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!)
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 2012, May 2013, October 2013, May 2014 and May 2015.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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?
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!
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 boilerswp_postswere 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.
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.
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*
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.
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.”
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 timewp_postsstories, 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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
Welcome to the A-Camp Family Band Show
Marni: The Family Band is my whole heart you guys, I just love it so much. Over the years we’ve gone from one rehearsal 30 minutes before the show at the first camp (which was played under full house lights) to now weeks of individual prep and then scheduled rehearsals and a full-on respectable stage and sound setup (thanks Carly and Grace!).
Stef: The Family Band concert is the best part of camp as far as I’m concerned, and this camp SO MUCH PREP went into making it our tightest show ever.
Marni: I can’t say enough about all the beautiful people who come together every year to make up our family. Stef and Alex, the tightest rhythm section around, held it down as always, and we had staffer Laura Mandanas on keys, camper Kristi on sax, and motherfucking Djuan Trent tearing it UP on vocals. Not to mention the DANCE CREW and our amazing musical guests Mal, Jenny and Julia who are now lifelong members.
Chelsey: The family band concert was THE BEST, not least of all because I finally got to be the A/V Club Intern! Grace even let me work the lights for a whole ten seconds.
Whitney: I love the family band. Marni is a rockstar. Stef is a bass wizard. Alex is an amazing drummer. Laura Mandanas rocks the keyboard.
Kai: By this time, I had danced all day — scratch that, ALL CAMP. And I was tired, people, like so tired. As soon as Uptown Funk hit, though, I knew this was the performance of our career. Plus, Carmen, Gigs and Rosemary were in turn-down-for-what mode. And for good reason because we basically broke the stage.
Gigler: UPTOWN FUNK was by far one of my favorite moments of camp, we had the Best time, from learning to rehearsing to the real deal, it was a beautiful mess that sprouted into a masterpiece.
Carmen: We had practiced for a few hours, stressed a few more, drank some liquor about it, etc. – but nothing prepared me for the adrenaline that then made it possible for us to do the entire thing perfectly in sync in front of shouting people and also Gabby laughing so hard right near me that I almost cracked up multiple times.
Gigler: I could never and will never get over the fact that Carmen was lip syncing to Marni’s voice, I think it’s the funniest thing that ever happened. I tried to keep a cool unbothered mug but I was geeekin and my internal monologue the whole time was like “THIS IS SO FUCKING FUN WE ARE TOO HOT HOT DAMN THERE’S A MF SAXOPHONE OVER HERE”. I can’t say enough about having a sax player in our jamily band. Thank you Kristi!
Stef: We were so lucky that she offered to play sax with us, which brought a bunch of the songs to the next fucking level.
Carmen: Whatever, it was NBD. It’s not like I’ve peaked or anything.
Rory: It was the best thing I have ever seen. Hot damn.
Stef: Nothing will ever top Carmen Fucking Rios as Bruno Mars, with the babely A-Camp Dance Team behind her (and I will never be done unpacking my complicated feelings for the entire dance team).
Trent: I was losing my mind a little bit like, “Woah! Does no one else understand what is happening right now… Carmen IS Bruno Mars! Like, “Who is Bruno Mars? I’ll take Carmen for $500, Alex!” Duh! The dancers killed it! Marni… once again, bringing all the soul! Alex fucking it up on the drums like the boss that she is! Stef in that fucking cape on that fucking bass, YES MA’AM.
KaeLyn: I never really liked the song (don’t judge me), but now I love it because every time I hear it on Hits 1 I imagine Carmen is right there in the car with me in her Bruno drag and my heart grows three sizes. True story: it came on the other day and I just have had a goofy look on my face because Waffle looked at me and said, “You’re imagining Carmen, aren’t you?”
Kai: Here’s a little behind the scenes action: As soon as we disappeared behind the wall, I full on collapsed in a chair for breathing purposes and Cee was all – Are you ok? – but it’s fine cuz I’m alive now. The next thing I heard was Trent! Trent! Trent! and I would’ve yelled too but I was busy saving my life with water.
Gigler: Then Djuan came on and blew all our wigs right off the mountain.
Carolyn Wysinger: Doing the “Tightrope” dance with campers — well, two campers in the aisle while Trent sang — was the damn best.
Stef: Marni crushed it as always and Trent owned the stage from the first second.
KaeLyn: Trent. Trent. Trent. Trent. Everyone was great, but Trent’s “Tightropewp_postsperformance was the highlight for me. I think Trent should be the spokesperson for the Selfie Stick because she sold us all.
Mey: Oh my gosh, Trent was like, pure heaven. A few days earlier, a bunch of us on staff were hanging outside of Eagle when the band was practicing and we heard Trent and were like, woah, what is this magical sound? And then she was even more amazing on the night of the actual concert!
Trent: I would just like to say… if I don’t get invited back to A-Camp for anything else ever in my life, can I please always be invited back for Family Band?! This was the best thing! I freaking loved it so much!!! I was so nervous, but everyone’s energy was so great, we had no choice but to have a good time!
Stef: Guys, that song is super fast and not easy to play at all, but by that point I was bulletproof (Bulleit proof?) and nothing could stop me. I’ve never had more fun doing anything in my whole life. We’ve never been able to pull of drum solos and dance breakdowns before, but Trent’s energy was just infectious. I don’t think Alex Vega gets enough credit for being a fucking brilliant drummer, the backbone of the whole thing, and I can’t say enough about the talented AV team who gave us the smoke machine and light show of our dreams.
Yvonne: I wanted to give Trent like 10 standing ovations but we were already standing and going wild for her.
Rachel: I can’t wait to wait in line for days to get tickets to Trent’s nationwide arena tour. I’m gonna buy so much merch.
Laura W: Trent as Janelle Monae! Carmen as Bruno Mars! Marni as Marni! Videos just don’t do this night justice.
Whitney: Trent performed the most amazing cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitionwp_postsand Janelle Monae’s “Tightropewp_postsI have ever, ever heard. And on top of these amazing humans performing the most amazing music, there was Mal, Jenny and Julia adding so much good energy to the mix.
Whitney: Stef on bass is AMAZING. She rocked the bass riff for “Tightropewp_postsso hard—she is magic. Her cape is magic. She is bassmagic.
Ali: After much water, I was sober enough to scream like a teenager when Jenny Owen Youngs and Mal Blum sang “Shake it Off.” That’s my jam, and if there had been room I would have done aerobics.
Whitney: “Shake It Off” was performed by a raucous and high-energy Jenny Owen Youngs, which I sung along to with abandon.
Riese: PEAK JENNY.
Trent: Mal Blum, how do you keep it so cool in a gold blazer, though??? Julia bringing all the sexy back! And Jenny with all the energy and fun and spunk. I love you all and I’ll give you babies if you want… but you’ll have to pay. Just sayin’.
Stef: I was thrilled to perform “Torn” with Mal, “Lovefool” with Julia and “Shake It Off” with Jenny. I had been sort of intimidated to perform with Jenny and Julia cos they were both new and both like, musicians of note, but they were both such goofballs and so much fun to work with and just killed on stage. Our guest vocalists were all so incredibly top notch this camp and I felt so fucking fortunate to have a chance to play with these talented humans.
Riese: It was like a guilty pleasure playlist performed by people who I feel no guilt about ADORING.
KaeLyn: Also respect to Laura Mandanas, who was on keys and who very quietly slipped in and out during the set. I don’t know if anyone saw her there, but she was THERE and she was fantastic.
Morgan: They played, I still can’t believe it, they played “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show, which is a song I love for many reasons chief of which is because it is about my home, Raleigh, North Carolina. I danced wildly with the lovely pink-haired Rachel B. and that meant so damn much to me to bring a little of the South to camp. (Something Trent and I have so much desire to do more of. #southerngirls)
Whitney: Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheelwp_postsalways gets me in my heart and this cover made me feel feels I didn’t know I even had.
Carolyn W: After that I felt the urge to grab the tambourine from Alex and start singing a hymn. Alex promised next year I can lol.
Marni: My dad was so happy to see me playing his old banjo!
Stef: Also I got to wear a dress with a print of cats at a movie theatre on it, and I’m not sure I can ever top that. After the show, I decided I’d peaked and wisely put myself to bed.
Dannielle: Everyone had such a fucking blast and it was so fun to be a part of and to watch. Well done, Family Band. I wanna help so much more next time. I’m so good at arranging mashups and harmonies and rapping. TAKE ME FAMILY BAND. TAKE ME.
