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Open range: Children take part in Wild West camp

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. James "J.J." Thorndike tries to lasso a fake cow on Thursday during the Wild West camp. The camp is one of several themed camps provided by the county throughout the summer to teach and entertain its campers.

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. James "J.J." Thorndike tries to lasso a fake cow on Thursday during the Wild West camp. The camp is one of several themed camps provided by the county throughout the summer to teach and entertain its campers.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Kids crowded around three horseshoe-positioned tables with smiles pasted on their faces, decked out in matching cowboy hats and white bandannas, to begin a new Wild West themed craft on Thursday put on by Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation and held at the Lawrenceville Female Seminary.

When the campers discovered they were learning how to make leather rattlesnakes, the noise level drastically escalated with excitement.

"Do all of y'all know how to braid?" shouted Connor Malcolm, 18-year-old camp director, over the noise.

"No!" yelled back giggling Matthew Woolston, 11, of Grayson, yet he had his leather rattlesnake braided in his lap before Malcom was able to give instructions.

The Wild West camp is one of several themed camps provided by the county throughout the summer to teach and entertain its campers.

"We've had camps for many, many years, and the particular curriculum has changed over time with what people are interested in, but we've always had the idea that we wanted to teach (the campers) something in addition to coming up with fun activities," said Kim Elmore, program leader. "So the Wild West camp is something that is new this year because we surveyed some of our parents and kids last year and they said, 'Let's do wild west camp next year.'"

The campers have participated in many activities this week, including creating teepees and canoes, panning for gold and playing with cork guns.

They also played games and relays such as a cow corral, where campers try to herd black and white colored balloons into their designated pens for a prize.

Kyle Fromme, 11, of Grayson said he enjoyed the week's camp theme and likes playing outside with his friends, pretending to lasso them like a cowboy.

"Panning for gold was a lot of fun, course we didn't get real gold, but it was really fun," Fromme said. "It was probably my favorite part."

Likewise, Shirley Herandez, 8, of Lawrenceville has enjoyed the camp theme. She said her favorite part, aside from panning for gold, was the crafts because "we usually get dirty and then wash our hands, and I like art a lot."

Elmore said she is surprised by some of the odd facts campers are able to retain, and she wasn't let down this year.

"All the interesting stuff is about the Indians, like how, disgustingly, they soaked the leather in sheep brain," Fromme said.

"Wild West" camp has been fun for the staff as well as the campers.

Malcolm said he loves working with the campers and it's easy to lose track of your age. He gets to revert back to his inner-child.

"You kind of catch yourself being a kid again, you know, acting on an impulse, just running around and having fun," Malcolm said. "So there is a part of me that still feels like a kid when I work here ... It also helps when you have that kid feeling, it helps you connect better with the kids."

The connection between staff and campers, along with interesting activities and imagination will keep at least Herandez wanting to come back.

"It's like history in here, but its history you can't see," Herandez said.