NISSWA - A century ago, trains brought campers to the shores of Lake Hubert. A barge would then ferry the boys across the lake to what is now known as Camp Lincoln.
A lot has changed in 100 years.
Summer campers sleep in cabins rather than in tents.
The train tracks to the city of Lake Hubert are long gone, replaced now by the paved Paul Bunyan Trail. Campers from around the world now find their way to the long-established camp by more modern means of transportation, such as planes and automobiles.
Celebrating 100 years
Activities Labor Day weekend in the 100-Year Anniversary Celebration at Camp Lincoln and Camp Lake Hubert include:
Land and water sports.
Directors' receptions, with remarks from and tributes to a century of leaders.
Traditional campfires, complete with story sharing, entertainment and singing led by Grammy-nominated guitarist, Peter Lang.
A 100th Anniversary Gala Celebration and Dance, with music from each decade and a spectacular fireworks display.
A Lincoln-Lake Hubert Challenge - each camp will build a competition team and challenge the "camp across the lake" to a battle of wills and skills.
Tours and golfing at Grand View Lodge.
Legacy Awards Ceremony, honoring alumni that live Camp values.
More information about the celebration may be found at www.lincoln-lakehubert.com.
But despite all the changes, a lot has stayed the same, too. Fostering youth development has been and still is the primary focus. The five core values - community, excellence, fun, personal growth and development, and quality relationships - remain in place. And the late Brownie Cote's motto lives on today - "God is first, others second and I am third."
This summer marks the 100th anniversary of Camp Lincoln on the shores of Lake Hubert.
Sailing remains one of the most popular activities at Camp Lincoln and Camp Lake Hubert.
Brownie's son, Sam Cote, carries on his father's vision as executive director of Camp Lincoln for Boys and Camp Lake Hubert for Girls, separate summer camps that share Lake Hubert from opposing shores.
"It is a significant milestone," Sam Cote said. "There are very few camps in the Midwest that have reached that milestone."
Who would have thought the camps would be around 100 years? Sam Cote asked. "It's been a great experience for all of us who work here. There are a lot of great people we meet and we make a lot of difference for a lot of kids. It keeps us coming back. It keeps you young. It keeps you alive.
Two staff members walked along a trail between buildings last week at Camp Lincoln for Boys near Nisswa. Staff members are busy preparing for summer campers. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the boys' camp on Lake Hubert. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"When you bring kids together in an outdoor setting on Lake Hubert ... just the magic that happens is unbelievable."
A century ago, it was William Blake of Blake School in Minneapolis who founded Camp Blake as a reward for academic excellence. In 1919, Brownie Cote became a counselor at the camp while attending college. He loved it.
By the mid-1920s, Brownie Cote purchased the camp, renamed it Camp Lincoln after the 16th U.S. president. Within a few years, he opened a camp for girls on the same lake and named it Camp Lake Hubert.
Today, Cote Family Cos. has expanded to include Grand View Lodge on Gull Lake in Nisswa, Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson, Ariz., Grand View Real Estate in Nisswa and ETOC Development. The family's devotion to the youth camps hasn't wavered over the years.
Early success of Camp Lincoln for Boys and Camp Lake Hubert for Girls can be attributed to these three men. Fred Rogers (left), Brownie Cote and Chuck Everett, now deceased, posed for a photograph in the 1970s.
And although camp activities and amenities have changed through the decades, the camp mission remains - to bring kids together with young role models to help build relationships in an outdoor, recreational environment.
More than 30,000 youths have attended the camps over the years. Photos of nearly every camper adorn the walls of the Lincoln Lodge at Camp Lincoln. Some stay a full season - as long as eight weeks - while others stay just two weeks or four weeks. In addition to the traditional camps there now are specialty camps that concentrate on specific recreational activities, including tennis and golf, as well as a week-long family camp.
Sam Cote said he is proud of the programs and activities.