Kristin: Nothing better than this concert has ever happened. EVER. I saw Boyz II Men in 1994 and this was FORTY THOUSAND TIMES BETTER. Carmen was fucking Bruno Mars. Jenny was some sort of Blink 182-Taylor Swift mashup. Julia used her sexy shoulders to set the camp on fire. MAL WORE A GOLD SHRUG. Also, Trent, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? I have never seen anything better than this in my entire life ever.
Laneia: WAIT KRISTIN I saw Boyz II Men in 1994 too! I agree this was better than that.
Riese: I AM SO JEALOUS OF BOTH OF YOU. But damn this show was good. The band, the A/V Club, the dancers, THE AUDIENCE. I honestly truly just can’t believe I have such good friends.
Elicia: Omigod the concert! THE CONCERT. A-Camp Family Band! Gigler! Kai! Trent! Julia! Alex! Stef! Mal! Jenny! MARNI! UPTOWN FUNK. I don’t have the words to fully express how great you all are and the joy you add to my living time on Earth. It’s too much to say.
Gigler: That was a damn good show, that was a damn concert, yinz shoulda handed out tickets and wrist-bands and sold some patches and shit. I was in rehearsals and I still wasn’t ready.
Marni: I’ve never had more fun playing a show in my whole gosh darn LIFE. My whole life!
Carly: This was the most labor-intensive day for the A-Camp A/V Club because we had to take the setup in Eagle and take it apart to set up everything for the state fair. Then we had to put it back together for the A-Camp Family Band performance. Finally we had to take everything apart again to set up for the dance. So it’s a lot. But it’s worth it, because the A-Camp Family Band was spectacular! Trent, you are amazing. Please come to camp forever.
KaeLyn: We ran out of cups in Eagle. I was concerned for people’s personal safety, especially one of my campers who made hot coffee in a tiny cone paper cup. People were mixing drinks in the little cone cups. It was terrifying. Also, we really needed cups. I drank out of a stranger’s dirty cup that I fished out of the trash. I was so thirsty. Speaking of, I was very proud of Shark Week, who was also quite thirsty at the end-of-camp dance. Good work, sharks.
Alex: Carly played a block of Beyonce and Nicki Minaj and it was pretty much best thing that ever happened to me.
Nikki: Every time there is a pick a partner to dance with at camp I am always left without a partner, I’m serious, EVERY TIME. Luckily Gabby and Laura W. are perfect humans and let me interrupt their dance for a moment before they found someone else dancing alone for me to dance awkwardly with. Sorry human who danced with me awkwardly, I am not a good slow dancer.
Mey: Heather apparently didn’t know that there was a big dance until after the Family Band Concert, which, how did that happen? But that just made me love Heather even more. All of us in Hogwarts also helped her put on a tie so that she’d be all dressed up and camper Niko came over and tied an Eldritch knot, which was amazing.
Heather: The way Hogwarts rallied around me when they realized I didn’t realize a dance was happening was so magical. It’s so funny how I wanted to take care of them all like a mama bear all week, but then, in the end, they ended up taking care of me!
Mey: Heather looks pretty good all dressed up. Every single person in Hogwarts looked so great all dressed up for the dance.
Heather: Mey and I took one of my favorite photos ever at the dance. I don’t want to brag, but I think we were born to be Hogwarts Head Girls together.
Stef: In six camps, I’ve probably gone to two dances, usually because I was making out with someone cute but this time because I was sleeping and it was amazing, no regrets, A+ nap.
Carmen: I was so proud to dance on a platform at the closing night dance, where so many of y’all were making out and/or off doing it in the woods that we closed shop a few minutes early. Y’all did it right.
Trent: I got some good video footage. Sang a lot of Nicki Minaj, Beyonce and Drake songs. Watched the crowd dwindle down. Observed a game of spoons. And enjoyed Aida embracing her inner video vixen because someone she knew the lyrics to every song and made me feel like I was watching a music video with all of her moves and such. Carly, thanks for the tunes.
Dannielle: Greatest music of all time. Hottest dances of all time. Also bro down with Abby and Riese that took me back to our BlogHer days and made me wanna stay at camp forever. I can’t believe we didn’t get more time together. Camp is so intese.
