A-Camp 6.0 Recamps Part Four: Don’t Believe Me Just Watch

Once upon a time (May 30th-June 4th, to be specific) in a land far far atop a mountain two hours outside of sunny Los Angeles, approximately 300 queer humans — 250 campers, 50+ staff and talent — gathered for four days and four nights of revelry, intellectual stimulation, dance parties and deep sea bonding. They called it A-Camp 6.0, and it was beautiful! This is the fourth of four fantastic recaps which serve to ease our collective separation anxiety, give you a behind-the-scenes look at how your A-Campdyin soysage is made, enable us to wax nostalgic over times gone by and provide prospective campers with a brilliant glimpse into the A-Camp Experience from the Staff Side Of Things. (If you wanna know how it feels to be a camdelkper, you’ll have to come to camp!)

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A-Camp was the genesis of an idea Riese had at 3AM in July 2010: the concept was to take the spirit of the website into three glorious dimensions by renting a summer camp in the off-season and jam-packing a long weekend with panels, workshops, discussions, crafts, sports, entertainment, parties and so much more! We gave the idea a spin with an abbreviated, smaller edition of A-Camp in April 2012, followed by full-size full-length camps in September 2012May 2013October 2013, May 2014 and May 2015.

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This camp was our best camp yet. Seriously, we were very on top of our game. This required raising prices, but we think the extra expense was well worth it — I mean, we had a bouncy castle! We had an all-star cast of special talent: actress and DIY Queen Jasika Nicole, Everyone is Gay super-idols Kristin Russo and Dannielle Owens-Reid, musicians Julia Nunes, Jenny Owen Youngs and Mal Bum and comedians Brittani Nichols, Deanne Smith and Elicia Sanchez. Plus, Orange is the New Black’s Lauren Morelli showed up for an hilarious afternoon Q&A, Kimber Hall joined Brittani for improv and former Miss Kentucky Djuan Trent sang from her soul. A DELIGHTFUL TIME WAS HAD BY ALL.

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A-Camp 6.0, Day Five: Wednesday, June 3rd

THE FIRST-EVER A-CAMP STATE FAIR

Activities: Master Builders: Lego Edition, Swing Dancing, Art Gallery, Whiskey Tasting, String Cheese & Boxed Wine Tasting, Bitches Brew: Feminist Beer History and Tasting, Craft Beer Tasting, Tarot Card Reading, Gay Gardens, Sex Advice/Lube Tasting

Games and Sports: Geek Trivia, Arm Wrestling, Tug of War, Water Balloon Toss, Pie-Eating Contest, Midway carnival games, Pin the Tail on the Cow, Canny Crush, Hoop Dreams, Livestock Show, Double Dutch, Hayrides, Hula Hoop Contest

Events: Class & Camper performances, The OWL Storyslam, “Out Here” Film Screening, Singled Out w/Stef & Carmen, Magic Show, Queering Mars: A Talk With Joy Dunn of SpaceX

Crafts: Balm for the Soul: DIY Chapstick, T-Shirt Cutting and Stenciling, Face Painting, Hand Tattoos, Stick Ponies

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Robin Roemer, A-Camp Co-Director: The morning of the fair Marni and I rolled out of our beds at 6:30am and looked at each other like “why did we do this to ourselves?” and then remembered it was Riese’s fault. JK. I mean it was her fault, but the fair was awesome and worth all of the crazy running around in the morning to set up!

Marni Kellison, A-Camp Co-Director: As I’ve said in the past, it wouldn’t be A-Camp if I didn’t dream up a somewhat complicated and over-engineered construction project for myself to execute before and/or during camp, and this year’s State Fair was my most ambitious project yet — two rows of PVC pipe midway booths tented with red fabric for the carnival games! The two sections were each 15 feet long, 7 feet high and 7 feet deep. Before camp, my dutiful girlfriend Kyle helped me cut all one billion lengths of pipe in an Emeryville Home Depot plumbing aisle, and single-handedly sewed 61 yards of red fabric for the tenting — we bought out everything at Joann’s and still needed more! Jasika Nicole sewed the gingham bunting trim!

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When Dreams Become Realities

Nikki, Intern: I was up really early to help with Fair set-up. I’m not normally a morning person but for tasks like this I try to be my best Nikki. I was moderately okay Nikki this morning of camp. It took me longer than normal to figure out the diagram for the Midway that Marni made.

Marni: Nikki, Bren and Megan were my early morning saviors.

Maddie Taterka, Firebirds Counselor: I got to help assemble The Midway and attach the red fabric to the PVC pipe with a shit ton of zip-ties, while standing on some precariously perched plastic chairs, which I think made Ali and Vivian very nervous.

Marni: The whole PVC pipe project turned out great and looked amazing at the Fair, despite one section eventually developing a serious gangsta lean and nearly toppling on Rachel and Lizz several times.

Robin: I was so grateful to have Nikki’s help who worked with a company down the mountain to get the concessions and the really fun inflatable boxing ring.

Carmen Rios, Rodeo Disco Counselor: Emily Gigler and I were super-involved in setting up for the State Fair, which made everything a lot more fun.

Emily Gigler, Midway Prince: The camp-wide hangout and have-a-wild-theme-party day is one of my favorite camp experiences, including the magical whirlwind of the whole scene coming together… in which I hulk every heavy thing to make some kind of a point to Carmen.

