In 1965 I participated in my first ever big group campfire as a song, skit and stunt leader. I had so much fun doing this each week of that summer, I couldn’t wait to return. And I did for each of the next four summers. Along the way it was natural to collect some fun ideas.
When I was a senior in college, a team of classmates decided to pool their own collections of campfire fun into one book. Diane Despain and Ad Spofford helped with the songs, and Alan Wakefield contributed most of the games. I helped our editor, Doug Bowen, with skits and stories. In the end we had a little book that I still use, called Creative Campfires. I wish the book were online, but it’s old school, type written. So to find resources I did a few quick internet searches for campfire songs and stories. Try and you will be amazed at the variety like Preopening Ice Breakers, Traditional and Silly Songs for Camp Fire Fun, Stories for Bear Scouts, Funny Campfire Stories, and Campfire Ceremonies, and that is just for starters.
Most campfire programs “follow the flames,” blazing and wild at first and then solemn and reflective as it burns to coals.
To plan a good program, use BSA’s campfire program planner and include all of these parts for your next program:
Preopening—An initial orientation can provide group activities that will involve the campers as they arrive and will build enthusiasm for the rest of the program.
Opening—The formal opening can be built around an impressive fire lighting ceremony, perhaps based on a camp legend.
Active songs—Young people enjoy singing; the songs presented in the “Cub Scout Songbook” are great to use. They include these categories:
- Greeting Songs
- Fun Songs
- Action Songs
- Cub Scouting Songs
- Banquet Songs, Derby Songs, Tiger Cub Songs (these aren’t your best campfire songs)
- Webelos Scout Songs
- Patriotic Songs
- Inspirational Songs
- Closing Songs
Run-ons and skits—Short dramatic presentations can alternate with songs to provide interesting and varied entertainment. Plus, these keep the program moving. Skits are one of the many reasons that Cub Scouting is so much fun for the boys. In the new Cub Scout Adventure program, Tigers, Wolves and Bears are all required to do a campfire program skit. But don’t be fooled, there is purpose in our method: their participation is also teaching them to be comfortable speaking in front of a group.
Cheers and yells—Appropriate recognition for performance gives the audience a chance to participate. These can be spontaneous or directed
Stories—Everyone loves a good story. They can be instructive, inspirational or just entertaining. This is where I am at my best; I just love storytelling and have an enormous collection. Don’t scare them, but spellbind them with a tale told well.
Quiet songs—This measured activity can be used to slow down the program and instill a serious or reflective mood.
Closing—A quiet song and a thought from the camp leader are effective in the closing ceremony. Sending the audience back home or to their campsites in silence prolongs the mood created by the campfire and builds those memories I told you about.
Here’s some general suggestions to make your program even better:
- Dress up your campfire bowl or arena with totem poles, a Thunderbird or similar decorations.
- Use two campfires, one on each side of the stage to get more effective lighting and heat
- Skits should be reviewed beforehand to make sure they’re in good taste and not too long
- Assign someone to build and maintain the campfires. Add wood if needed; see that your fires do not burn out too early or get too hot
- Involve as many Cub Scouts as possible
- Avoid jokes that the parents or families might find meaningless
- Keep the program moving every second. Provide lots of variety and “stage” your campfire rather than hold it
- Don’t the run the program over an hour or you risk losing the audience’s interest and enthusiasm
Searching the internet last evening for Cub Scout songs, Cub Scout skits and Cub Scout Cheers, I found many dozens of collections for campfire program fun. But if you want our old, tried and true Creative Campfires you can still find a used one on Amazon or contact the editor, Douglas R Bowen, who still has some new copies for $6.00.