Riese: Intense / perfect.
Morgan: I wrote “Mt. Bump n Grindwp_postson bookface after the dance and this was entirely accurate. One of my favorite nights of dancing in my whole goshdarn life.
Gigler: Carly knows exactly how to turn me right the fuck up and she used it a few times to get my ass in the air, it works every time. Thanks for always bringing Big Freedia and Le1f, you have my big gay heart. Also Kimber was on several that night.
Brittani: I make a habit of shutting the dance down and this time around, we got Carly to leave her post and dance for the last bit of it. She also did me the solid of playing a Childish Gambino song which turned into me and Kimber improvising some sort of weird video on the near empty dance floor.
Riese: I can’t dance unless I’m drunk and I wasn’t drunk, so I mostly observed while in a group of dancing people. Mostly I observed Abby, Brittani and Kimber; as well as Kristin and Jenny laughing delightedly and going WHERE DID YOU FIND HER about Abby.
Dannielle: Julia danced!! Even with her knee all busted she danced! We all danced! Abby somehow turned into jello with rhythm! EVERYTHING IS SO GREAT WE CAN NEVER LEAVE CAMP OH NO WE HAVE TO LEAVE TMW NOOOOOOoooooo
Elicia: I spent most of the last dance in Wolf with my camper Ashley from Ghost Power and Astrid who I had met at camp the previous year. Ashley showed me another cool magic trick which I insisted Mey watch. Ashley is awesome. She also showed me how to open a beer bottle on a door frame. Then Ashley and Astrid and I preceded to get into a possibly hour long conversation about B-movies and alcohol and comics and just all of my favorite things in life. Nerding out at parties is often my favorite activity.
Kai: Someone brought a blow up… pool? Was it a pool? Not sure, but it was in the back of the room and they were giving rides in it while everyone was dancing. So of course I got in – floor-length dress and all – and got dragged across the floor by queers with muscles. Or maybe spun in circles? That night is blurrrry. I did some late night swinging. Talked to some sweet souls. And went the fuck to sleep.
Nikki: I think my most affirming moment at camp and maybe even in life was Cecelia exclaiming as I was shaking my booty in my bow tie and suspenders, “Nikki, you can DANCE!”
Elicia: Then I realized I’d had two mini bottles of Chardonnay and I hadn’t even checked out the dance yet so I wandered onto the dance floor and found Mey and her badass glow-in-the-dark shoes, Morgan and her amazing spinning skirt and several of my favorite campers and we danced and ran around on the mostly empty dance floor.
Carly: The dance on the last night of camp is always my favorite part of camp. This time I played a solid 30 minutes of only Beyonce & Nicki Minaj and felt really good about that — especially when I only played Nicki’s verse on “Monster” and Alex (I think it was Alex) was SO SURPRISED, it was great. Usually, my goal at the dance is to get everyone laid, but it seemed like everyone was already off getting laid so this time my goal was to play songs that Brittani or Gigler would like. Hopefully I did them proud. Also I think there was a massive inflatable swan? This is the dance playlist.
Ali: Me n’ Heather n’ a bunch of amazing campers got into a drunken debate in Wolf after the whiskey tasting about Severus Snape. This is me officially reigniting that debate to inform you all that SEVERUS SNAPE IS THE BEST, I DON’T CARE WHAT ANYONE ELSE SAYS.
Heather: SNAPE BULLIED LITTLE CHILDREN!
A-Camp 6.0, Day Six: Thursday, June 4th
Saying Goodbye is the Hardest Part
Whitney: We got up early in the morning to pack up and get ready to head back down from the mountain.
Heather: I liked the part when the kitchen staff waved goodbye to us in their brand new scissoring t-shirts.
Carmen: I avoided saying goodbye to most people, not really because I wanted to but because I had to in order to get my shit packed and get on that shuttle. In the process, though, I took some final pics with Rodeo Disco (#BestCabinEver), tearfully hugged Emily Gigler while promising her I’d follow my dreams, and bid adieu to Rory, which is always the hardest part.
Rachel: Every time we have to leave the mountain I am a total monster because I’m so sad about leaving and also so exhausted. I couldn’t find, like, hundreds of people I wanted to say goodbye to and then the buses were leaving and also they had been out of breakfast when I got to Eagle and so I just gave up and slumped into a bus seat and grumped aggressively for the whole ride.