Abby Braughton, Captain Coordinator of Logistics: One of the best things about your girlfriend also being from the Midwest is that you grew up in state fair culture. It is our jam. Goat shows, 4-H contests, games that are impossible to win and especially HAY RIDES.

Riese Bernard, Runaways Counselor: We’re so obsessed with state fairs and county fairs but this summer I only went to one State Fair, and it was at A-Camp. (Okay actually we did go to one other State Fair in August, but it was the Michigan State Fair and it wasn’t even a real state fair ’cause apparently they pulled funding for it a few years ago and it was in the Hyatt Place parking lot. But we did get to see a lot of baby pigs, so.)

Carmen: When we were done trying to decide who was a little bitch among us, we helped Abby pimp out her hay-ride and then got a celeb tour of A-Camp in it. Sure, we almost died. But what’s a life not lived ON THE EDGE?

Abby: Some miraculous moments happened with this job, starting with when they went all Xzibit on my truck and made beautiful “HAY GIRL HAYYYYY” signs.

(photo by Taylor)

(photo by Taylor)

Abby: I was honored and privileged to give hay rides in my truck to the good folks of A-Camp.

Rory Midhani, Rodeo Disco Counselor: I liked the hay rides! I was rolling a cigarette in the smokers circle when I saw Abby’s truck driving up the hill with Gigler and Nurse V chillin in the back and I didn’t even think, I just dashed my things and ran my lil legs off and leaped onto that moving truck.

Abby: On one of the hay rides, as i turned on my truck I accidentally knocked the volume knob for the radio and it happened to be blasting Vitamin C’s “Graduation (Friends Forever).” Do you know what that’s like? To be driving a bunch of queers in hay bales in the back of your truck and the lyrics “as we go on, we remember, all the times we, had together…” drifting through the trees of Angelus Oaks? It was unreal. Absolutely. Unreal.

Hay Girl Hay (drawing by Rory Midhani)

Hay Girl Hay (drawing by Rory Midhani)

Laura Mandanas, Outsiders Counselor: This was my favorite day of camp because (after unloading all the hay bales in the morning) I finally got to spend some quality time with members of The Outsiders, aka the raddest tendergang on the mountain.

Stef Schwartz, Campires Counselor: I’m the worst and was late coming to help set up for the State Fair because I was having a quick band practice with Jenny, Julia and Mal. Marni and I had been trying to sneak in one practice a day, but we were still trying to arrange a couple of songs I had hoped to split between these three weirdos. We goofed around a lot, but in the end I think we came out with a plan, and I was pretty convinced we were going to slaughter that evening.

Riese: I woke up and was heading into the festival square when I realized the Merch Stand was MOBBED, it was like we were Yellowcard at Warped Tour or something, or maybe even Newfound Glory. Maybe even Blink 182! So I helped Bren out for as long as I could. Somebody asked what a “Tomboy Femme” was and someone else was like, “um, like her” and pointed at me. Into it.

Merch Queen (photo by Taylor)

Merch Queen (photo by Taylor)

Robin: I just love the idea that we were giving out tickets all day that got turned in for points that equaled a rainbow war win for bragging rights and you all still REALLY got into the spirit!

Yvonne Marquez, Shark Week Counselor: I was in charge of the inflatable boxing ring thing and I felt so legit with the whistle Robin gave me. Before the state fair officially started, I got to witness Gabby be the sweetest human to a tiny child. The tiny child (the daughter of an Alpine Meadows staffer) wanted to get on the inflatable boxing ring and with her mom’s permission, Gabby helped her in and jumped around with her for a bit. It was so cute!

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Stef: When I finally made it to the State Fair, I’d been assigned to the Vegan Bobbing for Apples booth, but there weren’t any apples so the camp had given us nectarines. I had assumed that enthusiasm among campers would be low, since nobody would be interested in ruining their hair. As it turned out, I was pretty impressed by the lengths campers were willing to go to, particularly Mo Ucros, who dove directly into the tub and pretty much swam to the bottom before emerging triumphantly with a nectarine in their teeth.

(photo by Taylor)

(photo by Taylor)

Rachel Kincaid, Ghost Power Counselor: I was thrilled to work the vegan gluten-free soy-free paraben-free nectarine bobbing activity, because convincing people to do something mildly unpleasant for very little reward is a hobby I don’t get to indulge in often enough. I was proud and amazed at the number of people who went for it with gusto (and often succeeded, despite the un-ripe-ness of the nectarines)!

Maddie: Although I was assigned to ring toss, somehow I ended up sitting at the ticket booth for a very long time, tallying tickets you champions won doing fair games. It’s possible I rallied some Firebirds to make the red team’s showing more respectable, and I have to say, they came through. When it came down to it, though, the blue team unquestionably dominated in the fair-tickets category, with a hundred tickets coming in from a single camper!!

Maddie's got it on lock (photo by Laura M)

Maddie’s got it on lock (photo by Laura M)

KaeLyn Rich, Shark Week Counselor: Uh, in response to Maddie’s above comment, that 100-ticket camper was June, champion of the bean bag toss and unrelenting blue team campaigner. Bravo, June. Bravo.

Cecelia White, Witchblades Counselor: As resident coordinator of the bean bag toss, I can testify that June was throwing bean bags all sorts of ways — with her eyes closed, backwards, and from twenty feet away. It was artistry. Everyone was actually surprisingly great at bizarre fair games.

