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My Favorite Color War Break(s)

Recently, I ran one of my email roundtables. It was on Color War – the breaking of them, the challenges, creating teams and much more. In an attempt to gain more submissions I put up a $50 Amazon gift card for my favorite Color War break. In all, over 150 camp professionals submitted ideas – many sent in multiple ideas.

What I found so amazing about this roundtable is that many of those that submitted ideas had never participated (or even heard of) Color War. They did research on the internet, used some creativity and added unique challenges they do in their normal camp program.


The winning submission was an entry that had multiple ideas and introduced to me the idea of “Fake Breaks”. While these are EPIC breaks, there is NO WAY most camps would be able to afford or pull off these kinds of breaks, including my camp.

Because of that I decided to award a $25 Amazon gift card to the runner-up…a low cost, yet incredibly well-done break – and at a day camp none the less. I also love that they included a video.

I also added an honorable mention to a submission that I thought was fantastic and seemed doable for any camp to pull off.

winnerThe winning submission comes from Colleen M.

This is one of the biggest moments to me, this is what I spend 10 months of the year putting together trying to make it more amazing each summer.

Let’s talk about fakes. This is when I do something crazy where the camps think color war is about the break and then I have a banner that comes out saying fake out. You should see the kids; they are sitting on the edge of their seats each day waiting for it to start. We do some fakes that cost nothing, to cost a little.

Each year I have a tradition where I play music and call all campers and staff to the gym. I have a boys vs. girls comp – treasure hunt. Each bunk is given a clue to find part of the puzzle; they then bring it back to the gym and start to put everything together, which will show a picture – A picture which is a clue to the names of color war. We give out clues throughout all the fake outs so the campers can try and guess what the color war names are going to be. I also have a CD with sound effects.

The best is the helicopter, you wouldn’t believe how you play the sound of a helicopter over the PA system, then say everyone go to the girl’s tennis courts, and 450 (campers and staff) drop everything and run, and then there is nothing there. Try it. We also have put food coloring in the milk blue and yellow at breakfast, left clues on everyone’s bed when they are at a meal, so when they come back they go nuts. We have made funny movies on camp, woke the kids up at 1am and showed them. One year we took the banner and filmed the banner at places the kids and staff know (like Walmart, Chinese, bowling alley, movies, our day camp etc.), asking them if they know where the banner is. It’s pretty funny and costs nothing.

I have taken 5 male counselors, and put a funny dance in the pool to funny girly music, had counselors paint their body blue and yellow and run around camp. I even have two morphs suits that we use each summer, with clues. Last summer we even got a child morph suit, so it was like a color morph family.


I have had a scuba diver go into our lake while kids are still sleeping, called all kids to the lake and then randomly out walks this scuba diver with a clue. This year I also took my waiters/waitresses (10th graders) and I did a glow in the dark dance with them, right before the break, so our kids thought for sure it was the break, then had a sign saying fake out. I have had a fire truck come on camp, police car, even a bus pull up and off walked my director dressed up as the old man from six flags and started dancing to the music.

Last summer I had a dance group come on camp, after we told the kids someone stole the banner and we needed it back or we wouldn’t do color war. The dance group came running in saying they stole the banner and if we wanted it back we would have to do a dance off. I have had a hummer limo drive on camp, kids thinking someone famous was in it, and then the morph suits come running out.


This is my baby, past 6 years I am the one researching and booking the event. This does cost some money, however you do not need to spend any. Ideas from my fakeouts can also be used as a break out. Here are some past color war breaks:

2012 – Jousting competition – 9pm, kids were in gym then led to our sitting area. Two horses were waiting and then announced the black knight vs. the blue/yellow knight. We then walked over to our soccer fields, where they started the competition, jousting, sword fighting, very exciting.


2011 – Fire Cirque du Soleil, took all our campers off camp for 3 hours to our day camp, in the mean time the company set up in our gym. Campers came back and we paged them to the gym. different fire effects, hula hoop, head-gear, even lit part of the (cement floor) gym floor on fire, had a large hoop attached to roof and performed while the hoop was on fire.