Ali: Goodbyes weren’t the hardest part this year because this year, none of my cats died. That’s already a big one-up from last year! None of my campers had to pick me up after I dissolved into hysterics! ALREADY WINNING, SEE YOU NEXT YEAR! Also, I managed to worm my way onto an earlier flight once I got to the airport, which was amazing because I was really missing my fiancée this time around (gosh I wish she could have come to Camp), and I got to see her a whole day earlier and not hang out in LAX for nine hours. So if No-Cat-Death hadn’t already left me with a win, that would have!
Hansen: I am bad at goodbyes, so I generally just make a beeline for the shuttles without hugging a whole lot of people. Stef called me out on this pretty obviously, but at this point, I was feeling really exhausted with a bad head cold.
Stef: Hansen left without saying goodbye and I’m still mad. It’s a good thing she’s cute. I walked up to the departing buses and started yelling, “GO HOME!!! GET OFF MY MOUNTAIN!!! UGH, CAMP IS OVER!!!wp_postsbut I swear it was a defense mechanism.
KaeLyn: The goodbyes happened so fast! Before I knew it, we were back on the bus. Cecelia and I took a vow of silence on the way home, just listening to music and staring out the window as the bus flew down the mountain. It was peaceful and beautiful and a little sad.
Carmen: I rode the shuttle with Kaylah, Kai, Diana Salazar, and a bunch of other awesome people, so to those on my bus who wished they could fall asleep, I am sorry about serenading you with the intro to “Bump ‘n Grind.” That, and pulling Laura’s hair out in an effort to reach Abby in time to say goodbye. We all have flaws.
Hansen: We got to LAX and the Fun Homos were hungry, so we asked around to see what was outside of security where we could all eat. We ended up at an (I think) employees-only deli in the Spaceship looking thing in the middle of LAX. Basically, everyone side-eyed us but no one kicked us out? Two of my campers rented a car for a road trip home and offered to drive me to CVS before my flight to buy cold meds because I was worried about my sinuses on the plane. Nicest EVER. Then security stopped me because I had a Taylor Swift saint candle in my bag from Witch/craft. There’s no explaining being in the possession of a Taylor Swift saint candle to a TSA guy. THEN, my eardrum ruptured on the flight home and we landed in a scary lightning storm and I clung to the lead singer of a band I like without knowing he was the lead singer of said band and everything was horrible but whatever, the whole trip was worth the double ear and sinus infections I ended up with. #campplaguesurvivor
KaeLyn: After we got to LAX, a few of us who had a long wait went to In-and-Out Burger by cab (convinced and herded by Carmen). It was less than a mile away, but we didn’t feel like walking with our bags. It was $20 because it was an airport cab. But by the time we figured that out, we were already in the cab. So whatever. When we go to In-and-Out, there were like three other tables of campers. Ha! #greatminds
Carmen: In-n-Out is required after camp. It’s just not okay to not get it. This is my second camp in a row getting In ‘n Out three times and I regret nothing, except not eating it more.
Stef: To be honest, the vegan options at camp this time were pretty carb-heavy and sorta lacking in protein (I’m looking at you, rice burger), and I was having fever dreams about eating an entire block of tofu like an apple the minute I got home… but after you guys all left, the camp staff put out a spaghetti buffet and damned if I didn’t go back for seconds. After we’d cleaned up the whole camp, eaten all the leftover cookies and taken down the string lights, Maddie, Chelsey and I piled into Chelsey’s car and began our slow descent. I’ve driven the mountain probably more times than anyone else on staff, so I volunteered for this mission.
Gigler: I don’t wanna talk about it! But let’s talk about it. I wept openly, laughed even more, hugged a lot and immediately made plans for visits and cleaned all the things. Wow the things yinz leave behind!
