After the pandemic forced cancellation of all 2020 activities, “Camping on the Lord’s Side” resumes this summer at Lakeside Baptist Assembly in Tallahatchie County.
First up is Camp Lakeside Day, scheduled for Saturday. The fundraiser for the campground kicks off at noon and runs until 6 p.m. After a catfish lunch, gospel singing, a silent auction and a cake auction will fill the afternoon.
Jason Wright, chairman of the trustee body of Lakeside and pastor of First Baptist Church in Tutwiler, said he is “really excited” to reopen the coed Christian summer camp.
Calling off the camps in 2020 was “heartbreaking” and “one of the hardest decisions we could ever make,” Wright explained while participating in an April 17 work day at the campground, located about 12 miles southeast of Charleston.
“To think that we were going to miss a year of camp, heartbreaking is the best word I could use,” Wright noted.
Owned and operated by North Central Baptist Association, which is comprised of about three-dozen Southern Baptist churches in Tallahatchie and Grenada counties, the rustic rural campground was founded in 1962.
Wright said he believes 2020 marked the first time in its nearly 59-year history that Lakeside failed to host children for summer camp.
This year’s camping season kicks off June 14-18 with day camp for students from kindergarten through sixth grade. As the name implies, there are no overnight stays during this opening week.
The rest of the schedule features overnight camps.
» June 20-24, for campers in grades 1-3
» June 27-July 1, grades 4-6
» July 11-15, grades 6-8
» July 18-22, grades 9-12
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The Lakeside experience is not unlike that of many other Christian summer camps.
Worship and camp songs, classes and church services and a wide array of recreational activities fill each day.
From learning archery to how to shoot a .22-caliber rifle, walking a nature trail, working on crafts and swimming in the 33-by-52-foot in-ground pool with a 9-foot deep end and 3-foot shallow, there is plenty to keep campers busy on this sprawling 55-acre campground.
Disc golf, softball, volleyball, kickball, dodgeball, gaga ball, shaving cream fights and canoeing on the scenic watershed lake are other options, depending on the weather and age of the campers.
Three square meals are served in the dining hall, and campers visit the canteen twice daily to select from a variety of snacks.
Lakeside’s ample facilities include six cabins for campers, a director’s cabin, dining hall, canteen, New Life Baptist Chapel and a large gymnasium named for longtime supporter and worker, the late Lewis Kellum.
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Wright, a native of the Tutwiler area, and his wife, Helen, of the Spring Hill community, have a special affinity with Lakeside.
“Camp Lakeside is a place that’s been very important to my life,” the pastor noted. “I met my wife out here when she and I were counselors out here together years ago. I surrendered to the ministry out here. Now my kids are out here. They came as campers and now they’re coming as counselors.”
He called the experience “generational,” saying, “I come out here now and I recognize the kids because their parents were my students when I was a counselor out here. There’s a lot of history.”
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“I don’t want to use the word ‘nervous,’ but we’re a little anxious,” Wright admitted, when asked about restarting camp with COVID-19 still a threat.
“We know that God is in control. God’s gonna take care of us,” he added. “So we are acting on faith, but we’re also gonna do our part.”
Wright said the camp will follow guidelines established and handed down by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for safely operating a camp in the COVID era.
“Our property insurance carrier has made some recommendations as well,” he explained.
Wright said the camp will “ramp up” cleaning and sanitizing of facilities.
“We bought an antibacterial misting machine that will be used in the cabins, dining hall and gym every day.”
At 20 beds per cabin, the camp can accommodate up to 120 campers at a time — or up to 200 if available bedding areas in the gym and elsewhere are utilized.
During the last summer camping season in 2019, Lakeside hosted over 70 youngsters. Due to COVID concerns, no more than 40 campers per week will be accepted this summer.
“We can easily do 40 campers and have plenty of distancing,” Wright explained.
In addition, “we’ll be conscientious about how the kids are sleeping,” he said, noting that the bunks will be spaced further apart, and the head and foot sleeping positions of campers will be staggered.
Lakeside is in the majority of Baptist campgrounds in the state that reportedly plan to open their doors this summer.
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For more information about Camp Lakeside, or to download a 2021 summer camping application, visit camplakesidems on Facebook or their website at www.camplakesidems.org. Drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 662-647-2834.
A direct link to the Camp Lakeside 2021 summer camping application is here.