2006-2010 breaks can be found in the Color Wars roundtable compilation. My favorite two breaks are the ones above. Having jousters on horseback at camp would be quite a site – as would Cirque du Soleil performs. Well done, Colleen. I can’t wait to see what you come up with this year.


The runner-up submission comes from Buffy D.

runner-upWe sent home an email to the staff and parents telling them we are working on a new camp video and will be having a screening when it is complete.  On the day of the screening we gathered the entire camp body into our rec hall where there is a giant TV screen. We played the video – for about 5 minutes the entire camp was viewing a montage of pictures from the previous years.

At a certain point – the video stops – and on comes a TV news announcer (this was a real news anchor) – saying they interrupt this broadcast to announce there is a villain on the loose at Tall Pines and Uncle Andrew has called in the heroes to see who can destroy the villain first. On the screen are the characters from each side – which we previously filmed – of them running through camp; Then suddenly, and timed perfectly, they burst through the doors of the rec hall and run through the crowd with confetti guns.

Once the crowd is calmed down the generals then announce which bunks will be assigned to what color – then green and white bandannas are disbursed to each bunk counselor to give out. Also the entire weeks activities are given out in a day by day schedule.

The video is great. I asked Buffy how she got a real news anchor to do the broadcast and how much overall she spent on this break (besides the costumes).

Buffy’s response:
It honestly was a matter of networking. First we contacted all the local stations and no one would accommodate us. Then when I asked one of my counselors who taught video at a high school – because our back up plan was to do a fake taping.  He reminded me he worked at Comcast Sports net. And he called in a favor. We wrote the script and he just read it and sent us the tape and we incorporated it into our tape. It was just luck. And the newscaster comes from a camping background in his youth so he “got it”. It did not cost us anything – but I sent gift baskets as a thanks.

The confetti wands we found through a balloon guy I had used at camp. They were $25 – our original idea was to use a confetti cannon.



The honorable mention goes to David M. I edited his submission to include the breaks I liked the most.

Color War, or Maccabiah, at (our camp) is a big deal. Many campers actually schedule the weeks they want to be in camp around when they think color war will be. Each year it comes out at a different time.

We had a sheriff come and teach us about what to do if a bear was spotted and while he was speaking, someone in a bear costume came up to the pavilion holding a COLOR WAR BANNER.

We told people a special musical guest was coming. Somehow, it spread that Justin Bieber was coming. A stretch hummer limo pulled up, the driver rolled out a red carpet and the Color War Generals exited (much to the dismay of the teenage girls but they took it well!)


I love the bear one. Rent a bear costume and have a ranger volunteer to do the talk. Sounds like a lot of fun.

If you take a look on the right hand side of the screen you’ll see the sidebar and that’s where you can sign up to be on my mailing list. When I run an email roundtable I notify everyone on the list about it. I tell them what the topic is and then they usually have around a week to submit an idea. Then everyone who submits an idea gets the compilation of everyone else’s ideas. So get on the list NOW, because you never know when I might call for a roundtable.

Need more ideas? Get my book Color War Tips, Tricks and Great Ideas (a compilation of the best roundtable ideas I received).


  • Moose, I can’t get it, I don’t know the lingo… was does “break” refer to? Been running CWs for years and don’t understand…

    • Dave, I didn’t get it at first either. I got a real education during this roundtable. To “break” Color War is to “start” it. It’s the camp saying, “Hey, it’s time for Color War to begin”. Apparently, for some traditional camps that have been doing this since the dawn of time the “break” is a HUGE deal. There’s a build up and an excitment in the air. Campers never know when it’s going to happen and they are on pins and needles waiting for it. That’s the reason some camps do “fake breaks”. If you see that something big is happening at camp you would normally assume that it’s the start of Color War, but if your camp does fake breaks you never can be too sure. One camp professional that participated in the roundtable said that they also do fake breaks, but campers know which one is real because there is a tradition that after the hoopla of the “break” the director crosses the 2 colored hatchets announcing the start of Color War.

  • Thanks for sharing Neil and Avi. I’m amazed at the lengths some camps go to and the money that is spent on Color War. I wish I would have gone to a camp like yours when I was a kid.

