CAMP ANNIVERSARY: Youth take a break while attending Carol Joy Holling Camp. Pictured are (front row, from left) Hunter Hoefer of Ashland, Jaemyn Hesseltine, Justice Miller, Michael Jones, Maurice Jones and Cooper Davis, all of Omaha and (back row) Ethan Eggen of Yutan. The camp is celebrating its 40th anniversary on Saturday, July 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Staff Photo by Suzi Nelson)

ASHLAND – Forty years after the first camper spent the week at Carol Joy Holling Camp, the facility will celebrate with an open house and special worship service.

Nebraska Lutheran Outdoor Ministries (NLOM), which operates Carol Joy Holling Camp near Ashland, will honor the milestone on Saturday, July 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The camp opened in 1979 with 356 campers attending the first summer. Today, the camp has an average of 1,700 youth attend each summer, according to NLOM Associate Marketing Director Heather Abbott. The location also serves more than 20,000 retreat guests annually.

The land for the camp was donated by George and Irene Holling in memory of their daughter, Carol Joy, in 1974.

The 40th anniversary open house will be based in the camp’s Western Town. There, visitors will check in and have the chance to peruse memorabilia of camp years gone by. Abbott said there will be pictures, newsletters, t-shirts and the famous “cuppies” on display to jog the memories of former campers.

Activities will be set up throughout the Carol Joy Holling Camp site, with shuttles ferrying visitors from place to place, Abbott said.

At Tipi Village, the camp’s horses will be present. Visitors can paint the horses, an activity that was developed for campers to give them something to do with the horses when it was raining and they couldn’t ride, Abbott explained. S’mores will also be served at Tipi Village.

Located between Tipi Village and Trailhead, the Summit Course will be open to visitors. Abbott said this course is a challenge-by-choice course that visitors can participate in at their own pace. There is a rock climbing walls and other individual activities.

“They’re meant to challenge you mentally and physically,” she added.

The camp’s zip line has been closed most of the summer because the area was washed out during the spring rains. Abbott said if the weather cooperates, the zip line will be up and running during the anniversary.

“If it’s able to dry up, we will have the zip line open,” she said.

At Trailhead, the camp’s former main site, visitors can swing in the hammocks, which are well-known to campers as a place to hang out, especially for teens, Abbott said. In fact, over the years the campers created their own language in which hammock has become a verb, she said with a laugh.

Trailhead is also known for “Sandyland,” an area that was formerly the sand volleyball court. The nets were taken down years ago, Abbott said, but the sand remains, thus earning the name.

At Holling House, there will be treats and air conditioning, one of several areas at the camp that will provide a place to cool off during the open house, Abbott said.

“We will have spots available at different places to go indoors,” she said.

The swimming pool will also be open; another opportunity to cool off if it is a hot summer day. Near the pool, a human foosball game will be set up for another fun activity, Abbott said.

At the lake, fishing will be allowed, along with trips across the lake on canoes and paddleboats.

“All of that will be open at the waterfront as well,” Abbott said.

At the Springs campsite, Abbott said, visitors can try the age-old sport of archery or a new sensation – gaga ball – a form of dodge ball in an octagonal ring.

Former and current campers will recall another favorite spot during camp, which is the Camp Store. Abbott said the store will be open with special 40th anniversary t-shirts and regular summer merchandise available for sale.

Also for the 40th anniversary, the camp will sell commemorative “cuppies.” Cuppies are the plastic mugs that campers carry around with them during their week at Carol Joy Holling Camp. The design has changed over the years, Abbott said, but the

NLOM staff worked hard to find a design as close to the original as possible to mark the 40th anniversary.

At Town Hall in Western Town, visitors can participate in classic camp activities like making “friendos,” braided string bracelets that are a staple of camp life.

They will also be working on the same task the campers have been doing this summer as their service project.

“We are making tie fleece blankets for those dealing with depression and anxiety,” said Abbott.

Lunch will be provided for a free-will offering. Abbott said the menu includes sloppy joes, chips and drinks.

The day will conclude with a worship service at 4 p.m. A band made up of former summer ministry team members will provide the music, Abbott said.

Abbott said they are expecting around 400 people to attend the 40th anniversary open house. Those who pre-register by July 5 will receive a free 40th anniversary cuppie, she added, but pre-registration is not required.

To pre-register, go to or call 402-944-2544.

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