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FAMILY: Ventura County | FOR THE KIDS

The Summer Dilemma

An expo can help you and your future camper decide on the best program.

March 12, 1998|RICHARD KAHLENBERG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

This information is important--and timely. We're talking about choosing a summer camp for your kids. What? So soon? "That's an important decision," you say, "but we're only a few weeks into the new year, aren't we?"

Well, like it or not, spring is nearly here and smart parents are lining up summer camp for their kids. "Camp Fair '98" will feature booths representing 75 day and residential programs Saturday in Agoura Hills and Monday in Encino.

Summer camp attendance is rising, and most camps fill up long before school is out. According to the American Camping Assn., enrollment has risen 10% each year for the past few years--up 50% since 1992.

But the number of camps has not grown much. Quality and program diversity have increased, however.

"Until recently, kids didn't think there were all kinds of different summer camps," said Steve Siegel, organizer of the camp fairs. Older kids thought camp was for little kids and little kids didn't know there were special arts, sports, chess and environmentally themed programs available, he explained.

"Kids look at camp differently from their parents. Parents have an obligation to discuss the choice of camp--since they may be in conflict with what their child would choose," Siegel said.

The fair offers "the opportunity for the family to talk to the camp directors about the child's needs and gather information--including information about possible visits to nearby camp locations," he emphasized. "There are more differences between camps than people realize. Attending the fair plus visits to camps can acquaint families with the staff--and [reveal] that paying a high camp fee isn't the only way to guarantee a good experience [for the child]," according to Siegel.

Half the camping programs represented at this year's fair are day camps--mostly in the Valley and Ventura County area. The rest are residential, many from out of state. If parents are nostalgic about their old camp in the Poconos, there'll be a booth representing that part of the country, Poconos Highland Camps.

Before making a final decision about summer camp, families should also consult the annually published directory of summer camps available from the Southern California Chapter of the American Camping Assn. This free guide to 230 day and residential programs may be obtained at the fair or by calling the chapter's office in Calabasas at (818) 223-9232.

A directory of all the accredited camps in the U.S. may be obtained by calling the association's national headquarters at (800) 428-2267 or logging onto www.aca-camps.org.

BE THERE

"Camp Fair '98," sponsored by the American Camping Assn., will be Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., at Willow Elementary School, 29026 Laro Drive, Agoura Hills; Monday, 5-8 p.m., Balboa Sports Center, Balboa and Burbank boulevards, Encino. Free, food, drinks and door prizes. Information: (800) 939-CAMP.

Documentary--This weekend, the Autry Museum of Western Heritage will premiere a documentary film about Mary Jane Colter, the architect who designed many buildings--now considered historical landmarks--for the Santa Fe Railroad and Fred Harvey hotel and restaurant company. This female role model commuted between Chicago and Altadena, supervising construction of many important buildings. The museum is at 4700 Western Heritage Way, Griffith Park. The film will be shown at 2 p.m. Saturday. Tickets, $5. For information, call (213) 667-2000, Ext. 317.

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