  • Hello,
    I went to Camps Diana Dalmaqua in Glen Spey New York from 1950-1968!
    I had relatives at this camp from its opening in 1920 until my last year there! Color War was the wonderful time of the season! Our Color Wars lasted anywhere from a Week to 9 days! Red and White would fight it out in a friendly battle. There were no losers in color war! Over the years I was there I was a general 3 times. Our color wars included all manner of athletics, Arts and Crafts, Drama, a Gold Rush, A bucket Brigade, Swim Meets. Track and field meets, Waterskiing, Boat meets,Capture the flag,Dance Competition, Marathon,
    You name it we had it! The final day was the Apache Relays for both Boys and girls. This was followed by our Grand Sing in which each team peformed An Entrance Song, A Toast, A Marching Song, A cheer, An Alma Mater and an exit song! Sing also included an outside formation and presentation of theme with incredible Props. The insde of the field house was decorated in team theme decor. Costumes were also judged!
    Some of our themes included:
    As general of the Red Dragons we built a 40 foot motorize dragon that moved its wings and blew smoke and fake fire out of its mouth
    The team of 220 campers sat inside a dragon cave at sing with 2 more Dragons flying over the top of the cave. When each team unites there is nothing that can not be accomplished. Over the years I wrote dozens of original Color War songs to both original melodies and Classical music! They featured 3 part harmonies, Rounds and counter point. Spirits were raised to the roof as 3 times a day we marched into the dinning room singing different team songs and cheers!

  • Hi Moose, Thanks for the response.

    In order to help you with your color war Plans here are some ideas for Color War Breaks. Some may cost more oney than others. Some are spectacular and others are more low keu. However the element of surprise is always involved.

    1.Basic Airplane Break-A small yellow piper cub plane flies very low
    over a combined assembly of boys and girls camps and drops leaflets with team themes and team rosters! It’s even more exicitng when there is more than one plane. Our camp used this several times.
    Since our camp was primarily Jewish we had services one Friday Evenings and Saturday Mornings! One year our director had the
    planes fly over the Saturday AM service! Needless to say Services didn’t last long as the team divided up and proceeded to the first team orientation and Preperation for the Opening Ceremonu-The Boys and Girls Hatchet Hunt!
    Another year our director used the Airplane Break on the second visiting(camp was 8 weeks) On August 11. Color War lasted until the
    20th of August with Lazy Day to Follow. Breaking it on visiting involved the parents and it also got the kids away from the masses of candy and comic books that inundate the camp on that day!

    2.Variations on Airplane Break-2 Sky divers parachute out of airplane stream colored smoke-Red and White while the planes drop the leaflets!

    3.Further variation on Airplane Break-USE A HELICOPTER!
    When the camp is in the mess hall Have the Helicopter land oquietly(if possible on the roof of the byulding) Keep the kids occipied and dismiss th camp altogether! Then have the helicopter fly ipwards surprising the camp and drop the leaflets.

    4.Further Ariel Break if you can get it-WE DID Hire a Hot Air Balloonist or even the Goodyear Blimp!

    5.The Quiet Break-Have a chinese Dinner Lawn Party with Chinese decorations,Chinese buffet. Don’t forget to put out the fortune Cookies with the fortunes Reading-THIS IS COLOR WAR! Everyone must open their cookies simulataneously, so the Head counselors must control the process!

    5.Quiet Break in Reel Time! At an All camp Movie or Slide Show have a spliced in Part saying-THIS IS COLOR WAR! Ut’s quiet but very effective!

    6.The Birthday Cake Break-Celebrate the Head counselors or Directors Birthday with a Giant Hollow Birthday Cake. Have the Cake either explode(SAFELY) or have someone jump out with streams and leaflets ready!

    7.Basic Police Raid(Give to the fraternal Order of Police and they may do it for you) Have apolice raid on campus to catch a fake! criminal. They will play cops and robbers and the guns they use will be fake! They will shoot out flags of the team colors!


