The Power of the Color War Alma Mater

   Camp News

There are certain words, phrases, or lyrics that bring powerful memories into focus.

Any camp that has a Color War contest has their own traditions and histories, rules and regulations about Color War. At Camp Wekeela, Color War is one of, if not the best, parts of the summer. For 4 days our campers and counselors pour their hearts onto the fields, courts, water, stage, and everything else to gain valuable points for their team. Every camper and every counselor has an impact. They scream and cheer, paint their face in Green or White, and compete at the highest levels.

But every game, activity, and cheer leads up to Sing on the last day. At Sing, the banners, programs, and totem poles are revealed; the commercials and dances are performed; the poem is read, the photos are hung up, and of course, the Fight Songs, Cheers, and Alma Maters are sung. Now just reading this blog you may think, well what do these entail? If you haven’t been to any camp but especially Camp Wekeela before, describing Color War is a very tall task. For 3 days, Counselors work hours on end to give the kids the best banner, totem pole, song, etc. that they can. No prior work, they are given a blank canvas, a chopped down tree, or just a guitar and get started. Having worked on several of these myself, it is a daunting process and something that is hard to describe; however, the central ethos to why the hard work is done- why you are awake at 4am carving a tree- is to give the campers something to remember, something to enjoy for years.

In my opinion, however, the Color War Alma Mater is one of the most special. The Alma Mater is a song that “represents all core components of the team.” Traditionally at many camps, an Alma Mater is a re-write of a popular song, for example, when Ephram was a Color War General in the 80’s, his Alma Mater was a version of “Open Arms” by Journey.  However, at Camp Wekeela, the Alma Mater is an original song that is written during Color War by a few counselors and sometimes campers.

Like any song, Alma Maters can become part of your semantic memory; you know when you haven’t heard the song “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepson in 3 years but you burst out every word as if its second nature. Music has the power to bring back strong emotions and memories. For example, the song above will always remind me of 2012 Staff Week and our first ever Camp Flash Mob that we burst out on the first day for the campers. The same goes for Alma Maters. Powerful lyrics like “This isn’t goodbye it’s see you later” (Gorillas ’07) or “If I ever get lost, if I ever lonely- this is our home away from home” (Empire ’14) or “two colors but one tribe” (Wild White ’16)  there are some lyrics that have become part of the Wekeela culture. The Alma Mater is an incredibly emotional experience, one in which is hard to describe unless you have sang one yourself at camp. 4 days of intense activity, spirit, fun, competition, and all those things that encapsulate Color War is finished off by singing this song that means so much to your team. You smile, you cry, you laugh. The Color War Alma Mater not only helps to end Color War, but the beautiful songs help close out an incredible summer.

We have recently updated the Camp Wekeela Website to include what we call the Color War Archive, including Sing versions of Alma Maters, Fight Songs, and some Cheers. You can also check out some Color War Alma Mater videos on Youtube or Vimeo below! And remember to go to the new Wekeela Archive at

Here are a few samples below: