This morning we were able to sleep in a little later, since our meeting time back at the church was 9:00 a.m. Paul and Jonathan Works were busy loading the luggage onto the bus. A group of boys were playing basketball in the gym. Thomas Hulcher was helping fill the coolers with ice and water. Ben Con was overseeing the instruments being loaded in the van. Have I mentioned the Terp van? Every year when we go on choir tour, the Tregoning family is nice enough to loan us their van to shadow the bus. We have used it over the years for emergency trips to the doctor, grocery store stops, CVS supplies and other various uses. We are so grateful to them for their generosity in lending us their van evey year. It is a bright red color with a University of MD terrapin painted on it. The Tregoning family is UMD alumi and the van proudly shows their support.
Today was Sports Day and participants were asked to wear their favorite team apparel. Tom was wearing a Brazil soccer jersey. Annie Elliott was wearing her DHS Track and Field Regional’s championship shirt. Other shirts included the Nationals, Redskins, Capitals, and West Virginia University. It was fun to see the diversity of everyone’s favorite team. Connie Morella, our excellent mistress of ceremonies, took the lead for the morning. First up was the breakfast report. There were a variety of selections this morning, ranging from bagels, muffins, donuts, cereal, crumpets and french toast. Definite carb loading today! We had another “Zack Fact” report from Zack Callis. Did you know that you do not have to actually wait 30 minutes before getting in the water after you eat? The only time it might apply is if you are planning on doing extremely heavy water exercise, like back flips and such. Words of wisdom from one of our resident life guard.
Fork stories were next. Matthew and Jonathan told of a large bug in their room that crawled from person to person, freaking them out. (There seems to be a pattern here with bugs and the CWS!) Scott Hembrough told us of a prank from their host who offered them wine bottles (which were actually filled with water.) We joked that it was opposite of Jesus. Instead of turning water into wine, they turned wine into water!
The winner of the fork award was David Hembrough. All I will say is that it involved swashbuckling and a group of our younger boys.
Connie has been working very hard on her Superlative Awards and was ready to hand out more. Calista Kibak won the “Best Pop Piano Performer.” She is our replacement for Thomas James, who always seemed to find a piano wherever we went and started playing for us. We miss him. Troy Moskowitz won the “Most Confident” award. Helena Colborn won the “Best Suntan” award and Taylor Cappeluti won the “Most Sunburn” award. Our final award went to Matthew Baldridge who won “Best Monochromatic Outfits.” His clothes always match!
Our activity for the morning was a Destination Unknown outing. It was a mystery. No one knew where we were going until we arrived. To our delight, the bus pulled into a place called Reed Gold Mine. It is a National Historic Landmark in NC and the site of the first documented gold find in the U.S. A man named John Reed discovered gold on his property and opened a small gold mining operation in 1803. The last underground mining took place in 1912. It is now open to the public for tours, with a small museum explaining the history of the place and displays about NC gold mining. Visitors can explore several hundred feet of the restored mine tunnels.
Our self-guided tour started in the Visitors Center with a 20 minute movie about the Reed family and how gold was discovered on their property, which eventually led to a gold mining operation. We then walked down a beautiful path through the woods to the mine. As we entered the tunnel, a blast of cool air enveloped us. It felt wonderful to be out of the oppressive heat! We walked down to the bottom level of the mine and the kids noticed how wet and damp the rocks were. Polly wanted us to have another singing opportunity and had us sing “Ain’t Got time to Die,” which was such a great experience, being underground and surrounded on all sides by rock formations! One of the kids joked that the very rocks were crying out (a reference to one of the songs they sing.)
We went to the 1895 Stamp Mill where the gold was sifted and processed. Some serious, noisy machinery was in use and gave us an idea of what it may have looked like back in the heyday of gold mining. Our final stop was to experience how to actually pan for gold. The youth were lined up in front of a water trough and were each given a pan of dirt and gravel from the property. They were taught how to swirl the water around the rocks, dispose of the larger rocks and continue to swirl and pour until there was a layer of dirt and small pebbles left in the bottom. The girl in charge told them they did a “pantastic” job of panning for gold. We also beat the statistics when nine members of our group found tiny gold nuggets in their pan! Each one was given a small vial that contained their gold nugget as a souvenir. Of course, some of the nuggets could barely be seen without a magnifying glass, but it was great fun anyway.