KaeLyn: Farmer Rubber Duckies was a comedy of errors. I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to figure out how to attach magnets to rubber ducks and how to tie magnets to sticks. An elaborate hot glue process is what happened. It was not cute, but it was functional. Then I accidentally turned off the water on one of the cooks while I was filling my ducky tub. Then I discovered that the magnet-laden ducks no longer floated upright because I’d upset the very balance of nature with my hot glue shenanigans. So the ducky tub was just decorative.

Cecelia: The hardest I laughed at anything this camp (besides during Elicia’s comedy) was at the absolute FARCE that turned out to be Farmer Rubber Duckies with KaeLyn. My booth was all high stakes and action, where bean bags tossed by my head at whiplash speeds. But sometimes I would glance over and see KaeLyn chilling next to a person with a focused and furrowed brow, keeled over a collection of rubber duckies. The whole fair moves around them, and Farmer Rubber Duckies becomes this silent meditative space of mastery, where the only thing keeping you from achieving your greatest desire is a string on a stick and a magnet hot glued to a rubber duckie. I admire KaeLyn for all of the blood sweat and tears she put into that experience.

(photo by Bree Peacock)

(photo by Bree P)

KaeLyn: The deceptively simple game became just picking up a duck from the dry table with the magnet stick and, like, holding it in the air for 1 second or more. The unintended catch was that the magnets were not even a little bit strong, so it was like brain surgery trying to get the magnets aligned just so. More than one person gave up. Many prevailed. Farmer Rubber Duckies had much to teach us about patience, perseverance, and anger management. I feel we all became better people because of Farmer Rubber Duckies.

Chelsey Petty, Blackhearts Counselor: I was set to run the Canny Crush booth during the State Fair, which was right next to the face painting booth, so of course Abby and I got matching Gal and Pal tattoos.

GRRRRLS

GRRRRLS

Brittani Nichols, The Talent: Kimber and I spent three hours putting together the goddamn basketball hoop that came with the wrong sized nuts. The true hero of the day was zip ties. The fact that we had a good time doing this despite how frustrating it was is a testament to our friendship. I think it was worth it because it felt like for a couple of hours, the hoop was the surprise hit of the state fair.

Ready to rock!

Ready to rock! (photo by Taylor)

Carolyn Wysinger, Firebirds Counselor: First I was running the boxing tent. I saved a couple of campers from being smothered when they feel into the cracks of the ring. I actually had to go behind and roll one out. Nurse Viv joked about what happenes if the nurse has to go to the hospital lol.

Laneia O’Jonsey, Runaways Counselor: I fulfilled a lost childhood fantasy of tallying colored tickets for campers via working the Ticket Booth! See, campers were awarded tickets that corresponded with their Rainbow Wars color, and it was the Ticket Takers job to tally their tickets and then record the number on a sheet of paper. I hope I made everyone’s day brighter just by being me. I did my best.

KaeLyn: I was determined to get in the freaking pool at least once at camp and I saw my window in the second half of the day. I had exactly ½ hour to get changed and into the pool. So I joined Cleo, the loneliest lifeguard (the pool was deserted), for a very brief dip.

Cleo, queen of the pool (photo by Taylor)

Cleo, queen of the pool (photo by Taylor)

Carolyn Yates, Fun Home Counselor: I had been looking forward to giving out sex advice and lube with Lizz, Liz and Ali (and lube-dispensing volunteers/Autostraddle WAGs Shannon and Chrissy) all week and after nearly passing out a few times from inflating small blow-up farm animals I was also excited to sit down in a tent in the shade. Everyone who dropped in was lovely and is definitely normal and definitely going to be okay. (Everyone who wanted to drop in but didn’t get a chance to should email youneedhelp [at] autostraddle [dot] com.)

Ali Osworth, Star Runners Counselor: Is it me, or was team NSFW especially wonderful this year, especially when we were giving advice at the State Fair? Gosh, I love figuring out solutions to problems. And I love talking about sex. And I love Lizz, Liz and Carolyn—they’re so smart, you guys. So smart, calm and wonderfully articulate about relationships and bodies in a world that discourages dialogue about those things when you’re a queermo or a woman or both.

Real Housewives of Angelus Oaks (photo by Norah Smith)

Chrissie and Shannon, Real Housewives of Angelus Oaks (photo by Norah Smith)

Laura Mandanas, Outsiders Counselor: The sex toy raffle at dinner got my campers an obscene amount of lube. But my favorite thing by far was just like, hanging out in the sunshine and shade, chatting with these people that I love with all my heart.

Riese: I went to see Abby and Cee talk about farming and gardening at Gay Gardens. They are both so knowledgable so it was really cool — they even made a mini-zine! — even though Real Talk I will probably never garden anything (Abby will, obviously).

photo by Taylor

Abby and Cee talking about growing things (photo by Taylor)

Sarah Hansen, Fun Home Counselor: I was so sick for the State Fair and so I mostly sat in The Barn and quietly discussed Stick Ponies with a handful of campers brave enough to make them, including two of my campers. Seriously, my campers were so sweet and supportive throughout camp, and always helped me when I was having trouble with something. Fun Home was full of the best humans I could have ever hoped to surround myself with, hands down.

Riese: One of the top benefits of having a cabin is that they are so sweet and will come to all of your activities and always want to help! On their vacation!