The recreational opportunities remain a fundamental part of the camps. Activities have changed over the years. Boxing is no longer in vogue. Sailing remains a mainstay as does archery, horseback riding, riflery and tennis. Recently added or expanded activities that are popular include high and low ropes courses, lacrosse, mountain biking, wind surfing and ultimate Frisbee as well as a 56-foot climbing wall.
Another family tradition at the camps is the ability to attract and retain quality employees. It's a tradition Sam Cote has worked hard to maintain.
"(Brownie) was able to find these people who really worked together as a team. The leadership of the camp in the early days, these were phenomenal people - renowned people. Brownie knew the right people to hire and kept them."
These early leaders included Chuck Everett and Fred Rogers.
Sam Cote said, "Brownie, Chuck and Fred, they were really the primary visionaries involved in the camp." He noted the three men worked together for more than 50 years.
"The continuity of leadership is pretty significant," Sam Cote said. "It's a blessing really."
Today, these same traditions continue. For instance, Bill Jones, former camper and counselor, became a full-time director in 1970 and continues today. Many full-time staff members were former campers, including Sam and his son, Ruggs. For Brownie's son and grandson, the Lake Hubert camps are a part of their history. Both Sam and Ruggs have spent nearly every summer of their lives at the camp - first as children, then as campers, later as counselors and now as full-time staff members.
Another former camper and staff member, Laura Nolan, serves as director of the girls' camp.
Sam's earliest memories of camp are as a young boy - the youngest of five siblings - living in a cabin in the middle of camp with a bedroom the size of a closet. "But it was fun. How could it not be fun living in the middle of a camp for kids?"
The majority of campers - 55 percent of boys and 60 percent of girls - attend camp for four weeks. Only about 35 percent of campers are Minnesotans, while 60 percent are from other states and 5 percent are international visitors. Combining campers and counselors, nearly every state will be represented this summer as well as 13 countries.
Many campers are carrying on a family tradition as well. They return year after year and pass down their love of the camp from generation to generation. The Lake Hubert camps are seeing their fifth-generation of campers. Thirty-five percent of current campers are children of camp alumni.
Blake Holman, now the staff coordinator for the camps, represents the third generation in his family to experience Camp Lincoln. He spent 11 years as a camper - two summers at family camp and nine years at the traditional camp - and he spent four summers as a camp counselor before joining the camps year-round.
And Holman is confident his own children will attend camp one day.
"It felt like a second home to me every year," Holman said, noting he built strong friendships with other campers as well as counselors as he grew older. Some of his best friends are now counselors at the Camp Lincoln.
"I'll always have a relationship with camp," Holman said. "I love working with the Cotes. I know they firmly believe in our mission. It's tough to think of anywhere else I'd want to be. I love it. I wouldn't spend my summer any other way."
Over the decades, Camp Lincoln and Camp Lake Hubert have persevered through ups and downs in the economy. Most recently, the aftermath of 9/11 had a significant impact on the number of campers coming to Lake Hubert.
The two camps rebuilt the numbers over the next several years only to see the growth slow recently because of the recession.
"The economy naturally has an impact," Sam Cote said, noting registration this year is running about the same as last year. "We'd like to be a little higher. Given the times, we're probably fortunate but we're not satisfied."
The cost per camper runs about $800-900 per week. "That's a pretty good value on a week basis," Cote said. "It's an investment in youth development, in broadening their horizons, developing their self-esteem."
This summer, a total of 1,400 campers are anticipated - up about 80 campers over last year. The campers are supported by 175 seasonal employees and a dozen year-round staff members.
Maintaining the privacy of their former and current campers is a paramount concern of Camp Lincoln and Camp Lake Hubert. There's no name dropping by camp officials.
Despite their secrecy though, it is true that many well-known families in various arenas - whether athletics, politics or business - have sent their children here.
"We've had a lot of success stories," the humble Sam Cote will acknowledge.
And now the next century begins.
As steady and reliable as the changing of the seasons, this summer will mark another year of discovery for children around the world at these children's paradises tucked in the woods near Nisswa.
KATHI NAGORSKI may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5859.
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