The following appeared in the Lake County Journal online at lakecountyjournal.com July 29, 2009
By KRISTEN ROSE MILLER
Sixty lucky summer campers in Lindenhurst had the adventure of a lifetime the morning of July 28 – to experience the cultures and customs of the islands of Hawaii, Samoa, New Zealand and Fiji – all without leaving the Lindenhurst Early Childhood Center.
The children, ages 5 to 11, are enrolled in the “Trip Around the World” summer camp at the Lindenhurst school and daycare facility. The program focuses on an international region each week and allows the children to figuratively explore each country’s culture through dance rituals, foods, animals and history-focused field trips.
“It is important for children to get a feel for other cultures,” said Frank Davis, director of the Lindenhurst Early Childhood Center. “This program helps children understand the similarities between their cultures and others, and makes them feel like they traveled over the summer.”
On July 28, the campers were transported to the South Pacific with the help of Earl Famanas, a Polynesian fire dancer from the well-known performing arts company, the Barefoot Hawaiian.
Famanas, who has performed Polynesian dance for the past five years, captured the audience’s attention as soon as he stepped on the Lindenhurst center's outdoor blacktop, showcasing his culturally-significant bare chest, Hawaiian-floral wrap skirt and tropical foliage adorning his head, chest and ankles.
The approximately 45-minute presentation featured a well-practiced selection of Polynesian dances, including two dances that allowed campers to perform with Famanas. A non-interactive ritual, the Samoan Slap Dance, was a crowd-favorite as Famanas slapped his body in a highly energetic and choreographed series of movements.
The performance capped off with the Polynesian Fire Dance, a routine that showcased Famanas’ ability to juggle, balance and dance with a baton-like device burning fire on both ends. The children stared in awe as Famanas manipulated and moved with the fire as campers such as Tyler Schaefer, 11, of Lake Villa realized it was more than just an exciting day at camp, but a glimpse into other cultures.
“It’s neat to learn how people dance for their tribes and greet each other,” Tyler said. And although Tyler had a hard time picking which Polynesian dance was his favorite, it was obvious that the center's mission to turn Lake County children into world travelers is a budding success.
Davis said the best measurement of success for a summer camp is simple.
“The kids want to be here every single day," he said.
Photo was provided (photographer not named in article)