Gabby Rivera, The Beehive Counselor: I set up the Legos station with Heather, who is generally one of the best people to be around ever. We asked campers to build their ideal queer utopia and yo, they did!

Heather, Hogwarts Counselor: Legos are one of my all-time favorite things. Playing Legos with Gabby was even better than I could have imagined. You should have seen some of the queer utopias our different teams of campers created. Utopias in space. Utopias with free universal wi-fi. Utopias with vegan ice cream trucks. I wish A-Campers had enough money to build a real utopia!

Building the Future (photo by Taylor Hatmaker)

Building the Future (photo by Taylor)

Kip Reinsmith, A-Camp Barber: I spent mooosttt of Wednesday cutting hairz, but when I DID get a chance to peek around the State Fair, it was suppppper cute. My favorite was (Anal) Rubin screaming STEP RIGHT UP while she was doing ring toss or some such game in the middle of a really soulful camper performance on The Grandstand.

Kai Keller, The Beach Counselor: There were a ton of fantastic things going on all day and I wish I could’ve gotten to every single one of them. Specifically the boxing bounce house. It looked like so much fun. Also! This was the time that the badasses from The Beach showed me the MEGA-FLAG they stitched together after finding all three team color flags in the woods or wherever. They were goddamn warriors and I will always cherish that. There is no real way red team won color war without someone’s “help”. #bitter #teamyellowallday

photo by Norah Smith

photo by Norah

Riese: Also, The Pie-Eating Contest was one of the most underrated moments of A-Camp. There was dancing, blackberry-smushed faces, messy dresses, blazing purple glory. It’s cute when people meet and fall in love at A-Camp, but honestly, the thing that warms my heart the most is seeing the everlasting tight friendships I know started at A-Camp — I remember meeting Gavin over a year ago and Gilles over three (!!) years ago when they came here knowing nobody and at totally different stages of their coming-out processes and lives and now they’re up there literally having the best time ever doing a lap dance for a blackberry pie. CAMP!

The Calm before the blackberry storm

The Calm before the blackberry storm (photo by Viv)

Rachel: I tried so hard to take a picture that captured how fulfilling and inspiring the pie-eating contest was, and I could not. It could not be done!

Carmen Rios: I was super busy once the fair was underway: we cut up a ton of shirts like brave heroes outside Wolf in the morning, and then I did the chair dance in the afternoon.

Rory: I watched chair dancing practice for a bit and I asked KaeLyn if it was okay for me to be there or if I was being the male gaze. KaeLyn said if I felt the need to ask, then I’m probably fine. But then I blushed and ran away anyway.

Kai: I spent the first half of the state fair rehearsing with a bunch of groups for the on-stage performances, which ended up being THE BEST. I have distinct memories of Kaylah being super in charge when the dance crews were going on stage. Popping off commands and shit. It was live. It was time to turn up.

Chair Dancing Queens

Chair Dancing Queens (photo by Taylor)

Robin: The performances on The Grand Stand were so cool!

Riese: The Grandstand performances are always a highlight, I never miss them, Kaylah and Kai and Gigler and Trent put together some amazing shit this year.

photo by Laura Mandanas

(photo by Laura M)

Kip: The Grandstand was bumpin. We have such talented campers! It was great to see campers bring their own talents to camp and be brave enough to stand up and share them. I have mad love for that. Also the cheer team, chair dance team (what was their official posse name?), and the celebrity dance grooves team. Ugh. Such good stuff.

dip-itt

(photo by Taylor)

Kai: The cheerleading stunts went perfectly and I was the proudest Cheer Mama. Huge props to everyone who was up there, especially for the first time, because I still get nervous about camp performances even though I know everyone is supportive no matter what.

Kristin Russo, The Talent: I fulfilled a second dream by leading a hula-hoop contest, and also got to see Jenny and Mal and all of their songwriting campers perform their original song, DOIN STUFF AT CAMP. Also one of the campers purchased all of the Everyone Is Gay buttons so that we could give them away to everyone for free. I think this is about the time that I started having feelings like, “How will I ever leave this mountain and function in the real world ever again?”

The songwriting class performs their masterpiece

The songwriting class performs their masterpiece (photo by Taylor)

Mey Rude, Hogwarts Counselor: During the first half of the State Fair, I was a part of the team for Geek Trivia, which was super fun. Plus, Hogwarts cabin totally showed up! Almost all of my campers were there and at one point, something like five out of the eight people there were from Hogwarts.

Elicia Sanchez, The Talent: I co-led the geek trivia for the first block and by co-led, I mean I was there and ate some chips and Grace ran everything like a really well-oiled machine. She did not have time for any bullshit. Like NONE. And Mey did not have time to feel sorry for people that didn’t remember all the names of the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.

Mey: “Pterodactyls are NOT dinosaurs! Are you guys serious!”
Grace: “Some of you didn’t even put T-Rex. NOT EVEN T-REX.”

I love these people.

Mey: Overall, I was really proud of how well everyone did, even if they did boo us when we tricked them with a Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie question, and if none of them could name six dinosaurs featured in the first Jurassic Park movie.

Geeks Being Trivia

Geeks Being Trivia (photo by Taylor)

Elicia: Whitney’s Pokemon questions and hat were my favorites and apologies for the really hard Star Trek questions (I get too excited sometimes). And, okay. SORRY for the question about Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie that angered campers enough to the point that I overheard some of you say later at different activities that the Buffy movie question from trivia was “total bullshit!”

