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Campfire can be a showcase for the entire camp (not just for the guy playing “Kum Ba Yah” on his guitar).  It’s the perfect way to close the day as a group, share highlights of the day, and get everyone “on the same page” for tomorrow.  A good campfire is well-planned – even if most of the campers don’t know it – and follows a pace that helps transition the campers to bedtime.  And all it takes is a few key people, a simple outline, and a roaring fire!  (With a bucket of water close by…)  This is a very simple guide – for more detailed information and suggestions, contact Dave Smith at


Campfires can be a “free for all” (which works for sing-a-longs and other group-oriented purposes, but may not provide enough structure for longer periods of time) or you may elect to use teams or tribes (or a similar system) to keep things organized.  In either case, it helps immensely to have someone in charge of the overall production.  Call them the “Big Chief” or whatever title you choose, but make sure they’re comfortable in the role.  Other key people include the “Fire Bringer” and the song leader(s).  (See “Key Roles” on the back.)  Use these people to fill in the spaces between team/tribal presentations.

Team/Tribal Meetings

If you have the flexibility in your schedule, team/tribal meetings are a great way to prepare for the evening campfire program.  They are normally held on any day that campfire is scheduled and let the campers learn songs, yells, skits and other tribal presentations, make new friends, prepare for afternoon/evening competitions and other activities, and develop tribe spirit.   (Helpful hints for team/tribal leaders during meetings are in the “Key Roles” section.)  It is often effective to have teams/tribes prepare a different type of presentation each night – e.g. yells (which are easier to come up with) on opening night, songs on the second night, skits on the third, challenges on the fourth, etc.  Some camps also choose to assign each team/tribe a different type of presentation each day so the campfire includes one song, one yell, one skit, one challenge, etc.

Campfire Components

Variety is the spice of the life and a good campfire can be as light-hearted or as serious as you want.  Often part of the program (usually the first half or so) is of a lighter vein, while the conclusion embodies the more serious – a good combination.  The climax comes with the closing – a good story or other inspirational number.  Here are some possible components:


  • Requests for camper input (council laws, nature/weather reports, etc.)
  • Tribal songs, yells, and other presentations
  • Songs and stories (usually led by staff volunteers)
  • Skits and stunts (including physical or mental challenges)
  • Schedule review and other camp updates/news
  • Claiming of honors (campers/staff recognize each other’s good deeds)
  • Challenges from director to be good campers
  • Closing song


Key Roles

The Big Chief (Campfire Leader) should plan campfire with team/tribal leaders, as well as with the Fire Keeper and Song Leader(s).  He/she should be comfortable leading the campfire but should share the spotlight and even redirect it as necessary to let as many campers/staff shine as possible.  The campfire leader should also:


  • Make a list of things to do at campfire – songs, activities, etc. – plan ahead
  • Set a schedule (even if it’s a simple “cheat sheet”) and keep the pace*


*Use songs and tribal presentations to pace the campfire from high to low


  • Leader’s tone should be friendly and understanding, serious only when trying to make a serious point, such as at the conclusion of campfire
  • Speak loudly and clearly but don’t try to shout down campers/staff
  • Don’t be the whole show, be part of campfire but “one step removed”
  • Establish quitting time and keep it in mind as the campfire progresses


The Fire Keeper is in charge of lighting the fire and keeping it at an optimum level for light (since the fire is usually the only source of light to see everyone else) and safety.  He/she should also:


  • Check the wood supply well in advance and make sure it is dry
  • Build a campfire that is safe and effective (do not add accelerants!)
  • If using “magic” starting techniques (remote switch, etc.), be SAFE!
  • Tend the fire so as not to disrupt the flow of campfire (be invisible)
  • Have more wood than you think you’ll need!  (You can always save it.)


The Song Leader(s) help control the pace/tone of campfire and should use songs in a way that helps build momentum and then eases everyone down at the conclusion.  They should focus on songs that are easy to learn at the outset and let tribal leaders review more complicated songs during team/tribal meetings for use later in the week.  They should also:


  • Know songs beforehand and teach them in manageable “bites”
  • Keep a list of songs handy and know the favorites of group
  • Be ready – anticipate what song you’ll lead next and be ready to do so
  • Watch the mood of campfire – and the Big Chief!
  • Song leaders don’t need to be talented – just enthusiastic!  For song lyrics and samples, go to or



Team/Tribal Leader(s) help run team/tribal meetings and should:


  • Observe and know what is going on with teams/tribes all week
  • Suggest ideas and compromise – let campers take the credit
  • Help keep order during the meetings and at campfire
  • Know the campfire environment (physical space, safety limitations)
  • Use tact – be firm, fair and friendly.



Team/Tribal Captain/Chief (elected by tribe) is usually an older camper who:


  • Helps keep order during meetings and at campfire
  • Encourages team/tribal members to contribute talents, ideas, etc.
  • Addresses the Big Chief/Leader on behalf of the team/tribe and asks permission to present songs, yells, etc.