Beverly Hills Summer Camps Go Virtual, For Now

In light of the June 10 announcement from Los Angeles County that summer camps could reopen as early as June 12, locals are waiting to see just what will happen. Many of the most popular private camps, such as Tumbleweed and Tacaloma, had earlier made the decision to suspend their annual summer camps and for the first time ever, the City of Beverly Hills made its summer camp program virtual. In light of the news, however, Beverly Hills publicist Dana Beesen told the Courier that in-person summer camps might resume as early as July. 

While both the price and number of participants may have dropped for the City’s virtual summer camp program, which began June 8, the quality of instruction remains with 13 online classes dedicated to helping students achieve their potential while having fun. 

“The kids are having a blast and the parents are happy that they have something that the kids are engaged in,” said Catskills West Director Christian Smith, now in his 15th year with the performing arts summer program. 

For over three decades, the City of Beverly Hills has offered a bevy of summer camps and classes for youth to adult, which this year started on June 8. And while this year’s 21 participants in Catskills West – about 25 percent of the number enrolled in previous years – may not be enjoying the picturesque environs of Greystone Mansion as in previous years, they are still having a very lively experience Smith told the Courier. 

Over the course of the four-week Catskills West program, which is divided into two three-hour programs (one for children ages five to 10 and the other for kids ages 11 to 14), participants learn all things musical performance, including acting, choreography, singing, dancing, costumes, and set and stage design. In addition, students also participate in various athletic exercises designed to physically engage them. 

Similar to what was originally planned for this year before the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the City to shift the camp online, Catskills West participants will perform “Annie.” However, Smith said that given the change in format, participants will learn a variety of material for the show and staff will then create a final video production of the kids acting, singing and dancing to “Annie” material. The program will conclude with 

a musical watch party at the end on Zoom. Like all programs offered through the City, students can join at any time for a prorated cost. For Catskills West, Smith said that campers have access to a website where they can access instructional videos to learn dances, participate in various art projects and enjoy other learnings. Both Catskills West and Camp Beverly Hills historically the two most popular camps according to Beesen, have created webpages for easy access for children to engage with the virtual programming as well as pre-recorded activity links.

Beesen told the Courier that the City may even opt to continue the virtual camps and classes once the pandemic-related restrictions are over. 

“We wanted to start out with the most popular ones that people seem to gravitate to,” she said. “We know this is different for everyone so we’re trying to get people on board.” 

Other online camps and classes include soccer, math, science, engineering, flag football, ballet, tap, yoga, pilates, and even “Bizzy Girls” entrepreneurship camp. Some camps, like Brit West Soccer Camp and Catskills offer more than one session each day to different age groups. 

Beginning next month on July 6, the City will also offer “Camp Create: Arts & Specialty Experiences” through its Arts & Culture Division. The new series of à la carte virtual classes (around 20) will explore the arts, nature and other specialty experiences online with the idea that courses can be bundled to create a series for a full camp session. From June 22 through July 3 Beesen said the City would offer free trials to provide exposure “as we are confident people will fall in love with the instructors and classes.” 

“These virtual summer camps provide kids a wonderful way to stay connected to their summer camp community and friends,” Director of Community Services Jenny Rogers told the Courier, underscoring that the programs are designed to keep people active, engaged, connected and nourished. “Whether kids engage in their favorite summer camps, or find new ones online, these virtual summer camps are interactive programs geared to providing fun, stimulating and inspiring experiences.” 

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