Maddie: Due to Chelsey being a champion with a car, and also weird travel circumstances, I made it to and from my first camp without setting foot on a shuttle bus. Honestly, I am not sad about this, because I get carsick on buses and also wildly impatient and claustrophobic. There seems to be a lot of sort of resentful nostalgia amongst those who have taken many-a-camp-shuttle, so if I ever get on one, well then I guess I’ll be on one, and I probably won’t be mad about it, because literally everything I wasn’t so sure I’d love at camp I ended up loving 100%. … But I’m not trying to make it happen, you know? Anyway, this is all to say that I hugged all the humans, especially the Firebirds, Rory and I finally finished our magical adventure to have everyone at Camp who was in the Queer Sultry Summer Zine sign it, and then I stuck around to help pack things up. Then Stef drove Chelsey’s car down the mountain, and we stopped to take a picture of the amazing view, but only after a man flipped us off for driving at a safe speed.
Stef: As we navigated the fucked up Wile E Coyote portion of the drive, I was going what felt like a very ambitious 40 MPH when I noticed a couple of cars riding my ass pretty hard, so I pulled over so they could pass. A gentleman in a pickup truck gave me the finger as they whipped by. THANKS FOR YOUR UNSOLICITED OPINION, RANDOM WHITE GUY! Chelsey rolled down the window and screamed “WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?!wp_postsat the mountain. A little further down, we passed a scenic overlook and noticed a couple of grey-shirted weirdos taking in the view. We pulled over and identified said weirdos as Taylor and Evie, and we had a beautiful mini-reunion before delivering ourselves unto Del Taco. It was around here that I realized I probably shouldn’t wear my vampire cape everywhere. I need a moment to thank my beautiful Campires for being so much fun, so smart and so creative and just so, so weird. Taylor and I were the proudest vampire parents on the whole mountain.
Maddie: Stef educated me about LA public transit, they dropped me off downtown at the Subway, and I made my way to Long Beach, where I was staying for the weekend.
Gabby: I always weep a little when the bus heads down the mountain. I can’t help it… but then I hear Carmen’s hella loud wheeze snort cackle right behind my head and I can’t even get mad cuz she makes me laugh so damn much. And I turn around and like almost the whole speakeasy is on the bus, especially brother carolyn, and I know it’s gonna be ok. I know that these people are always with me somehow and that we’ll make it back to this sacred place. Laura W. held my hand and snuggled up to me and before I knew it we were at LAX.
Kai: This was my first time taking the bus down the mountain because normally I score a ride from someone who loves me. I had that option this time but I was just not ready to really actually all-the-way say goodbye. However, jokes, because instead of sharing love and laughter on the way down, I slept through it all. Drooled a bit too.
Kaylah: We were knocked out. There was some snoring and drooling, and of course my heart shaped sunglasses.
Nikki: I hate goodbyes. I hate saying goodbye to the mountain. I didn’t find everyone I wanted to say goodbye to and that makes me sad.
Laneia: Oh man the last day is the pits. And even worse than saying bye to everyone is hanging around after y’all leave — it’s so empty and quiet! The only sign we were ever there is a table full of unopened hummuses. How sad.
Elicia: Last year I remember the last day of camp, even though I truly loved the experience, I was ready to head home. This year, I honestly wanted to stay! I slept in a little late and my incredibly rad cabin-mates Mary and Alex saved me a seat at their table at breakfast and Alex even got me a plate so I wouldn’t miss the food! I avoided packing up until late in the morning and then spent the time I should have been packing, chatting and smoking. I was sad I missed most of my campers in Ghost Power leaving so I didn’t get to say goodbye, but I was able to give hugs and goodbyes to Rachel, Andy and help Vivian carry her huge bag up towards the buses. Luckily I ran into the rest of the Ghost Power crew at LAX and was able to give them hugs goodbye! I’m not a big hugger, but A-Camp brings it out in me. Speaking of LAX, I probably wouldn’t have even made it off the mountain if it hadn’t been for Rory who is a goddamn perfect gentleman and ran with my bag side by side with me to the buses. I almost didn’t make it!
Rory: Particularly v much enjoyed running up the hill side by side with Elicia carrying her bag cos I guess she was late and I guess im a gentleman and I have a major friend crush on Elicia so it was a cool last minute chance to say it’s be fun getting to know you and I wish we could friend more but I live SO DAMN FAR AWAY FROM EVERYONE. (I live in Germany because I am The Wurst)
Rory: I ran around a lot trying to give as much time and hugs as poss to all the people who I like so much and wish I could have more time with and did some weeping, did some laughing, did some meaningful eye contact. Anywayz. Caught a ride to the bay area with gigler and becca. We had Cheetos Puffs they were more than pleasant thank you whichever camper left those behind.
