The Blue Kerchief Ceremony

At camp, we have this thing called the BK Ceremony,  for “Blue Kerchief”. It’s on the third day of the term, I think it’s the third day, on a Sunday, and what it is is we come up with this thing called, “The Code of Living”.  So for that what we do is we come up with words that we want to live by- words like “genuine”, “compassion”, “brave”, “indelible”. You know how I want to get that tattoo of “indelible”? That’s from camp, it was in our Code.

So, yeah, we decide as a unit what we want the Code to be. So on the first Sunday we all go to the Buddy Ring, which is a nook in between these mountains and we sing all these songs. I think they change every year, they’re not set in stone.

And then the counselors present the BKs to the campers. So it’s when you wear this kerchief, the Blue Kerchief, you’re living by the Code. And if you break the Code, you get your Kerchief taken away.

What happens if you get it taken away?

Well then you don’t get to wear it to Chapel and everyone can see you and knows you broke the code. (She laughs).

So the ceremony is they tie the BKs in this special knot, a friendship knot… (to other friend listening and laughing) Shut up!  And yeah, the counselors put them over us and give us a hug. And then as cabins, we got up as cabins and then we all get in a huddle, you know like a sports huddle, and then the counselors pump us up for the term and then we sit down again.

Can you tell me more about the camp?

Yeah, so the BK ceremony is by unit and there are 60 girls or guys per unit, 4 units of boys and 4 units of girls. The units are by age and you can be 8-17 at Camp Cheley. It’s in Colorado. It’s in Estes Park, voted number one small town in America!

When did it start?

I have no idea. Camp was founded in 1921, so probably around then.

Why has it kept going all these years?

Probably because it’s a beautiful ceremony, and the Code of Living is super important, and it’s you know, a physical reminder of it.

Context of the Performance:

The informant told her camp rituals to a table of our friends during Monday night dinner. We knew she had gone to camp, because she has talked about it before, but this is the first time I ever asked her in depth questions, which she was very excited to share. The informant is very passionate about her camp and plans to work there this summer.

My thoughts on the piece:

It was interesting to see how excited the informant was to explain her camp experience, another example of the distinction between being inside the group verses outside of it. She was defensive when another person listening laughed at part of the ritual, which shows how much she believes in the sacredness of these traditions.

It also is interesting how the shame of having your kerchief taken away, which is largely symbolic, is enough to keep these kids living by the code.