Experiencing SUUSI by Tom Wentworth

The Southeast Unitarian Universalist Summer Institute, lovingly known as SUUSI, is an intergenerational UU summer camp that has been running since 1970. After a two-year COVID-19 hiatus, when it ran only virtually, SUUSI was back in business on the ground this July, on the campus of Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC.

Linda and I attended, along with our daughter and granddaughter, Addie and Emmaline Hirschten, who traveled from Indiana to join us in Cullowhee. We arrived on Sunday, July 17. After testing negative for COVID-19, we checked into our dorm rooms and got ready for the Ingathering ceremony, led by a band of drummers. We marched in the opening procession displaying the UCF banner, carried proudly by Linda and Addie.

On Monday, regular events began with a wide range of activities that included many workshops, like this “Art for Everyone” class that I attended every afternoon. At Community Time each afternoon, there were various outdoor events for all ages, including the Zero-Waste exhibit that Linda co-hosted with Mike Fanelli. There were two worship services each day, and Linda and I attended several of these.

Professional musicians offered nightly featured performances and led some of our worship services. Food service in the cafeteria was abundant and diverse, and there was an option this year for take-outside meals for those wishing to avoid unmasked diners inside. Coffee was always available in the cafeteria, but many hard-core caffeine fans preferred to visit the 24-hour brew-it-yourself “Common Ground,” which featured a comfortable lounge, yummy snacks, and many jigsaw puzzles.

Back outside, there were numerous daily nature hikes to local waterfalls and mountains. If you preferred to wander the campus, you might encounter UUs with unusual hair colors and sporting tie-dyed clothing, or playing a pick-up game of Bananagrams. Spontaneous music happened frequently, owing to the large number of talented amateur and professional entertainers attending. Nightlife abounded, with events for both adults and the younger set.

For a change of pace, there were the SUUSI Store and Artisans’ Bazaar, where a few lucky people got to purchase Emmaline’s hand-crocheted cows. A late-week Pride Parade rounded out afternoon Community Time events, but Saturday morning, July 23, arrived all too soon, and we said goodbye to our friends at Closing Circle. We hope to return next summer – would you like to join us?