DUNNING – More than 125 community members, officials, volunteers, and campers young and old came together on Sunday afternoon in the Sandhills-Thedford High School gym to share memories about the beloved 4H Camp outside Halsey, about all that remains after the Bovee Fire tore through the National Forest about a month ago.
The gathering resembled equal parts celebration of life and funeral wake, observed 4H Foundation Executive Director Stu Shepherd.
“It’s just a time to celebrate the good memories of camp; it’s almost like a grieving process. We’ve lost a good friend, and we’ve got to figure out how to live with that and move on.”
Autumnal decorations sprouted from tables draped in white, arranged to invite all those who entered the gym toward its center to congregate.
Though the focus was on the Blaine and Thomas County communities, supporters came from all over the region including Elm Creek, Kearney, and North Platte.
Lunch was catered by Sandhills Corral; enough pulled pork, salads, cakes, coffee and tea were provided to feed seemingly all of Blaine County.
Shepherd said that despite the weight of the loss, the resilience of the camp’s orbit could be felt even as future plans were up in the air.
“It feels like there’s good energy in the room. People want something else, and they need a gathering place. There’s a lot of passion for what the future might look like.”
The next half-year at the very least, Shepherd says, will be devoted to clean-up at the campsite, and conversations about next summer and beyond are a ways off, but for Sunday afternoon, the memories of the 4H camp are more than enough.
“The stories are positive, they’re hopeful; we wanted to capture those today. That adds brightness to our lives and hope that there will be something positive for tomorrow.”