Laura M: Geek trivia was really hard, but I think our little team did admirably.

Cee Webster, Fried Green Tomatoes Counselor: Did you guys know we have an actual rocket scientist at camp? Joy gave a really interesting talk about space and the work she does at SpaceX which is a super awesome company. I was impressed how easily she could explain difficult concepts and how accessible her talk was. I think everyone is really excited about the potential for our cats to colonize Mars.

Joy Dunn of Occupy Mars

Joy Dunn of Occupy Mars (photo by Taylor)

KaeLyn: After the pool, I ran off to be the showrunner/card girl for Carmen and Stef’s Singled Out live show. I was still wearing my bathing suit under my dress and I felt that the moment was right. Never have ankle socks and athletic shoes looks so great with a one-piece. Seriously, though, I’m pretty comfortable with my body, but I’m also not the type that parades around in my bathing suit. Thanks for going along with it. A-Camp makes you brave.

Gigler:  KaeLyn holding up the question board like she’s ready to wave some flags at a race track I mean damnnn!

Stef: KaeLyn was an amazing Vanna White in her gorgeous bikini, and I couldn’t have asked for a better Jenny McCarthy than Carmen Rios.

Gigler: And I have no idea how I ended up involved or how I arrived to be in a child’s high-chair (#toddlerfemme) but that happened at some point it’s all a blur.

Kaylah Wilson, The Beach Counselor: Singled Out was hilarious, in part because most of the campers had never seen the show and had no idea what was going on and sometimes the schtick didn’t quite work out and we rolled with it and Gigler got into a high chair for no reason and Kaylah was the best Shade Queen and it was just great fun. I do hope we got some people laid.

Rachel: Wait, this was based on a show?

Singled Out (photo by Norah Smith)

Singled Out (photo by Norah S)

Stef: It isn’t easy to revive a game show only a very small segment of the campers had ever actually seen before, and queering it was definitely a learning experience. We had a couple of hiccups along the way, but by the end we’d definitely settled into a groove and figured out how to make the game work.

Gigler: My takeaway was that I still love Kaylah the most, and her shade reigns supreme.

Rory: I saw Kaylah standing up there, royally throwing shade every which way and I just thought uh yes can I be your Shade Prince and build you a Shade Castle, rest you on a Shade Thrown and live shadily ever after watching you rule over the Shade Queendom.

Gabby: Carmen and Stef stole my heart and told me to stfu at Singled Out, mostly cuz I’m a loud/funny bitch and I was stealing their thunder. I’m still not sorry for choosing Britney Spears over Brittani Nichols. I don’t think B lost any sleep over that shit esp cuz she can’t use me to get more famous so it’s all gravy.

Robin: Judge Gigler and Kaylah the Shade Queen gave me LIFE!

WEDS 3-a camp 6.0 sketchbook_11_shade queen

drawing by Rory Midhani

Stef:  Some of the staff jumped in to help us create challenges for the potential dates — Kaylah’s Shade Queen was particularly perfect, and I really enjoyed watching Gilles try to convince a bear to drive them up the mountain after their hypothetical bus broke down. Also, two of my Campires matched up and made out, so I felt like my cabin won Singled Out.

Carmen:  AND THEN! Then, I rescued a bunch of people from dying alone at Singled Out. It was such a moment of glory and triumph to finally be up there challenging people to break Kaylah’s shade. Like, it was everything I wanted and more.

Kai: I participated in Singled Out and I WON WUNMI’S HEART BECAUSE WE’RE PERFECT. It was officially the best day of camp/my life. And I know Carmen thinks I cheated but I totally didn’t. Wunmi and I are just meant to be <3. I need Kaylah to just follow me around and throw shade with heart shaped sunglasses.

Laura Wooley, Sea Otters Counselor: KaeLyn looked so cute in her bathing suit at Singled Out that I decided to move my chapstick making workshop outside so that we could all watch the game. We all got a really good wrist workout stirring our oil and beeswax until I discovered that our “double boilers” were really more like double tepid water baths and a camper solved all our problems by getting scalding water from the cafeteria. Whoever it was who told me that you didn’t like coming to my workshops because there’s always so much stirring involved: we’ve worked out the kinks! Come make crafts with us next time!

Gabby: I played with some of the little Alpine Meadows babies in the big bouncy house and it was so cute. I got to swing and play corn hole with my girl and with Trent. You guise, I’m just gonna keep gushing about Laura ’cause love is stupid and real. We met at first camp and I fell in love with her then and this was our first camp together in almost three camps, so it was very nice. She kicked my ass at cornhole and I’m okay with that. She pushed me on the swings. She made popcorn and cotton candy and looked so good hnnggg. But also, everyone is gorgeous at camp. Trent got us to be in her video and she played corn hole with us. And I’m in such deep platonic love with Trent, and so thank God I have a huge heart.

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Nurse Viv & Laura in the bounce house (photo by Laura M)

Trent: I spent a good amount of time trying to memorize my lyrics on this morning and also took a good shower because my armpits were stankiiiiin! By the time I finally made it down to the state fair, I had a blast. I know people were like, “WTF is up with this girl taking all this video and pictures? She’s like, obsessed with her phone.” Well.. now you know.

Kai: At some point, Trent came over and made me eat candy for the camera. Now I’m in a music video.