Back on the bus, it was time to choose Greeters again. Did you know that every time we stop, get off the bus and then back on again, we choose new Greeters? That means we could have four sets of Greeters in one day. This time it was Cecelia Hembrough and Bryce Taylor. The bus stopped in Richfield for lunch. We found a great shopping area with several restaurants within walking distance. Of course, no one was allowed to be by themselves and were reminded again that they must travel in pairs of two or more. Ben Con ran immediately to Bojangles. This restaurant sustained him all through college and has since become his favorite. (Check out the photo with all of the food remnants on his table.) His new nickname is “Bo-Man.” A large group of kids went for Chinese food while others chose Subway, McDonalds or Taco Bell. Everyone was full and happy. Our third set of Greeters on the bus were Keely Bautista and Jonathan Works. They did a splendid job greeting everyone. We also found out that “Thing 2” had struck again. Sydney Fennington found a note in her backpack saying that she had a lovely personality and Jessie Marshall found two pieces of candy with a “Thing 2” sticker attached. I am liking this “Thing 2” creature more and more! Connie and Zack knew that we were going hear the NC symphony play Harry Potter music this evening, so they decided to have a Harry Potter trivia game. It was a raucous and fun time as everyone tried to answer the trivia questions. A few of them included: What was Harry Potters middle name? What was Harry’s wand made of? Name all of the Weasleys in order of birth. Everyone did a good job answering the questions, but we found out that Jessie Marshall is the master at Harry Potter trivia and is rated in the top 50 in Md. I believe it after hearing her answers!
We arrived at the Hampton Inn in Raleigh around 4:30 and had about an hour to get ready for the concert. Everyone came out with clean changed clothes, looking refreshed and well groomed. We piled into the bus and headed for Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary. This outdoor venue is very similar to our own Wolf Trap. It’s a performing arts amphitheatre located in a lovely park on the north bank of the park’s Symphony Lake, with picnic tables, a grassy area for blankets and a small café with table and chairs. Polly and Beth had gone shopping at the Food Lion during our lunch hour and had bought picnic food for the evening. The kids each brought a beach towel to sit on and picked out a spot on the grass. Ben Con was very excited to see the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra because he has heard the orchestra performing many times and knows some of the performers. He took lessons from the Assistant Principal Trombonist, Jonathan Randazzo and performed with the horn player, Catherine Creasy, in a brass ensemble at UNCG where he graduated. He made a point to go over and greet them as soon as he was able.
We had a wonderful surprise waiting for us when we arrived and saw the Bratburd family sitting on the lawn ready to watch the concert with us! Ryan Celli also surprised us at the hotel and is planning to spend the next few days with us! Jonathan Colborn was coincidentally sitting next to a young man who asked him to videotape his marriage proposal to his girlfriend. Jonathan not only videotaped the proposal but also took still shots of them. He promised to email the photos to the couple. Everyone applauded the young lovebirds when they realized what was happening. It was a romantic, lovely moment.
The first half of the concert was wonderful with songs that included Night on Bald Mountain, Funeral March of the Marionettes, Firebird Suite, and Ghost Busters. However, the highlight of the evening that we were all waiting for was going to be the second half, featuring the Harry Potter music extravaganza. They had just started the first song when the heavens opened up and the rain began to pour! There was laughter, mild screaming and a lot of scrambling as people grabbed their belongings and made a mad dash for shelter. Someone yelled, “This is the work of those dementors!” (If you don’t understand the meaning, you haven’t seen the Harry Potter movies.) As quick as it had started, the concert was cancelled and everyone went back to the bus. Most of us were wet and bedraggled but still laughing and happy.
Back at the hotel, the picnic food was set out in the lobby for the kids to snack on. Some kids went back to their rooms, showered and put on pajamas. Others played cards, watched TV or went to the gym to work out. The Elliott family arrived to pick up Katie early for soccer camp and we were able to visit with them for awhile. At the 11:00 curfew, everyone scattered back to their rooms.
The evening rain and cancellation of the concert reminded me that even if the best laid plans go awry, the friendship and Christian love we have for one another is really all that matters. This choir tour has built friendships that were not there before and cemented friendships that already existed to be even stronger. My hope for the future is secure knowing that we have young people who will be leaders, with a foundation of love and kindness to pass on to the next generation.