Fuzz Foster helps Beach Bards start 23rd season

By Norm Wheeler
Sun editor

“Simon says, ‘Hands on your shoulders!’ Simon says, ‘Hands on your heads!’ ‘Hands on your knees!’ Simon says, ‘Hands on your shoulders!’ Hah hah!”

Now James “Fuzz” Foster has the attention of everyone, young and old, around the bonfire. Fuzz is the master of the sayalong, singalong, gesture-along art of “everybody participates” campfire fun.

Fuzz grew up in Westfield, N.J. (20 miles west of New York City) and started working in YMCA Camps in the Poconos already in the 1970s. He followed friend Dave Reid to Camp Crystalaire on Crystal Lake near Frankfort when the owners the Leinbachs wanted to focus on developing their other camp, Camp Innisfree. (Near Pyramid Point, it is now Camps Leelanau & Kohahna and the Leelanau Outdoor Center).

Since then, Fuzz has led thousands of grinning campers through the words and gestures of “Little Cabin in the Woods”, having stayed for 22 years at Camp Crystalaire and also pitched in at Camp Lookout on Upper Herring Lake and Camp Echo in Fremont during many of their seasons. Since 1997 Fuzz has also helped with the evening program at the Leelanau Outdoor Center, leading big games on the fields, night hikes, and evening bonfires with his irrepressible wit and polished stand-up comic’s delivery of songs and stories.

With time-tested prompts and clever repartee, Fuzz will get even the most recalcitrant stump-sitters to throw their arms around and try to lock their hands and then point their thumbs downward in the “Wisconsin Milk Song.”

“I’ve been involved in camping since 1965,” Fuzz remembers. “I evolved my entertainment repertoire by leading campfires since I was 19 years old, from New Jersey to Michigan.” Fuzz spent many winters as a ski instructor while the camps were closed. He was in charge of the cross-country skiing program at Sugar Loaf and also taught downhill skiing most winters from 1985 until the resort closed in 2000.

Reflecting on the years of experience that led him to his story and camp-song excellence, Fuzz quips, “I had to work at all of these camps and ski resorts because I only know four songs!”

Fuzz Foster, along with original Beach Bards Bob Sutherland, Anne-Marie Oomen, Les Dalgliesh and me, and long-time Bards Bronwyn Jones and Joe VanderMeulen, kicked off the 23rd season of by-heart poetry, storytelling, and music on The Leelanau School beach on Friday, June 24. For just $1 per being you can join this open forum where everyone is encouraged to participate by reciting poems they have memorized, or by telling stories, performing skits, or playing and/or singing songs. The evening commences with the popular Children’s Hour at around 7:45, and then after a break we continue with some more serious pieces to go with the local legends, popular ballads, and recognizable singalongs that everyone enjoys around a bonfire.

The ancient magic of the oral tradition, of the days before electricity and screens, when people sat around fires and entertained each other with rhymes, tall tales, family histories, and myths, legends, and lies, are re-created on these summer Fridays through August 12 (no fire July 29!) on The Leelanau School beach next to the Observatory.

So join Fuzz Foster and the rest of the Bards on a Friday night. Brush up that old Robert Service Yukon poem you memorized once, or tune your old guitar and re-learn your college version of Hendrix’s “Hey, Joe”. Come share that old camp song you never forgot, or just join us to listen. Bring stuff to make s’mores! It’s a no-tech, retro old-fashioned whole family way to have fun together on a summer night, and you won’t soon forget it. See you at Beach Bards Bonfire. For information call (231) 334-5890.