How Camp Arcadia begins its 100th anniversary

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ARCADIA — The name “Arcadia” in Greek evokes natural beauty and a kind of paradise. So it’s an apt name for Camp Arcadia, which celebrates 100 years of Christian fellowship along the scenic shore of Lake Michigan.

The camp’s ongoing mission has been to provide a setting for Christian families and individuals to “holiday with God,” according to its website, camp-arcadia.com.

This year’s season kicked off on Memorial Day weekend with the biggest party in the camp’s centennial history, according to Sarah Olson, the camp’s donor relations and communications coordinator.


“We’ve had an assortment of people … from the former chairman of the board to our founding families to all kinds of big Camp Arcadia lovers,” Olson said. “Families with many generations came to celebrate 100 years of God’s faithfulness.”

The 100th anniversary celebration continues throughout the summer, Olson said, among camp guests and for visitors interested in learning more about its history.

“This is our first season at full capacity since 2019, so being able to open the doors wide and still have waitlists has been such a big blessing,” Olson said. “We’ve been working really hard to get as many people as possible back to camp this summer to celebrate with us.”

Camp Arcadia was founded in 1922 as an offshoot of the Walther League, a Lutheran youth organization, and for its first 40 years was run by William “Chief” Weiherman and his wife Hildegard “Mom” Weiherman, according to the Camp Arcadia website.

While initially intended as a training space for youth evangelism, Olson said the camp has refocused its mission on renewing the “spirit, spirit and body of families through fellowship. with other Christians.

“People found they loved coming to camp – we had great lectures, great teachers who shared great ideas and teachings, and great camaraderie,” she said. “So people didn’t want to stop coming, they started having kids and kept bringing their kids to camp and in the 1950s and 1960s that was one of the main missions of the camp.”

Even during the Great Depression and World War II, Camp Arcadia remained a summer vacation destination for its guests and continued to operate under the auspices of the Walther League until the late 1960s, according to the site. Camp website.

“Camp was going through a tough time then and maybe being closed down or completely changed,” Olson said. “We had a group of people who had long come to buy the Walther League camp with their own funds and formed what is now called the Lutheran Camp Association, which owns and operates the camp to this day.”

Although the camp has gone through some changes in its 100-year history, Olson says some “real bits of camp history have stayed the same.”

Camp’s location on Lake Michigan and its emphasis on faith and family are constants in Camp Arcadia’s history, and Olson said family-friendly activities like square dances and softball games after- noon are unchanged since the founding of the camp.

“Some of my earliest memories of Camp Arcadia are of being a very small child and playing on the playground that still exists in front of the hostel, swinging on the swings that children still swing on today,” she said.

According to the camp’s website, three of its original buildings, the Assembly, the Inn and the Wigwam, were built by local builder Leo Tondu and his sons.

“The buildings remain today (as) a testament to Leo’s skill and the ancient, sturdy timber harvested from the ground they inhabit,” part of the website reads.

Over the past few years, Olson said the camp has faced challenges between the COVID-19 pandemic and severe erosion spurred by high Lake Michigan water levels.

“God has been truly faithful to work through the camp community to support and strengthen the camp through the difficulties,” she said. “…not only during the COVID 19 pandemic, but even before that, we had some pretty serious beach erosion issues with the high lake level. Our buildings are every yard from Lake Michigan, and so changing Lake Michigan levels really affects our ability to secure our buildings.

Despite these recent challenges, Olson reports that the camp is doing well in its 100th year.

“We had a huge construction project that peaked in 2019; we were ready for a normal season and then 2020 came along and through that the whole Association of Lutheran Camps along with our Camp Arcadia family, really stepped up and ministered to the campus quite dramatically,” he said. she stated.

“We are in a truly secure and wonderful financial position (and) truly blessed to be able to continue to minister and thrive for the next 100 years.”

A guided tour of the camp and its collection of historical artifacts is available for those wishing to learn more about the camp’s 100-year history. Summer hours are 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Anyone interested should call 231-889-4361 or visit camp-arcadia.com for more information.

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