(photo by Taylor Hatmaker)

(photo by Taylor)

Liz Castle, Tower of Terror Counselor: My absolute FAVORITE part of camp were the vegan burgers at the state fair!!!!! I should have asked for the recipe because I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to recreate congealed patties of plain rice and kidney beans on my own :( They were soo good three vegans I was eating lunch with had a hotdogs instead… their loss, more for me!

KaeLyn: You all. I have been veg/vegan for almost 15 years and vegan for 10 of those. And I just couldn’t with the rice/bean mush burgers. I ate one. I did. But then, then, when no one was looking, I snuck a hot dog as quickly as I could and scarfed it secretly behind a tree by myself all guilty-like. And then immediately fessed up to Elicia and then to other people and now to all of you. I did not share this with my spouse until, like, three days after I got back. And um… now I started eating meat again, I think? That’s right. I went to A-Camp and came back eating meat. I feel like I did it wrong.

Alex Vega, Alleged Vegan: KAELYN I ATE A HOT DOG TOO SAME THING *runs away in shame*

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(photo by Laura M.)

Stef: Am I the only vegan who stayed vegan for all of camp? I couldn’t deal with the gluten-free pathetic excuses for pancakes they gave us in the morning and fundamentally rejected the fucking rice sandwich they gave us at lunch, so all I ate this whole day was a handful of peanut butter pretzels, a Clif bar and a pile of kale at dinner, followed by about a gallon of bourbon. If you’re wondering why some of the bass parts were sloppy later on in the evening, there’s my explanation.

Riese: State Fair lunch was the best lunch all week because they had hot dogs and potato chips and I got to sit with campers and hear them talk about their days and lives. Also the cooks all bought scissoring sweatshirts and were sporting them looking so cute we felt bad for hating the vegan burgers.

Carolyn W: The cook asked for my thumbs up on his potato salad. I told him I didn’t get any. He said he wasn’t shocked. Because I didn’t know who made the potato salad. And that is a no-no lol.

Alpine cooks supporting the cause (photo by Laura Mandanas)

Alpine cooks supporting the cause (photo by Laura M)

Laneia: Megan and I ate our lunches with some super chill campers amongst the trees and it was really fucking lovely! For the record, I had a hamburger and it reminded me of my childhood.

Riese: Also! Deanne was an A+ hostess of the festivities! She’s so funny.

Cecelia: I didn’t know if I could pull off three hours of Tarot Readings because it’s really emotionally exhausting work. Thankfully Morgan filled in for me a bit later, bless her.

Morgan McCormick, Sea Otters Counselor: I was really touched that Cecelia tapped me to take over for her at giving Tarot Readings later in the day and that she trusted me with something that to me is a pretty awesome responsibility, both in its import and pleasure.

Cecelia: I came up with a really special three card spread just for camp — something you came here to seek, something you’ve found here, and what you will leave the mountain knowing. I was actually so energized by reading for all of you and having some time to reflect on your A-Camp experience together. I can’t remember who had this reading, but someone drew The Fool and the Ace of Cups and The Sun and that was the first time I really understood what an honor it is to read Tarot for other people. That person was nervous probably that I was yelling, but I was bestowed with the privilege of yelling to that person: “Your life will soon be very beautiful in every way, the world is good for you and you are good for this world la la la!”

Morgan: It could get pretty intense in there because I’ve been doing readings for a few years and I am not a sugar coater. Nor am I a cynic, I just try to be as real with people as the cards are being with us in that moment. One surreal reading was where a deck that had been shuffled so numerously turned out, in ascending numerical order, a five of cups, a six of cups and a seven of cups. The querent understandably asked me if I was doing a card trick and I was like “noooooo the cards do what they want.”

Tug-of-War

Tug-of-War (photo by Laura M)

Dannielle Owens-Reid, The Talent: Julia and I met two campers that we ended up talking to literally all day and all night. It was so interesting to see the perspective of campers who loved the environment and loved everything camp was about, but were having a hard time because their cabin kept spending each night all making out with each other! We also got into a long conversation about feminism, bi-erasure, porn, living your best life, and how we can change the world. It was so fucking inspiring and interesting.

Gigler: I got to run the boxing ring for a while which I was really amped about, got some hardcore ink from Rory (his line work is tight btw), did really terribly and then really well at the (soy/almond/hemp) milk bottle ring toss, took a damn hayride w/our campdad, and got to laugh and dance and hang out with so many outstanding people.

Yvonne: I waited in line in what seemed forever to get my face painted by none other than Rory! I asked for a unicorn and Rory painted the cutest fucking unicorn on my cheek. I really appreciated it was chunky, like me.

Carolyn Wysinger, Firebirds Counselor: I ran the arm wrestling tournament where BONECRUSHER, aka Tiya became the star of camp. She took down EVERYONE in a matter of seconds. It was amazing to watch. I do believe she is the reason the red team won Rainbow Wars.

Riese: BONECRUSHER! She is the reason red team won Rainbow Wars. Hands down. HANDS DOWN! Get it?

Arm-Wrestling

Arm-Wrestling (photo by Taylor)

Elicia: Then equally amazing camper Nico asked for a turn and sat down and just nonchalantly owned the Bonecrusher.

