Yeeee Haaaaa! There’s GOLD in them there hills! This great theme day activity will be one of your camp’s summer favorites. As with all great theme days, dress-up, role playing, and enthusiastic staff make all the difference in the world. Here’s a framework for you to use and modify at your camp. Have fun, pardner!
Scene 1: There’s GOLD in them thar hills!
Have all campers assembled in one spot in the morning for announcements. In the middle of announcements, two scraggly miners come onto the scene whooping and hollering with excitement. They tell everyone that they’ve found gold, lots of it. Enough to make everyone rich for the rest of their lives.
A sheriff steps up and declares that the camp should organize groups to go search for gold. However, the groups should beware that there are bandits on the loose, who might try to take their gold. The sheriff advises that if the groups are caught by the bandits, they must stop (for their own safety).
The sheriff then instructs the group that they have one hour to find as much gold as possible and bring it back it the bank and then report to the old barn for a hootin’ hollerin’ good time.
Scene 2: Gold Rush
The night before the gold rush, hide rocks of all sizes painted gold around camp. Set up a couple of areas for your younger campers only, so they older campers don’t take everything they find.
After the Sheriff releases the search parties, the fun begins. As campers look for gold, bandits (staff or CITS) chase after groups and attempt to take their gold. Bandits usually introduce themselves to the group (Wild Eyed Henry, Goose Stepping Josie, etc) so the groups know who they are dealing with. The bandits turn out to be pretty incompetent. When bandits stop groups, they can let the groups go if the groups sings a song, stumps them with a math problem, tells a funny joke, etc. Once in a while, the bandits will take a piece of gold, but usually drops it while celebrating.
At the end of the hour, or when the groups have gotten enough gold for each camper, they report to the bank to cash in their find. Each camper gets a handful of tickets or gold rush cash to use at the dance hall.
Scene 3: Hootin’ Hollerin’ Good Time
After the campers get their tickets or cash from the bank, they head over to the area you’ve designated as the dance hall. It could be a room, pavilion, or an open space set up to serve the purpose.
At the dance hall, there is music (a radio, DJ, or a band), snacks, fortune tellers, games, and other types of entertainment.
During the dance hall portion, introduce the Belles girls dressed in fancy dresses who dance with the campers, call everyone darlin’ and make the event fun. Every good gold rush has an Ugly Betty a male counselor in a dress who can really ham it up.
Additionally, the bandits make a brief menacing appearance or two, but don’t really make a big scene.
Campers use their cash to gain admission to the dance hall, buy snacks, and participate in games. Counselors replenish camper cash frequently.
This is a great time to eat lunch. It you have a barbeque, you can assign additional fun roles to the staff cooking, and serve rattlesnakes (hot dogs) and cow patties (burgers).
Scene 4: The Search Party
At some point during the dancin’ and other fun, the sheriff runs into the middle of the group and declares to stop the music.
The sheriff, and several bankers, whose hands are tied, retell the story of how the bandits robbed the bank, stole the gold, and made off for the hills. And worst of all, it appears that they have kidnapped the Belles, too.
The Sheriff asks the campers if they are willing to be deputized and form search parties or posses to capture the bandits and rescue the Belles. He warns the group that as law abiding deputies, they must be very, very gentle when they capture the bandits and bring them back for justice.
The Sheriff tells the posses they must capture the bandits within a given time and bring them to the court house. The posses then begin their camp search.
Be sure your bandits hide in manner that allows them to be found in the desired time. If they hide too well, be sure they know to come out of hiding and get captured in time.
Scene 5: The Trial
Once all of the bandits have been captured and the campers have returned, it’s time for a trial.
There is a judge, a colorful county prosecutor, defense lawyers, and a bailiff or two. Each side calls witness: camp counselors, the fortune teller, bankers, and others as they try to convict (or free) the guilty parties.
Every good trial has an exciting twist (the Belles were in cahoots, the sheriff was the mastermind, the cook had poisoned the punch, etc) that results in someone else is found guilty alongside the bandits.
The verdict is declared by the judge and the justice is swift. If you have a pond, lake, or pool, a good dunking in full costume is the best sentence. However, a good water hosing, or whip cream pie-ing are good, too.
A few good resources:
Generate your own fake money with pictures of your staff – Be sure to select “personalized money.”
Generate Wild West Wanted Posters
Gold Rush Cast Description
Gold Miners: The miners announce to the camp that they’ve discovered gold in them thar hills. Gold Miners need jeans, shovels, and something for sifting (either a real sift, or a kitchen strainer).
Sheriff: Sheriff is the emcee of the day, explains rules, sets time frames, and deputizes the campers. Sheriff needs a cowboy hat, shiny star, and a loud voice.
Bandits: The bandits chase campers and try to steal the gold. They need jeans, bandanas to cover their faces, water squirters, and bad jokes.
Bankers: Bankers collect the gold, inspect it to be real, and pay the campers. They also must retell horrors of being robbed. They need white shirts, vests, and visors.
Belles: Belles are the life of the party at the Dance Hall. They dance with campers, make spectacles of themselves, and get kidnapped. Belles need dresses, lots of lipstick, and fancy hats. Old prom/bridesmaid dresses are great!
Dance Hall workers: These folks hand out snacks and lead activities at the dance hall. They need standard old west attire.
Fortune Teller: The fortune teller read palms at the dance hall. Needs colorful head scarf and clothing.
Judge: The judge is in charge of the trial, demanding order in the court, and passing the final sentence. The judge needs robes (graduation gown) and if possible, a fancy wig (a clean mop head is a pretty fun prop).
County Prosecutor: This person demands justice and leads the case to bring the guilty parties up on charges. They make opening and closing statements and are suspicious of everyone. They need a dress shirt and tie. And suspenders if possible.
Defense attorney: This sketchy character fights for freedom for his or her clients. They accuse every witness of lying and make wild claims. This person needs a slick outfit and slick hair.
Other characters as needed or available. A deputy or two, a bailiff, local town characters, etc.