A history of Camp Fair

Entry point for our first Camp Fair, held at All Saints' Episcopal Day School in Phoenix.

In February 2004, our magazine was about to enter its 15th year of publication. Our cover mom that month was Yen-Li Chen-Zhang, a former Ballet Arizona principal dancer who was operating her own ballet school in Chandler. (It recently celebrated its 10th year.)

My son Andy was a freshman in college; my son David a junior in high school. My husband and I spent a lot of time at football and lacrosse fields.

Our February 2004 cover, featuring Yen-Li Chen-Zhang and her then 5-year-old daughter, Emily Zhang.

It was a big year for news. A report was issued saying the Bush administration misled Americans about the so-called “imminent danger” posed by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. A New York court found Martha Stewart guilty of lying to federal investigators. Kmart announced that it was acquiring Sears. Captain Kangaroo died. Hurricanes killed 2,000 people in Haiti (and we thought that was bad).

Blockbuster movies that year included “Shrek 2,” “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” “The Passion of the Christ,” “Meet the Fockers,” “Spider-Man 2,” “Fahrenheit 9/11,” “I, Robot” and “Ocean’s Twelve.”

Greasepaint Scottsdale Youtheatre was among our first Camp Fair exhibitors.

2004 was also the first year that Raising Arizona Kids organized a Camp Fair. It was Marketing Director MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb’s suggestion. A similar event had been held for several years at the Judson School in Paradise Valley, an elite private boarding school that closed in 2000 and is now the site of multi-million dollar homes. (Interestingly, if you Google “Judson School” you can find entries that indicate it’s still accepting students.)

MaryAnn thought we should take over the event. I thought she was crazy. We were understaffed and overwhelmed as it was; how were we going to coordinate something on that scale?

But anyone who knows MaryAnn knows she doesn’t hear the word “no.” So we took a deep breath, dove in headfirst and organized our first Camp Fair.

Another cute character from Greasepaint Scottsdale Youtheatre.

It was held at All Saints Episcopal Day School that first year, and for four more years to follow. Three years ago, we moved it to the Tesseract School, which had just opened a middle and upper school campus at 40th St. & Shea and had a beautiful, bigger gymnasium to accommodate our growing roster of participating camps, some of which came from as far away as Minnesota.

This year’s event will be held from 10am-3pm Saturday, Feb. 26. (Did I mention that’s my birthday?) It will again be at Tesseract. Our entire staff will be there, as will more than 65 camps. Some are overnight camps; some are day camps located throughout Maricopa Count. For parents looking to fill their children’s summer months with meaningful activities, there is no better place to get started making memories.

RAK staff members Tina Gerami (left) and Mala Blomquist set up for Camp Fair 2004. They haven't changed a bit in eight years!

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One response to “A history of Camp Fair

  1. Karen: We did some reminiscing of our own over breakfast after reading your post. One of my kids recalled (with embarrasment) the year you and Dan chaperoned a summer camp trip and he jumped in to save her from a scary run-in with a river — then shared with me that she’d just come across your son Andy’s work in the notes of a book she’s using to research the history of Facebook. Thanks for the lovely journey down memory lane (though I was truly pained to be reminded of losing Captain Kangaroo). –Lynn

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