From NJ suburbs to Lake Country Minnesota, becoming a Recreation Director

For the past two summers, I’ve had the privilege to spend my days in the heart of lakes country Minnesota as a Recreation Director for Fair Hills Resort. Guests and families from across the world come to vacation for a week at our destination on Pelican Lake, and a long activity itinerary awaits them. Vacationers from all ages will find something to do here – from treasure hunts and lake obstacle courses for the kids to golf outings and tennis mixers for the adults.

I truly can’t talk enough about how much I love my job. Really—my own family is getting tired of hearing about it! But what can I say? I was practically born and bred to become a rec director.

It was over Thanksgiving that I was able to meet with some old friends from my childhood days. As we talked, shared memories, and laughed, I came to the satisfying realization that spending the last two summers as a “Reccie” at Fair Hills Resort was my self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts.

You see, I grew up in a New Jersey suburb, characterized by small green front lawns and an overabundance of kids running around, whose parents demanded they didn’t return inside until dinnertime. Just about every house on the block held a family with kids in our age group, and like many other neighborhoods in town, most of these families were of a Catholic upbringing. That being said, one household could have enough kids for a full whiffle ball team.

Anyways, maybe it had to do with my being one of the oldest kids on the block, but quickly I became the ringleader of our crew. I became the one scheduling late-night manhunt games, keeping track of our equipment, and holding democratic voting sessions when everyone was arguing about what to do.

I made sure birthdays in the neighborhood were celebrated accordingly. I led brainstorming sessions on the creation of new games when we were in the dead of summer, and we’d rather pick weeds from Mr. Linetti’s lawn than play one more game of kickball. Those brainstorming sessions gave us so many classics, like Curbball, Handball Soccer, and Trampoline Water Fun.

When the younger siblings (preschoolers and kindergarteners) were sent along with the older crowd to join in on our games, I was quick to give out important jobs like “Master of Puck Retrieval” and cheer squad. The younger kids were just as happy to be a part of it all, and our street hockey championships were never completely derailed.

There was this one time in particular when I was planning Stephanie’s 10th neighborhood surprise birthday party. The party depended on an adult being present for 15 minutes to hold up our makeshift piñata, so I went to ask my mom if she would do the honors. I explained the situation and she said to me, “Casey, I think you oughtta be getting paid for this.” I think I retorted with my favorite phrase of 2007 which was “You’re telling ME.”

But she was right. Here I am now, over a decade later, with two summers of “rec-ing” at Fair Hills under my belt—planning activities, thinking of new ones when the original activity goes south, and making sure every person who’s in our group feels welcome and has the time of their life.

Creating happy memories for people (friends, family, and vacationing guests alike) is something I love to do, something I was born to do. In fact, it was my self-fulfilling prophecy.