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Sheboygan Falls Native Helped Make Documentary
To Air on Milwaukee Public Television in July

 MAILED:  July 1, 2003

EAU CLAIRE - Cultural geographer Timothy Bawden, a Sheboygan Falls native now an assistant professor of geography at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, played a significant role in the making of a recent documentary film, "The Summer of a Lifetime," to be aired at 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 15, on Milwaukee Public Television's Channel 10.

The film, which traces the history of both public and private summer camps in Wisconsin from the 1880s to the present, was co-produced by Wisconsin Public Television, which first aired it in April, and Spring Green filmmaker Dave Erickson, who has been making films for public television for more than 20 years. Erickson said he first became interested in Wisconsin summer camps when he was researching and filming his last project, "A State of Escape," a film about historic resorts that aired on WPT last year.

After Erickson began his new project, Bawden's name came up as someone who'd done extensive research on summer camps as part of his doctoral dissertation.

"I was amazed to find someone who was an expert on summer camps at all, and the fact that Tim was from Wisconsin and had information specific to Wisconsin camps was just so perfect," said Erickson, noting that Bawden's research helped shape the final film by bringing in more history on private camps, as well as the public ones that Erickson had already begun filming.

"One of the great things Tim brought to the project was information on the history of camp activity in the eastern part of the United States and people like Ernest Thompson Seton and his role in creating many of the archetypal activities we still associate with camps today," said Erickson.

For his part in the actual filming, Bawden traveled to Mukwonago's Phantom Lake, where the second YMCA camp in the nation was founded and where Erickson had started his filming. Bawden and YMCA camp specialist Gary Forster, another commentator who appears in the film, help tell the story of the evolution of Wisconsin's camps as they sit surrounded by the sights and sounds of outdoor activity still very much in evidence at Phantom Lake.

The one-hour documentary, which visits several other Wisconsin camps, including Sheboygan County's Camp Anokijig, highlights the philosophy and goals behind both adults' and children's camps. The film is narrated by Sarah Day, a well-known actress from Spring Green's American Players Theatre.

The film also features much old film footage as well as still photos, dug out of attics according to Erickson, by camp directors delighted to see it used again. Erickson said he was astonished and grateful that these old films had retained their quality after being stored in less than ideal conditions for so long.

Bawden said helping with the film was fun.

"Perhaps the most enjoyable part of my dissertation research in the 1990s, which traced the larger history of outdoor recreation in the Great Lakes region, was visiting summer camps in northern Wisconsin," Bawden said. "There was always a lot of energy that came from the kids, and an overwhelmingly positive attitude among the camp directors and counselors that I met. Working on this project with Dave Erickson allowed me the opportunity to revisit this research and experience the spirit of the summer camp movement that has been evolving for over a century."

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Updated: July 10, 2003