Category Archives: News Reports


Monday, April 1st, 2019

Extreme llama jumping down Fifth Avenue

Good morning, HVC! Hummingbird reporting here live from the Valley News Headquarters (located in the Video Loft upstairs in the Red Barn) to bring you this breaking report. It seems the llamas escaped from the llama pen in the early hours of this morning in disguise, chartered the Candy Drop Plane to fly them from Maine to New York City, and spent the day exploring all the best of fine dining, culture, and recreation that the city has to offer.

Camp directors Peter and Meg Kassen woke for their daily trip to the lake to find Hamilton the pig, longtime resident of the llama pen, alone in his habitat. Hamilton informed the concerned Kassens that, though he had tried to stop the llamas, Cricket and the gang insisted they needed a break from all the stress of rural life; that they craved the feel of paved roads under their hooves; and that their species’ origins in the Andean mountains of South America required they reach a certain altitude that only the Candy Drop Plane could achieve.

New York-based campers first reported seeing the llamas clomp into the MoMA at approximately 9:43 this morning, EST. The next report came from midtown, where the llamas were spotted stepping out of a cab to attend a matinee of Hamilton. Several hours later they were seen and (unfortunately) heard recreating “The Battle of Yorktown” in Times Square. According to an eyewitness, they were allegedly rehearsing to bring the show back to HVC’s own Hamilton the pig upon their return to the Valley.

To gain some insight into this unique llama behavior I spoke with former HVC Llama Mama, Robin Harris (featured in a photograph below, enjoying some shade with campers and llama pals). Robin reported that Blackberry and Stanley had mentioned a desire to get a nibble of the famous trees of Central Park, and speculates that the taste for gourmet greens may have enticed the llamas to New York.

Most recent reports claim the llamas have boarded the Candy Drop Plane once again. They are expected to land in Belfast, Maine later this evening, where they will be escorted back to camp by Robin, the Kassens, and an ornery Hamilton, who is anticipating sitting through the llamas’ rendering of an entire Broadway show.

Many thanks to our camper correspondents and Robin Harris for their insights as this story has unfolded. Oh, and also… APRIL FOOLS!!!

Tricked ya!
Hummingbird 🙂

Meanwhile in the office…

Monday, March 4th, 2019

Not quite how the office looks in the summertime

Happy March and happy Monday, HVC! Hummingbird here, feeling a lifetime away from the summer! For most of us around this time of year the long, warm, carefree days of summer have been buried far beneath neverending snow. But deep in the Camp Office, our office queens are working endlessly to keep the summer sun burning, and set everything up for SUMMER 2019!! Let’s hum over to their endless summer zone and see what’s up with Lucia and Cassie!

How many years has each of you been working in the HVC office? How have you seen camp change in that time?

Lucia: This summer will be my 30th summer!! Sept of 2019 will be my 31stst anniversary of arriving at HVC! Camper Cabins,  Paquatahnee, Wabinaki, Blue Moon, and Avalon were built since I started here as well as The “new” staff cabin, The “New” Dining Hall and many other camp building. When I first came to HVC the Dining hall was in the Red Barn! The next time you pass through there try to imagine it!! The Deer Meadows/ PD Barn and Pool property were all purchased in the time I have been at HVC.

Cassie: I just celebrated my 5th winterversary, but this coming summer (2019) will be my 11th. My primary job is to answer incoming emails from people researching camp for their kids. I also help Peter with getting all of the trips and performers booked, and I help Meg get all of the staff paperwork organized. I also LOVE sorting the mail! How have I seen camp change? Well… we have a brand-new office, for a start. That’s pretty big news. And this is more under the radar, but we changed some of our logos and printed materials to reflect the fun, artistic community that we are so proud of.

Campers don’t tend to spend a lot of time in the office, so we’re dying to know… What is it you do in there all day?? Are there any office secrets you can let us in on? Do you have any snacks in there? 

L:  Wow, where to start… Our jobs change a bit from summer to the “off season” but all year long we are answering phones and emails.  We are talking to prospective and enrolled families.  We coordinate all sorts of things in preparation for the next summer. Office Secrets… I cannot tell… And snacks?  ALWAYS! We have so many thoughtful and caring friends from all over the world that know we are far away from any stores here in the valley and generously send us yummy treats from as far away as New Zealand, UK, Australia and China.  We also do love to share!

C: I have a stash of Sharpies that, if you ask nicely, I might let you borrow! Other secrets? We love corgis and chocolate from around the world. There’s a drawer in my desk dedicated to snacks to share- if you’ve done PK’s secret tour of camp you may have even visited me!

How many spools of friendship string does camp go through in a summer? 

L: ooooooh that is a Cassie question, she is the Friendship Bracelet QUEEN! But a wild guess would be in miles.

C: I don’t know if it’s ever been documented, but I would assume it’s in the thousands!

Cassie, you are FAMOUS around camp for all your interest groups songs and ideas… can you tell us a little bit about your inspiration?  Do you have an absolutely most favoritest song from over the years?

C: It’s actually kind of hard to come up with songs! Interest Groups are the last class period of the day, and the activities change every day- it’s my job to organize what activities happen, write them out on the white board, and to organize how the counselors announce them at morning meeting. To be honest, I’ve been known to bribe people to help me (most notably PD Georgia with last year’s song, and a few years ago counselors Olivia H. and Robin M. came up with ‘Thrift Shop’)… I’ve got a pretty good one for this year (but it’s a surprise). My personal favorites over the years have been the 1D ‘That’s What Makes You Beautiful’ and, it’s shocking, but THE COCONUT SONG. It’s so catchy!  Sometimes campers have ideas, which I love and try to make happen. 

Lucia, you have been at camp forever, you must know absolutely everything there is to know about Hidden Valley! You must know so many secrets of the Valley… but readers REALLY want to know about your super cute doggie who plays with Nellie sometimes, what can you tell us about Louie?

L: Forever, true but also it seems like yesterday! I have been at HVC more than half my life! I am but one among a lovely group of folks in the “30 +” club that include, Peter & Meg, Chris & Lillian, Tom, Dani, Nurse Michele as well as so many former campers-turned staff-turned HVC parents.  I DO have a super cute doggie!  We adopted Louie from a local shelter almost 4 years ago- after he was seen there by Peter & Meg’s younger daughter Lily.  He loves coming to work with me however, he is not so proficient with his “inside voice” and he has A LOT to say – so sometimes he stays at home in the summer and comes in for an occasional special visit.

What are your favorite office supplies to play with?

L: I am a total FREAK for Post it notes; all colors and sizes!

C: I have a very soft spot for the laminator. We go way back!

Last month we heard from Chris and Lillian, who told us the dining hall dragon comes to life at night to eat our leftovers. Can you confirm or deny? And what do you think the dragon’s favorite camp meal is? 

L: Well I HAVE seen some mighty large footprints in the snow outside… Venturing a wild guess the dragon’s favorite meal would be Chris & Lillian’s luscious Jamaican Pork.

C: The Dining Hall Dragon is a close personal friend of mine. We’ve been able to spend some quality time together over the winter! If I had to guess, I would say the Dragon has a soft spot for Lillian’s vegan chocolate chip cookies.

What is it like to be at camp all year round? Do you get to eat all the leftover Candy Drop Candy?? Do you cuddle Nellie all day??? Do you play in the snow???? Tell us all about wintertime in the Valley! 

L: It is a much slower pace in the Winter. One of the fun things we get to do in the winter is to order Tshirts and Sweatshirts and cool stuff for Planet Meg. We get to talk to lots of people who call and have questions about HVC. This Winter is extra special because we have had office mates! Upcoming Program Director Hope shared our office for a spell before embarking on 5 months of world travel; Horse Director Hannah B stayed on after summer and is working hard preparing for the horse programming; and Georgia arrived in February to start working on her PD duties!

C: Camp is absolutely gorgeous no matter what season it is. In the fall and spring, Lucia and I sometimes take walks around- in the fall, there are apples to pick, and animals to look for, and in the spring there’s always some cool new project happening. Winter is super pretty, and there’s lots of opportunity to ski or snowshoe. Leftover Candy Drop candy is unfortunately a myth… but sometimes Meg comes in and gives us a Meg Drop (where she showers us with candy for the snack drawer). Nellie comes to the office a lot, and so does Louie, and sometimes we have Huxley and Luke visit too- it can get very busy!

What is Peter Kassen’s favorite song to whistle in the office? Does Meg sacrifice pickles in there over the winter?

L: Oh gosh, Peter can whistle anything! He is so talented with his whistling, he sounds like a flute!

C: Meg doesn’t usually sacrifice pickles in the winter (they’re hibernating), but she has made some unreal soups and baked goods for us to sample. Meg Kassen secret: she makes the most incredible walnut tart. And lemon anything! 

Finally, if you’re in the office, you MUST know when Candy Drop 2k19 will be… any hints for our readers?

L&C: No idea on day, but we’ve been speculating who might be in line to be the next Bombadeers! 😉

Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, Office Queens! Now I’m off to invade Cassie’s candy drawer.

Humming along,

Foooooood, glorious FOOOOOD!!

Monday, February 4th, 2019

Kae Kim sharing Korean cooking with Lillian and Lori

Hey hey, HVC! Hummingbird here, and booooy am I hungry…. I’m flying on over to the Dining Hall to see what’s cooking in our kitchen! Chris and Lillian have been feeding all of us in the Valley for over 30 years, so I have quite a few questions for them about the history of our camp and the best food on earth! Let’s get to know them a little!

