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Prairie River – Not just a Bible camp

By Staff | Aug 17, 2009

Gazing out onto the tranquil acreage comprising Prairie River Camp, it is difficult to imagine the scene next week when ‘Go Fish,’ a nationally-known acappella Christian singing group, will be performing on the grounds.

“I wanted ‘Go Fish’ because they have amazing music which reaches all ages”, explains Prairie River Camp Assistant Director Renae Groskreutz. “This trio performs great music for kids that will appeal to the adults as well.”

The outdoor concert is slated for 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 22 at the rural Bricelyn camp.

The concert is the culmination of the three-day family event ‘Soul’ed Out Family Festival’ which will run Aug. 20-22 at the 62-acre site located north of Bricelyn on Highway 253. Included in the three days are camping accommodations, all meals, four t-shirts, family learning material and four ‘Go Fish’ tickets. Registration is required in advance to participate in this family event.

Otherwise, if one just wants to attend the Saturday concert, gates to Prairie River Camp will open at 1 p.m. Wagon rides, an 18-hole miniature golf course, playground and concessions will be available for visitors to enjoy, in addition to the evening concert. For those wishing to meet with the members of ‘Go Fish’ prior to the concert, Groskreutz says backstage passes will be honored, beginning at 5:15 p.m.

“We are praying for 800-1000 people to attend,” says the enthusiastic Groskreutz. To prepare for the day, she, Tim Zenk (on-site manager) and three summer interns have been reviewing their needs for the upcoming family festival. At this time, they have 110 volunteers on their work schedule to assist with the ‘Go Fish’ concert. They will be helping with everything from parking and security to garbage removal. Volunteers come from as far away as Faribault, Jackson and Estherville, Iowa to assist, says Groskreutz.

“We cannot pay our volunteers because they are literally priceless,” she says. Everywhere on the acreage one can see the work which has been performed by volunteers. It includes everything from the many beautifully made picnic tables to the construction of a climbing wall and zipline.

Since the property was purchased in 2000, Prairie River Camp has been owned and operated under the umbrella of the South Central Minnesota Youth for Christ organization. Greg Gudal, a native of Bricelyn, is the Executive Director of the organization.

But Groskreutz says she wants people to see them not just as a Bible camp, but as a place to come to enjoy nature, hang-out and build a relationship with their family and God.

“We’re here for whatever you need, be it quiet, sitting by a campfire or sitting in a sandbox,” says Groskreutz. “If you need someone to listen and to care, that’s why we’re here.”

Some of the groups who have been at Prairie River Camp include student R.A.s from Waldorf College, FCCLA members, area girl scouts, Blue Earth Area seventh and eighth grade students and the Elmore Academy. It has also been the site for Wal-Mart’s employee appreciation event. She says Prairie River Camp wants to be that “close by place” people want to visit.

“We have had baptisms here as well as family reunions, graduation receptions, anniversary celebrations and a lot of outdoor weddings,” she says.

The camp is also the place, Groskreutz adds, where a lot of single parents come for the day with their children because they can’t afford lavish vacations.

“These single parents always look so relaxed and calm when they leave the camp,” says Groskreutz.

Prairie River Camp has seen many additions over the years. A church which was situated between Wells and Waldorf was moved to a prominent site near the entrance in 2002. It has undergone a total restoration. A bunk house is currently nearing completion. It will enable the staff to house people for retreats and to host groups whether they are doing scrapbooking or just in need of a climate-controlled environment. The bunk house will sleep 40 and includes a 32×15-foot meeting room upstairs.

Camping accommodations presently on site include one cabin which sleeps two, a covered wagon sleeping eight and a teepee with room for six.

The camp continues to grow. In fact, 1200 pumpkin seeds were planted this year in an area adjoining 10 acres of field corn. The harvested pumpkins will be for sale when the corn maze opens for the public’s enjoyment each weekend from 2-6 p.m. Sept. 19 through Oct. 31.

This summer, two new walking trails were also added near the river. For those wishing some solitude or a brief respite from walking, there are benches strategically placed along the route. There are devotionals near the benches for anyone wishing to pursue a self-led walking devotion.

Other items added to the grounds since it opened include an 18-hole miniature golf course, a playground and a prayer chapel gazebo over-looking the river. The camp also features a 26-element ropes course with climbing wall and zipline. Groups need to schedule these in advance.

Groskreutz explains the purpose of the low ropes course is to promote team building, leadership and communication. This course is geared for groups, organizations and businesses. The high ropes course is for building self-esteem, conquering fear and building trust. Waldorf College R.A.s utilized this course recently.

Groskreutz first came to the camp as a guest at a pie and ice cream social fund raiser in August 2004. She fell in love with the camp and shortly after her visit began a stint as a volunteer at Prairie River. Now, she and her family live on the grounds from May to November in a travel trailer in order for her to assist with activities.

Even though she possesses no theological, social service or counseling degree, Groskreutz states her credentials for the job include being a mom of four, wife of 20 years, possessing a love for people as well as for God and having a strong work ethic whereby she gives everything she’s got.

To read more of this story, see this week’s Register.