Morgan: Tiya and Vivian destroyed me at arm wrestling and I loved every second of it. I legit thought I might be the strongest person at camp and I am so over that high fantasy narrative and happy to be so.

arm wrestling practice (photo by Norah Smith)

Nate and Torre’s arm wrestling practice (photo by Norah S)

Bren: There’s only one thing people need to know about the State Fair… there was a bounce house! I have never, in my 37 years on this planet, been inside a bounce house. In the fading light of the afternoon, as everything was winding down, I got five minutes alone in the bounce house and it was all I ever dreamed it could be.

Riese: See when people are upset about A-Camp tuition going up, it’s only ’cause they don’t know yet that there’s gonna be a bounce house. Then they see the bounce house and they’re like: OH.

Swing Dancing in the Beer Gartent (photo by Taylor)

Swing Dancing in the Beer Gartent (photo by Taylor)

Heather: Dang, I loved doing Bitches Brew. I was really nervous about talking in front of everyone, and it was pretty academic, so I was afraid it would be boring. But no! Everyone was so psyched to talk about the feminist history of beer brewing and drinking, and even more psyched to try out different female-created recipes of beer!

Laura W: I stepped into Heather’s Bitches Brew for five minutes to, well, get a drink. But it was the five most fascinating minutes of the day! Did you know that our idea of witches is based on beer and holy femininity and stuff? I really hope she writes an article about it.

Liz Castle: It was super fun!! Delicious beer and feminist history… always a winning combo. Only problem was putting it in the same block as the Whiskey tasting. This resulted in me leaving my phone with Jenny at the merch table which seemed to be fine until I discovered the first of a series of pictures I had never seen before mysteriously posted to my instagram. Luckily everyone at camp is so f*cking adorable, so I can’t really complain.

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 5.58.41 PM

Laneia: Missed Bitches Brew, am still mad about it.

Whitney: I loved the Whiskey Tasting last year, and I loved it again this year. This time Ali and Alex walked us through the four different types of whiskey from Coppercraft Distillery, and I got to try all of them and learn about the differences between a corn whiskey and a rye whiskey. So, so good. I bought one of the Autostraddle flasks and I’m planning to buy a snifter, so I can have more good whiskey in my life. Because my alcohol tolerance almost doesn’t exist, I was tipsy and very happy for the rest of the afternoon and more excited than I thought I could have ever been for the State Fair outdoor barbecue.

Ali: During th’ afternoon at th’ Fair, I did back-to-back tastings — one with our wonderfullllll beer sponsor, Dale Brothers, and one with our amaziiiinnnggg whiskey sponsor, Coppercraft Distillery. I dunno why they scheduled me that way, on account of like I told you already I have almost no tolerance on the mountain, so I was three sheets to the wind by *hiccup* by *hiccup* by…I forget the time. WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A DRUNKEN SAILOR, WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A DRUNKEN SAILOR, WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A DRUNKEN SAILOR, EARL-AYE IN THE MORNING? I need to sit down.

Alice gives Hansen a nice pour (photo by Taylor Hatmaker)

Alice gives Hansen a nice pour (photo by Taylor)

Maddie: In the afternoon, I went to The Owl Story Slam, emceed by the one and only Gabby, who kicked it off with a beautiful and gripping story about how she faced a fear and learned it was worth it. Then campers came up to tell their “first time” stories, and Audrey made me cry so fucking hard before she even started to read when she dedicated her absolutely phenomenal story about her dad and tying ties to me and Riese. So I just sat there pretzeled up into myself on one of those chairs in Eagle that destroyed my back, quietly sobbing while she spoke.

Riese: I AM SO SAD TO HAVE MISSED THIS!

Carly: I performed three back-to-back-to-back magic shows during the state fair. I was extremely nervous because I didn’t set aside enough time to practice. I think overall they went well. Robin graciously offered to help me out by getting everyone seated, introducing me, and turning on the smoke machine. For two of the three shows I was hiding inside a cardboard box, and after Robin introduced me I kicked my way out of it and shouted “did somebody say MAGIC?” which Robin had not said. I wanted to come out to “The Final Countdown” but forgot to set that up beforehand. Oh well. Next year for sure.

Riese: The String Cheese & Boxed Wine Tasting was the best idea I’ve had since I had the idea for camp. I prepared for this workshop intensely and even with all that prep, there was so much last-minute work to be done!

(photo by bree peacock)

(photo by Bree)

Riese: Demand for the workshop was very high, but luckily, my campers are like angels with edgy/traditional haircuts and Analyssa, Courtney and Hana volunteered to be my cocktail waitresses. I felt like everybody had an opportunity to be their best self for about 1.5 hours. Everybody who came was DOWN TO PARTY. We were laughing, we were stringing cheese, we were drinking out of dixie cups on tore-up craft tables. It brought me back to wine and cheese training at The Olive Garden.

(photo by bree peacock)

(photo by Bree)

Laneia: I have never felt so at home and so sure that I was fulfilling my life’s actual purpose than during String Cheese & Boxed Wine Tasting. The campers sampled different brands of string cheese and then scored them based on a very scientific thing we made up. You can see the results of this endeavor here. Riese brought a variety of boxed wines and we might have scored them as well, I honestly don’t remember.

happiest moment of my life (photo by bree peacock)

happiest moment of my life (photo by Bree)

Riese: Also Laneia and I made up stories about the origins of the cheese and the wine, just to sound fancy. I love making shit up. I was so worried about not having enough string cheese and boxed wine that I bought too much string cheese and boxed wine. It was a Runaway hit!