How long have you been cooking at HVC? How have you seen camp change over the years?
Lillian’s been cooking at HVC since about ’81 or ’82. I [Chris] joined her when we took on the job as Frye Mountain Food Service, the first year Peter and Meg were at camp, ’88.  We were all much younger in the beginning, Peter and Meg were settling in to their new ownership and management roles at the camp, and we were obviously trying to figure out how to do the best job of delivering meals as we could. Over time I think we’ve all smoothed out the rough edges and found the methods that stand the test of time and work well.

You cook three delicious meals a day for 400+ people who all have different dietary restrictions, allergies, and food preferences. How on earth do you accommodate all those differences? Do you have any tricks or rules of thumb when you’re planning a meal?
We make our diet check sheet (check out an example below!) to identify every individual allergen in the food, so that anyone can check the ingredients in each thing served at every meal. A vegetarian entree is provided at all dinners (breakfasts and lunches as well) that is sometimes also vegan. Occasionally there are campers with very special needs and we find a way to take care of them as well.

What do you do during the winter when you’re not cooking for 400 people?  

We take on a number of different building projects, some for ourselves and some for others. And do a little traveling to visit family and friends.

Chris, you’ve been known to play the bagpipes around camp (you’ve even woken campers up on Fair Day with your bagpipes!) When did you start playing, and what inspired you to play?
I became interested in the pipes at a Highland Game Festival in Vermont in 2011. The music was so intriguing to both of us that I came home and found a local band to join and learn to play!

Lilian, do you have any hidden talents that campers may not know about?
In my younger days I played a lot of tennis, and in the last eight years or so I’ve taken up golf.  I also love hiking! 

Chris, you are widely known– even famous– around camp for everyone’s favorite breakfast, EGG BAR! What is it REALLY like to be behind the bar and make eggs for every single camper, counselor, AWAC and prostaffer on camp?
Actually, working the egg bar is the most rewarding part of the camp food service for me! I get to meet all the campers and staff each morning and get to know and interact with each of them. I’ve made many lasting friends over the years at the egg bar. It’s a chance to feel the heartbeat of the camp.

Campers and counselors debate the best camp meals… Which do you think is the ULTIMATE favorite camp meal you make?
The favorites have evolved over the years. Once it was Chili and cornbread, then it was Lasagne and garlic bread, Chicken Ah-so, Pizza’s always been a favorite, kids love pasta, brie pasta, spaghetti, mac and cheese. The Sunday dinners have been popular; Turkey, Roast Beef, Indian or Asian. Lately we are told that the Mexican meal is their favorite. And everyone loves the salad bar!  As for weddings and gatherings beyond camp, one of the most requested dishes is Spanakopita.  Lillian says Mexican is her favorite because she can make it have some heat.  My favorites come off the grill; ribs, chicken, steak, pork tenderloin.

What kinds of kitchen appliances do you have in the dining hall that campers might not find in their own home kitchens? What do you use them for?
We have a steamer that we use for a lot of things; vegetables, rice, scrambled eggs, plus re-heating leftovers.  We also have the huge steam kettle that we use mostly for cooking pastas, corn on the cob, and anything else we need to boil in a large volume. After some exhausting days I’ll heat up the water for Lillian to take a soak. We also have a potato peeler that can peel a 50# sack in a matter of minutes. Most of the rest of the appliances are common to households, though on a much larger scale.

Finally, please settle a long-standing camp debate for us… does the dragon in the dining hall come alive at night and eat the leftovers?
There is no question that the dragon comes to life on some nights especially after Junk Food Day!

Thanks so much for your yummy food, Chris and Lillian! I’m gonna go eat some leftover donuts before the dragon gets them!!

Humm and yumm!!

Camp friendship: everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth

Sunday, December 16th, 2018

Happy holidays, HVC! Hummingbird here! As the weather gets colder and the shortest day of the year rapidly approaches, I hope these pictures warm your heart and brighten your day just a little, and remind you of the REAL most wonderful time of the year… CAMP TIME!!

The community we create as a camp over those all-too-short months is unique and dynamic. The magic that surrounds camp has a special way of bonding people together. Those relationships are lasting, and extend long after the last Funky Chicken has been danced on departure day! Some camp friends see each other during the school year– some even live in the same home! Some don’t talk for months until the next arrival day, but it feels like no time has passed at all. And we know that we can always lean on our HVC family for support any time of the year. No matter the distance in space or time, for campers and counselors alike, the bonds we form at HVC leave a lasting imprint on all of our hearts. We can feel the glow of camp friendship even during the coldest winter months. It’s just like that old favorite Taj Mahal thought du jour, “Friendship is like peeing your pants; everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth!”

Stay warm, and don’t forget to tell a camp friend you love them so they can feel the warmth too 🙂

Humming along,


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