Lights in lanes one through six had barely come on before Brian McKenna and five other children started rolling bowling balls down the alleys while their grandparents settled at tables to keep score.
Brian, 10, of Parkville, was one of about 30 campers at the Parkville Lanes taking part in a summer program where youngsters spend the day with their grandparents. The children attend the camp every Monday at the Parkville Senior Center for a day of arts and crafts, story times, magic and, occasionally, a local field trip.
Sitting at one of the bowling alley's tables, Marge Griffin, 68, of Glyndon, said she savors the time she gets to spend with her three grandkids.
"It's wonderful. You get to know your grandchildren without all the interruptions or opinions of your own children," Griffin said.
The Grandparents and Grandchildren Summer Camp is an annual program run out of five Baltimore County senior centers.
This summer marks the fifth year for the camp, which is a partnership of the county's Department of Aging and Department of Recreation and Parks, Senior Citizens Inc. and the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.
For the Griffins and the McKennas, this is their second year at the Parkville Senior Center's camp.
Chuck McKenna, 63, and his wife, Fran, 60, brought their grandson, Brian, and granddaughter, Rachel, 8, because it was "cheap fun" for the family.
Brian said he enjoys the camp because "it's a nice way to interact with other kids. It's a chance to do things you never get to do."
Parkville is one of three camps that run for eight weeks from June 26 to Aug. 16. The cost is $20 per child. The camp at Ateaze Senior Center, which meets Tuesdays in Dundalk, and Cockeysville Senior Center, which meets Wednesdays, are the other eight-week camps. They run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Lansdowne Senior Center and Victory Villa Center of Middle River offer four-week camps that run from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Lansdowne finishes its camp July 20 and Victory Villa will begin its camp July 27, which runs through mid-August. The cost is $10 per child.
Camp activities vary week to week. At the Cockeysville center last week, 30 children sat in a semi-circle, their grandparents behind them, waiting for the "Classics of Magic."
Timonium resident Carol Lansey, 72, has been bringing her grandchildren, Jill and Paul Bateman, to the camp for three years. When Jill, 9, was selected to help with one of the tricks, Paul, 7, watched wide-eyed to see what the magician would do.
The magician placed a handkerchief in a container and the container on Jill's head. Facing another volunteer, who wore two handkerchiefs tied together like a necklace, the children shouted "1-2-3 magic!"
The handkerchief disappeared from the container on Jill's head and reappeared tied to the handkerchiefs around the other volunteer's neck. The audience applauded.
Ann D'Antoni, 55, has registered her 7-year-old grandson, Adrian, for the camp for three years. She said he enjoys it and she likes spending the extra time with him.
"It's really nice in this day and age to take time because I don't think kids get to meet someone or be with people of different ages," said D'Antoni, a Timonium resident.
All the camps are organized and run by one director, who is on site on the days the camps are held. Ockeem Ellis, 27, of Glen Burnie, will continue to serve as director for the rest of this month before taking a job as an Anne Arundel County park ranger.
Ellis said being director of the camp enabled him to emphasize the power of the relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild.
"Grandparents are the best people to be around," Ellis said. "I love the interaction. The older adult is where we gain our knowledge."