Gigler: Becca and Rory and I were blessed with those outstanding clouds hovering eye level cushioning us for a gentle drive down the mountain. THEN we were blessed again when the very first bathroom we stopped at was gender neutral!
Abby: I can’t talk about goodbyes, it’s too hard for me. SO instead I just pretend Instagram and Facebook is reality and constantly bombard all my friends all the time. ALL THE TIME IT’S LIKE IT’S STILL CAMP.
Elicia: Once we made it to LAX, I found out Morgan was on a later flight as well so we got to hang out as some shitty flight attendant misgendered her and I took her on a quest to find a spot I could legally smoke in. We ended up parting ways too soon at security and I had to rush to my flight.
Riese: We’re always the last ones on the mountain. I overslept and missed the busses and all the goodbyes I don’t like to say, but I do like to hug, and I wish I hadn’t missed that. We had to clean everything, like we do, and begin our complicated multi-vehicle packing process. It’s always me, Marni, Robin, Carly, Alex, Mary — this time Abby, too. Usually Taylor, often Megan and Laneia, often Stef, Liz Castle, Brittani. I was moving a thing from one building to the other when Robin asked if we could talk. I could see that her eyes were a little watery and before she said it I knew what she was going to say, and then she did — that her photography career in LA had gotten to the point of success where she couldn’t do camp anymore, there wasn’t any room in her life for it, but that she still wanted to be on staff and be the photographer, if I wanted that. Of course I did. For a minute I felt like nobody could ever replace Robin and how will we go on. It’s true, nobody can replace Robin. But I took a deep breath of mountain air and knew we’d somehow figure it out. Then Abby and I drove down the mountain and collapsed, exhausted, into a bed in a hotel room in Redlands.
Riese: Then we went to Outback Steakhouse and ate everything on the menu all at once.
Kaylah: I FORGOT TO CHECK MY PIGEON HOLE!!! I’m really upset about it. I just know there had to be a few love letters in there…
“There’s no other place on earth where I feel more alive or more like my best self. No place at all. Leaving camp is like saying goodbye to my home, myself, and all the hearts of everyone I’ve fallen in love with — it’s wrenching. I’m ok with it. I know I’ll be back. But damn…that feeling makes me weep hard.”
-Gabby Rivera, QTPOC Speakeasy Director and Beyhive Captain
Camp feels like coming home now, and there’s nothing like being able to party and cry and snuggle and sit quietly with the people who I feel most myself around.
“Honestly, we came to camp with “what is this going to be and why don’t we know anything about it” vibes and we left with “this shit is going down in history books and we have made life-long friends” vibes. It was so much more than just a fun time in the mountains. It was inspiring, beautiful, and full of heart. I have never felt safe. I can honestly say there has never been a place on this planet that I can walk around and feel like no one will judge me. I can’t go to the store, I can’t go to a class, I can’t go to a show, I can’t visit a friend, I can’t go back home. I can’t do anything and feel completely safe. Until A-camp. The space that has been created is unlike any other. I’m so grateful to Riese’s vision and to everyone who took part in making A-Camp possible. It is truly unique and wonderful in way that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to explain.”
– Dannielle Owens-Reid, The Talent
“The best part of camp was the group of people i was bunked with. I don’t know the magic potion/formula that Riese has in putting a near-perfect combination of people together, but they essentially made my experience great. I also enjoyed the the QTPOC Speakeasy… often as a QPOC you sometimes feel like you are the only one but this space turned that on its head.”
“I was overwhelmed in all the best ways for seven days. All of the campers validated me in ways that I can’t explain. The first day there, I had a group of campers standing around me telling me that they read all my articles not only on AS but on other blogs or they follow me in social media and it was just overwhelming and weird cause to me I’m just a mofo that talks a lot. You all made me feel like what I do is valued and important in this world. I cried so many times when no one was looking. And really isn’t that what Mount Feelings is all about? I love you all every last one of y’all. And on the seventh day God said that it was good. And indeed it was.”
– Carolyn Wysinger, Firebirds Captain
I wish that it could become a commune. Because fuck capitalism and the patriarchy. We could do it. We FUCKING COULD. A-TOWN 2016.
