November 1, 2013

To Zingtong or Not To Zingtong

By Adam Strasberg, Summer Camp Director

For anyone who has ever been to Camp Kawartha, you will know that the game of Zingtong is one of Camp Kawartha’s most cherished Evening Programs. It involves the storyline of a royal family. A majestic scene is presented to the campers during dinner where the king dotes on his precious daughter, Princess Perfection. All of a sudden the palace is overrun by zingettes who carry away the king’s golden rocks and the princess to his great dismay. Two princes then approach the king in the aftermath. One is a red prince called “Are You Willing,” and the other a blue prince called, “Gee, I love you.” They pledge to the king that they will work to collect his gold and bring the princess back. Each prince recruits half the campers to their team to help with the mission.

That evening, campers are given either a dash of red or blue paint on their face and run around looking for the golden rocks while avoiding being tagged and “frozen,” by the zingettes. There are several safety zones where campers cannot be chased and include the hills going from upper to lower camp. In these areas, staff are designated as safeties to ensure campers are not running. The rules are pretty simple – a zingette can tag a single camper, but not 2 campers who are linked. As long as the number of campers is greater than the number of zingettes chasing them, they cannot be tagged. The only exception being the leader of the zingettes, King Zing, who can tag at will. To be freed, a camper that is frozen calls out to their designated prince by saying their names (“Gee, I love you.” or “Are you willing.”). The princes travel around the camp freeing the campers.

The team that collects the most rocks wins, but the real conclusion of the program is the final, carefully choreographed, contest at the end of the program where the zingettes and the royals square off on the swim dock. The campers watch from the shore.


I give you this background because we sometimes get feedback from parents on the appropriateness of this activity that is beloved by staff and campers alike. In so many ways, it’s a tradition where campers want to grow up to be staff where one day they can be the zingettes. For LIT candidates, being zingettes is almost a rite of passage.

With all traditions, they cannot remain static as the times change. The game has been revised during my time as Summer Camp Director. Zingettes are dressed in war paint. It used to be the scarier, the better, but in more recent years, staff have toned down their look and their behavior. Staff love to play the part and get into character as a show of spirit. In rare cases, it can be misguided especially when they try to model themselves on old counselors that once played zingtong with them when they were campers.

As a parent and summer camp staff member, I have personally witnessed how the staff as zingettes acted towards my 4 year old son when he participated this past summer. They approached him in a very non-intimidating fashion and moved off without overdoing their role. During the final performance, my son’s mouth was agape and I couldn’t quite figure out what he thought about it until he turned to me and said, “that was so cool.” He repeated the same thing to my wife 10 minutes later back in the cabin.

But I am fully aware that some of our families have concerns about the activity such as younger children being scared, the dress of the zingettes and the safety concerns of playing in the evening.  I feel that a dialogue with parents is justified to fully educate parents on how we run this activity, and feedback on how we can improve and modify this evening program. We welcome feedback from parents by e-mail me at adam@campkawartha.ca.