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A pricey New Hampshire overnight camp was abruptly canceled after after it descended into a “Fyre Festival” like debacle — complete with tales of fist fights, unsanitary meals and mass vomiting.
Camp Quinebarge directors told parents who paid $3,400 for a two week stay to pick up their kids after only six days this month, following a “summer of challenges” that drew comparisons to the infamous Fyre Festival, The Boston Globe reported.
The closure of the 85-year-old camp in Moultonborough, NH, was initially blamed on food supply problems, but parents later learned that the camp was reeling from a number of issues, including undertrained counselors who were quitting and getting fired en masse.
Other problems included a camper who attacked both staff and fellow children, dirty dishes provided at meal time — and reports of multiple children vomiting and being quarantined, according to the article.
One child’s letter home, provided to the newspaper by his father, read like a parody of a camping trip gone wrong, the outlet noted.
“We have been in tears, bored, and devastated the whole day. [The camp director] is lying to you all,” the camper reportedly wrote.
“You have to trust us. You have to. We are not joking and we are not having fun. So many things are wrong with this place,” the camper added.
More than a dozen parents, current and former staff and campers spoke to the newspaper about the fiasco, which drew comparisons to the 2017 Fyre Festival, a would-be luxury Caribbean music festival that advertised luxury accommodations but delivered FEMA tents and prison food, the article said.
The first signs of trouble reportedly emerged when Quinebarge was suffering a hiring crunch as enrollment surged.
Eric Carlson, the camp’s executive director sent an urgent email to parents two weeks before children arrived to advise them of the situation, according to the report.
“We are in desperate need of additional staff for this summer,” Carlson reportedly wrote, adding that 15 staffers had recently “dropped or ghosted” their jobs.
“I was hired about four days before campers arrived,” MJ Lowry, a 21-year-old counselor told the paper.
“They just kind of said, ‘Hey you were referred, we’ll send you the application. You seem to be qualified, do you want the position?’”
“I played kickball, and got to see the turtle and the frog in the pond and learn about tadpoles. It was stuff like that,” Lowry told the paper of her brief training.
One 19-year-old staffer, a former camper who had no intention of working at Quinebarge, said he accepted a last minute job offer out of desperation, the article said.
“My options were either emergency housing or Camp Quinebarge,” Chris Bigler reportedly said.
Kayden Gove, 8, told the paper he was hit in the head with a wooden block by another camper, who also attacked Bigler, according to the report.
“Shock does not even begin to cover it,” parent Rebecca Gove reportedly wrote to the camp.
A broken dishwasher in the kitchen meant dirty dishes were given to kids at mealtime, food prep counselor Caliban Chesterfield reportedly said, an account which Carlson disputed to the outlet.
A cook was also fired after serving a staffer’s child a mostly raw meatball, according to the article.
Four children were also reportedly quarantined after experiencing unexplained bouts of vomiting during the trip.
Additionally, trans counselors said they did not feel comfortable at the “LGBT friendly summer camp,” and several kids were withdrawn because their parents did not want them living among trans and nonbinary campers and staff, the report said.
The day before Carlson asked parents to pick up their kids, he emailed parents telling them “the past couple of days have been a bit rough,” but campers were “overwhelmingly having a good time,” according to the article.
Carlson said the premature closing was related to delays with food supply and industry wide staffing issues, the article said.
Some parents interviewed by The Globe said they believed those reasons were excuses to justify a season plagued by deeper issues.
“We sincerely apologize to all those families and staff members who had their summer plans interrupted by our premature closure,” Carlson reportedly wrote in a statement, adding that the camp will continue its storied history next year.
“Upon reflection, we know that camp is only good for the kids if we can ensure their health and safety,” Carlson, his wife and camp director Nick Hercules wrote to parents, according to the article.
“That is why as soon as we finish our closing work for 2021, we will begin preparing for summer 2022.”
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