high school and beyond
Dates: variety
(800) 669-7654 ext. 3659

University of Kentucky Art Museum CuriARTsity Camp
Ages: 8-12
Dates: June 13-17, July 11-15, July 18-22
Times: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
(859) 257-6199

Woodford County Cooperative Extension Sewing Camp
Ages: 10-13
Dates: Level 1, July 18-21; Level 2, July 11-14
Times: 9 a.m. to noon
(859) 873-4601


Camp Hendon at Camp Crooked Creek
For children with diabetes
Near Shepherdsville
Ages: 8-17
Dates: July 24-30 (click on Community programs, then Diabetes Camps)
(888) 342-2383 ext. 3324

Camp Heart to Heart
For children with HIV/AIDS or who have HIV+ family member, or who have lost a family member to AIDS

Camp Crescendo
Lebanon Junction
Ages: 5-12 (free for Kentucky residents)
Dates: June 14-18
(888) 879-8884

Deaf Camp
For children who are deaf or have hearing disabilities
Aldersgate United Methodist Camp and Retreat Center, Irvine; Camp Loucon, Leitchfield
Ages: Aldersgate: 3rd-12th graders; Loucon: 1st-12th graders
Dates: Aldersgate: elementary students, June 13-15; junior and senior high students, June 13-18; Loucon: elementary students, July 10-13;
junior and senior high students, July 10-15
(859) 548-3069

Easter Seal Camp KYSOC
For children and adults with physical, developmental, and multiple disabilities, learning and behavioral disorders, eating disorders, spina bifida, and autism
Ages: 6 and up
Dates: various sessions, June 4-Aug. 25
(502) 732-5333

Indian Summer Camp
For children with cancer
Cedarmore Camp and Conference Center, Bagdad
Ages: 6-17
Dates: July 17-23
(859) 885-4536

Kentucky Lions Summer Camp for Blind and Vision Impaired Youth
Camp Crescendo, Lebanon Junction
Ages: 8-15 (free for Kentucky residents)
Dates: July 3-9
(888) 879-8884

Kentucky Lions Summer Camp for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Youth
Camp Crescendo, Lebanon Junction
Ages: 8-15 (free for Kentucky residents)
Dates: July 3-9
(888) 879-8884

Signing Camp
For hearing children who want to learn sign language
Aldersgate United Methodist Camp and Retreat Center, Irvine
Camp Loucon, Leitchfield
Ages: 7th-12th graders
Dates: Aldersgate, June 13-18; Loucon: July 10-15
(859) 548-3069


Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana’s Bear Creek Aquatic Camp
Kentucky Lake in Benton
Ages: 4th-12th graders (girls only)
Dates: various sessions, June 13-Aug. 3 (click on Camp Info)
(888) 771-5170 ext. 207

Camp Ernst
Ages: 6-15
Dates: various sessions, June 12-Aug. 20
(800) 962-1928

Camp Piomingo
Otter Creek Park, Brandenburg
Ages: 6-16
Dates: various sessions, June 5-Aug. 5 (click on Camps, then choose Camp Piomingo)
(800) 411-5822

Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation Camps
Benton, Grayson, Monticello
Ages: 10-13
Dates: various sessions, June 6-Aug. 12 (click on Education, then Conservation Education, then Camps)
(800) 858-1549 or contact your school’s conservation officer

Kentucky 4-H Camps
Dawson Springs, Nancy, London, and Carlisle
Ages: 9-14
Dates: various sessions, May 24-July 29
(859) 257-5961 or contact your county’s Extension office

Mission Adventure Camp for Boys
Campbellsville University, Campbellsville
Ages: 4th-10th graders
Dates: various sessions, June 13-July 15; also two father-son overnights for all ages, June 25-26 and July 8-9
(888) 254-5720

Mission Adventure Camp for Girls
Cedarmore Camp and Conference Center, Bagdad
Ages: 3rd-10th graders
Dates: various sessions June–July; also overnights for1st-3rd graders and their moms
(888) 254-5726


For tips on selecting a camp that’s right for your child, click here: camp tips

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