“This is such an incredibly special space you all work so hard to create, and I feel so honored that I got to be a part of it. I left camp with a new and unfamiliar feeling. The closest I can come to explaining it is this: for my whole life, I have felt my queerness to be something negative (at worst) or an obstacle to work around (at best). My time at A-Camp made me understand my queerness as something powerful and good, something that connects me to other (amazing!) people in a way that is unique and so very special.”
-Jenny Owen Youngs, The Talent
“Camp was the only place I’ve ever felt comfortable in showing off my body…it was such a nice break. It gave me the strength to carry on and do better in the real world. I can’t wait to come back. Feelings circles, Klub Wolf, Lip Sync Battles, The State Fair Bounce House Cuddle Sesh, Boxed Wine and String Cheese, kissing cuties, Feels Academy, Chosen Family Panel, A-Camp family band. everything all of it.”
“I loved feeling like my body was truly big enough for my heart for maybe the first time in my life.”
“It’s hard to think of a way to say “my life was forever changedwp_postswithout sounding like a total dummy, but my life was literally changed on this mountain. I spend so much of my time navigating queer and trans spaces and I am surrounded by many queer and trans friends, but I have never been in a place (let alone 8000 feet above sea level) where I knew that I was safe to be exactly myself, and where everyone around me was ABLE to be exactly themselves, 24-7. It affected me deeply, and I also saw how much it affected Jenny (which, in turn, affected me even more. CIRCLE OF LIFE). I also have never had more respect and admiration for the work that is done by all of you beautiful Autostraddle humans. Running this camp is more work than I can ever imagine, and in doing so you visibly, drastically change our lives. I hope we can come back every year forever. It’s been impossible to explain to anyone who hasn’t been up there… but I think that’s part of the magic.”
– Kristin Russo, The Talent (and our new A-Camp Co-Director for A-Camp 7.0)
“Camp is my home, its my family reunion, its the one place I am surrounded with complete acceptance and love, and its the place thats helped me find my truest self. Its like Disneyland but with more booze and sex and crafting.”
“I came in with a heavy heart and I left with a lifted one. Each one of you helps to create this amazing dynamic that makes A-Camp what it is. I used to think that A-Camp was this magical thing on this magic mountain with these magical people, but now I KNOW it is all of the magic I thought it was. Thank you, beautiful people.”
– Djuan Trent, Beyhive Captain
“I have never felt a lower amount of shame about my body than I have felt with my cabin mates. I was able to just be myself and not have to worry about someone attacking me (verbally or otherwise) for being trans. Just being able to change clothes in the presence of other people without feeling terrified was incredible. I also found people who were attracted to me. For the first time I honestly felt like I was accepted and included in queer women’s sexual spaces with my cabin.”
“It’s always hard to say goodbye. Until next time—my heart is always up there with you humans. You’re all so wonderful and I’m so lucky to be a part of this whole thing.”
-Whitney Pow, Star Runners Counselor
“The people I was in closest contact with made me feel more human and more accepted than anyone else in any other environment I’ve ever been with.”
Camp has such VELOCITY. We plan and plan and plan and I sit on my couch thinking “oh gosh before long it’s gonna be that moment we turn up that mountain road that we’ve driven again and again,” yes, it’s here, we’re all really here, it’s all really happening, it’s all twisting and turning! We’re prepping and oh, all of a sudden the campers are there and we’re hugging and checking names of a list and it’s almost time for dinner and can we do the campfire and it just goes so fast — the whole time, you’re starving (for the food you’re used to eating, for the sleep you’re used to having) while also SO FULL of so much love and in awe of so much talent. I think the greatest feeling I have at A-Camp is knowing I brought people together who inspire each other. I love those cabins that looked perfect as a stack of index cards and turn out even better in real life. Nothing feels better than seeing those groups of campers connect, knowing I nailed a cabin assignment… or to see certain staff members connect, to see the talent meet the staff and go home to make more art together. Not everybody who comes to A-Camp is affirmed or inspired. Some people don’t like it at all, in fact, and it’s taken me a while to come to terms with the inevitability of that. But that other inevitability? The one where people do leave transformed, do finally feel like who they are is okay, and maybe even beautiful, and definitely important? I don’t think I’ll ever take that inevitability for granted. But damn, you are exhilarating.
– Riese, A-Camp Founder