HAMPDEN, Maine — It turns out there actually is such a thing as a free lunch, as Hampden town employees found out firsthand Thursday at the Reeds Brook School.
It was “restaurant day” for participants and organizers of the Hampden Recreation Department’s six-week Kid’s Kamp program, and 45 children ages 5-11 were ready and able to serve it up.
“This is the most popular day by far,” said Jill McLaughlin, coordinator of the Hampden Recreation Department’s youth program. “The kids are very excited, but they take it very seriously. They use their manners a lot more today than any other day.”
The children were assigned various job titles such as host and hostess, waiter and waitress, cook and cleanup (busboy) to serve and wait on 20 town employees.
For a second straight year, Zach Steigert’s job was “cook.”
“I made sandwiches,” said the 10-year-old, now in his fourth year at Kid’s Kamp. “I like making the tuna because it’s easy to do, but my favorite to eat is probably roast beef.”
Forty to 50 people were served from a menu that included roast beef, BLT, tuna and ham sandwiches; fruit, potato and pasta salads; iced tea and lemonade; and strawberry or blueberry shortcakes.
“BLT’s are the most popular sandwich,” said Lauren MacDonald, 10, of Hampden.
MacDonald was a waitress for the second straight year.
“You have to remember what to write down on the notepad and go get it,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun. I think I might do it when I’m older.”
The children pick the food theme and then take care of everything from decorating place mats and their own aprons and chef’s hats, setting the tables, greeting diners and showing them to their tables. They even produce tabletop reading material with the Kid’s Kamp Daily Scoop newsletter.
Last year’s dinner theme was breakfast. The year before it was Mexican.
“There was no cooking this year and it went much better. Last year, we lost power, there was smoke, the fire alarm went off,” said Kamp staff member Emily Kiesman of Winterport.
Restaurant day is just one of many themed days, such as “ogre day,” where the campers eat “gross” things like fake eyeballs and gummy worms; space day, where they go on a field trip to a planetarium; beach day (Sand Beach); and lake day (Swan Lake).
“It’s kind of an alternative to day care with theme days with activities and crafts,” said McLaughlin. “Being active is the big thing because a lot of kids in the summer stay home and play video games. We keep them busy and send them home very tired.”
And very happy.
“Well, this sure is a good day,” 5-year-old Evelyn Cain of Hampden said while digging into a huge portion of strawberry shortcake.
The program runs weekdays (7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.) for six weeks. Registration is $120 a week or $600 for the whole program and is open to children entering first through sixth grades.