    Hi Moose,
    Thought I’d continue giving you some more ideas for Color War Breaks! Also if you are interested I can give you a list of over 400 paired opposing Color Team themes! If you need color war songs I have thousands of them: Alma Maters, Marching Songs, Exit and entrance songs for sing(also short ditties& cheers to be used when marching the team into the dining hall), Toasts(Drinking Songs),fight songs, Team Cheers for sing! I have ideas for Theme development usinmg scenery, props, costumes YOU NAME IT! I eventually plan to write a book on Color War!

    Also, I plan to write a script about Summer Camp and Color War!
    Hopefully I can reach a fellow camper and counselor who has Hollywppd Connections! Her name is Penny Marshall, of TV and Movie directing fame! She and I went to the same Summer Camp and with luck maybe She can help me in my endeavors! It sure will be Better than the TOTAL MISREPRESENTATION ON THE USA NETWORK-THE REALITY SHOW SUMMER CAMP! THIS NEW SHOW IS NOTHING SHORT OF DISGUSTING! THEY HAVEN’T A CLUE ABOUT THE TRADITIONS OF SUMMER CAMP AND COLOR WAR!

  • HI Ira,

    Would you be able to post that list of the 400 opposing Color War Team themes as well as some of the cheers and skits you are referring to? That would be very helpful! You can also email me at ilissa@malibubeachcamp.com. Thanks!

    • I tried to email Ira a while back and the email came back as invalid. If anyone got the info from Ira please let me know.

  • My color war this year is scheduled during the week the Summer Olympics open this year. I was thinking we should match that theme. Any ideas for (A) how to separate the teams (by country? continent? Not sure if it isn’t politically correct). And (B) any ideas for a dramatic opening?

    • Jeremy, My thought is to divide the teams like you would for any Color War, using colors. Then have the teams create their own fictional country. This can get very detailed with a presentation of their language, currency, cuisine, fashion, music, flag, etc. Then have them carry their flag wherever they go.

      As for a dramatic opening, I always liked the Olympics when they used an archery to light the torch. Do something similar. Set a hay bale in a large fire pit, douse it with gasoline and have one of the archery instructors shoot a flaming arrow at it. Obviously some precautions will need to be taken. Of course, if you have the funds to do a big, expensive Color War break then there are a lot of things you can do. You can find a good list of breaks (and challenges) that other camps have done in my Color War ebook.

  • Love the idea of the fictional country! I also like the idea of the flaming arrows. I don’t think we can pull that off but I think we can do a modified version. Thanks for the advice!

  • So many great ideas!

    Color war has become my FAVORITE time of the camp season. I truly do live for that week of camp.

    My best break to date was in 2013 (I believe) it was my 1st break as director- we gathered all of the campers telling them that the Dept. of Health called and said that our camp had been exposed to a contagious disease, We told them we had to test them all to see if they were infected. We had staff set up with masks covering their faces, gloves on and hair nets. Each child got “swabbed” and the staff member dipped their q-tip into a black container with paint in it. They then put a colored x on their hand in either red or blue and sent them to sit in 2 groups. When we were almost done swabbing all of the kids we had staff members drive into the field, 2 staff drove the same car in red and blue, and the generals came running out with silly string and confetti announcing color war.

    We had various counselors pretend to faint and cry because they were “infected”. It was GREAT!!!

    Every year since then we have planned something elaborate and super fun, yet cheap because we are a low budget camp!

    • Whoa, that’s pretty intense, Melinda. Did they start to catch on when you marked their hand with either blue or red? When the generals came out, did they go ballistic?

  • They did not- it was their first break so they had no idea. They went NUTS when they realized.

    The following year we did an aliens v. cowboys theme and had green slime all over the woods when they went to Nature and we called them inside because someone said they saw an alien. We had all the windows covered with tin foil and the lights off. The generals were upstairs banging on the floor and shaking the doors- eventually they came in dressed as cowboys saying they were looking to defeat the aliens. They didn’t realize that year until the cowboys and aliens came in dressed in red and blue.

  • Haha…that’s fantastic. Yeah, I guess you could do anything the first year since most of the campers would have no idea what Color War even is. After that, they’re on the lookout for the break. I like that you are able to do big breaks with a small budget. So many camps who want to break Color War feel that it would be too expensive, but you’re right, it doesn’t have to be. Big plans for this summer?

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