Taking some for the team

Taking some for the team

Gabby: I kind of just wish Robin and Marni could be in charge of shit like this at the national level so everything outside of camp didn’t suck so bad. They really pulled the team together and made this awesome thing pulse with life. I had fun. Like so much fun.

Carly: Big giant props to Robin and Marni for once again planning and executing a massive all-day event at camp. I don’t know why you torture yourselves with this but it always comes together beautifully. (jk it’s Riese’s fault)

Riese: I’m so much fun to be friends with!

Mey: I also sat with Elicia at dinner and she has the absolutely best stories I’ve ever heard in my entire life. She talked about a really, really powerful love spell she put on a boy in middle school and her childhood friend who was involved in a Set it Off-inspired bank robbery. If you think she’s funny when she’s doing standup, you need to have a conversation with her.

Elicia: I had a fun dinner conversation with Mey about witchcraft in which I overshared and DeAnne, who also sat down and became part of the oversharing circle I started.

Kai: I learned how to play Spoons this day. Wunmi told me she once had no spoons for Spoons and had to play with knives. I was impressed.

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Riese is the 39-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2885 articles for us.

59 Comments

  1. Reading this and all I can ask is what did I even do that day?!? Because I remember getting a (adorable!) tattoo from Rory but then, ?????? No idea?
    Goal for this camp: attend everything.

  2. 1. <3 BONECRUSHERRRRR <3

    2. Yes. I took one bite of the rice burger and ate a hot dog for the first time in maybe 15 years.

    3. Sadly I did not participate in a Harry Potter debate but I am proud to throw my hat in Heather's ring: Snape is the worst! (Remus Lupin and Minerva McGonagall are the best.)

    4. That picture of the Beehive is in my wallpaper rotation, and every time it comes up I close all my tabs and gaze at it with starry cartoon eyes and sigh wistfully and happily.

  3. TENDERGANG. Somebody remind me to make that a patch.

    I am marginally disappointed that nobody mentioned the inevitability of the Singled Out part where Casey was onstage and answered the question and everybody else walked off and ONLY FELLOW OUTSIDERS WERE LEFT STANDING because obviously our love and friendship is as inevitable as The Stars aligning a camp return next/this year.

      • Can there be a portion where it is duly noted that he loved a woman he pushed away, couldn’t have, loved from afar that married a jerk then spent life and how as queer lady loving folks we may or may not sorta relate to that?

        If so fan-art away some wail-crying

      • He was kinda put in the hate group by a magic hat? Because his abusive father was in the hate group? And the only person who seemed to like him even though he was in the hate group dumped him for his own school bully. Snape just really wasn’t a fun person to be, is what I’m saying

      • INCORRECT!

        Because you still have to be a friend in order to be friendzoned. :D

        Also empathy =/= sympathy

        I do not give much sympathy because he had choices, just as I had choices. But some people need the approval of others, they have a need to belong and that is how people are recruited for terrible things. How people end up and stay abusive relationships too. That fundamental human need for pack and approval.
        It is a great strength of hominids, but also a very exploitable weakness.

        • Yeah I meant Death Eaters

          Altho in retrospect I can’t really remember if he was in that or not

          I can empathize with p much everybody but shit circumstances are NO EXCUSE for being MEAN and generally just rude to children

          I don’t think house slytherin is evil but I do think it’s underground situation would bum me out a lot

          IDK, I stopped at book five because of that opening dream sequence / everyone in my life telling me I’m Luna Love good when I’m a snarky asshat and Luna Love good is too pure for this world

          and only finished the series a few years ago just because I felt like I ought to?

          And I was p disillusioned about every adult in Harrys life by the end

          But esp Snape and Dumbledore

  4. Omg you guys I always get so many feeling about Camp when I see the re camps.

    I always have this feeling of wanting to come home. Of just wanting to be at home and knowing the people you’re with there ARE your family. Like Ive only seen these people what like 2x in my whole life and I consider them to be my lesbros and seesters and just my family.

    I remember my first A Camp..my first thought when I got on the mountain was IM HOME.

  5. Just re-read everything. Got teary eyed especially with camper words at the end. YOU GUYS. YOU GUYS. CAMP. OMG.

    I remember the State Fair. I remember Robin getting really concerned about me in the bounce house with @kadryd and those huge ass boxing gloves. I mean if the nurse gets injured then what.. LOL Also I KNOW FOR A FACT THAT @heatherannehogan has footage of kadry and I duking it out in that bounce house! YOU GUYS IT WAS ALL THAT AND MORE.

    OMG. CAMP. The first thing I did when I got home was unpack and download all the songs from A Camp Family Band night. I’ve listened to wagon wheel so much in the past year you guys. All the vids I have from that night are on my youtube page just FYI. And I THINK I have the vid of the pie eating contest. =p

  6. The whole creation and experience of camp sounds so damn beautiful and it’s just amazing that ‘Straddle have made the initial vision into a reality. No luck in going as of yet but my teeny queer heart knows I’ll get to come annoy you guys in person someday. Thank you for existing!!!

  7. “As it turned out, I was pretty impressed by the lengths campers were willing to go to, particularly Mo Ucros, who dove directly into the tub and pretty much swam to the bottom before emerging triumphantly with a nectarine in their teeth.”

    I WAS BLESSED TO WITNESS THIS MOMENT

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