A-Camp 6.0 Recamps Part One: We Get By With A Little Help From Our New Friends

The Opening Number

After dinner, all the A-Campers were shuffled into Eagle for mysterious reasons.

Campers await further instructions

Campers await further instructions (photo by Taylor Hatmaker)

Riese: Opening night has always been an umm… challenge. We’ve tried color wars games, icebreakers, chaotically organized meet-the-staff skits, impromptu Tegan & Sara covers and, usually, have had even our best plans (which were never THAT great) totally derailed by shuttle business and staff stuck on the side of the mountain.

Yvonne: After the first time I attended A-Camp (Oct. 2013), I gave Riese and the A-Camp directors a shit ton of feedback. (I just remember I wrote a lot on my survey!) One of the things I suggested was that I thought the opening ceremony needed to be more SPECTACULAR, because it’s the first thing campers experience at camp and sets the tone for the rest of camp. I said the opening ceremony should be like a pep rally! I think this year we totally nailed the opening ceremony. It was exactly how I had pictured it to be and more.

Riese: We had such amazing talent this time that we knew we could take it next-level. I gave my vision to Carly in a google doc and waited to see if she thought I was dumb, but she didn’t! She liked it! (Carly’s creative approval is really important to me.) Mostly she was surprised that I wanted a Taylor Swift song involved in opening night.

Ali: This was my favorite opening ceremony since the time when Robin and Marni parodied “Part of Your World” and I got to make a fisting joke? It was just so lovely.

Stef: This year, the AV Club sprung for all sorts of fancy lights, and they had this really inspired idea to have us come out and start our song in pitch darkness while they gradually lit up the stage.

Riese: Yes that was my terrible inspired idea! Next year you can make me write a post in the dark.

Stef: It sounded phenomenal in theory, but what actually happened was that we couldn’t see our instruments at all.

Marni: It was so dark at first.

Stef: Once the lights came up and we could see everyone’s faces, everything was perfect!

julia-singing-opening-by-taylor

Julia Nunes opens A-Camp with “Blank Space” (photo by Taylor Hatmaker)

Whitney: I’ve listened so many times to the new Taylor Swift album “1989,” no shame! And I was thrilled to see Julia Nunes do “Blank Space” for the opening number with her ukulele and the Family Band. It was spectacular: Grace and Carly did a wonderful job with the sound and stage lighting. I was bopping around like I do singing along with Julia’s gay-ified version of Taylor Swift: “Girls only want love if it’s torture / Don’t say I didn’t / Say I didn’t warn ya.”

Mey: It was the perfect way to kick off the first night of camp.

Stef: OK, I have to admit something: several years ago, I saw this really cute video of a girl playing “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child on the ukulele and it was so well-done that it inspired me to pick up a ukulele of my own. Getting to play with Julia Nunes all those years later was pretty amazing, and I nerded out and told her as much. She was very cool about it.

(photo by Taylor)

Stef being cool (photo by Taylor)

Elicia: I’m glad that I always start off each camp so far with a burning desire to learn how to play an instrument and discover the existence of another Taylor Swift song I didn’t know was a thing.

Lizz R.: First of all I love Taylor Swift. Second of all I love Julia. Third of all I love when Julia sings Taylor Swift. So. And believe me, it’s hard to top the year Marni and Robin sang “Part of Your World”!

Dannielle: Julia is perfect in every way.

Marni and Julia singing "Blank Space" (photo by Taylor)

Marni and Julia singing “Blank Space” (photo by Taylor)

Riese: Djuan Trent had done a really cool YouTube dance video to 7/11 so that’s where we got the idea for the A-Camp Dance Crew to do 7/11 after “Blank Space.”

Kai: It was everything to be back with my top-shelf dance crew. You campers give us life up there. Your love makes us feel like maybe we can change the world by shaking our buttcheeks.

Stef: I will watch the A-Camp dance team all day every day, with my jaw on the floor.

A-Camp Dance Crew (photo by Taylor)

A-Camp Dance Crew (photo by Taylor)

Gigler: Djuan Trent put together a dope routine for 7/11 and getting to know her as we were learning this choreography to greet all of camp with was a trip. Our collective excitement and nerves united us in our determination to blow the lid off Eagle. Also Vega I really don’t know why you didn’t just learn the damn dance and join us, we felt you up there in spirit.

Carly: Heh. Felt you up. Heh. (sorry)

Alex: Gigler, next time, girl. I promise. You are so sweet!

Stef: Alex was practically jumping out of her skin trying to mimic all their moves.

Riese: Alex was being such a pageant Mom.

Gabby Trent, Kaylah, Kai and Gigler killing the 7/11 dance was one of my favorite parts of camp. If they were a 90s R&B group, I’d still be listening to their jams and watching their videos on The Box.

(photo by Taylor)

(photo by Taylor)

KaeLyn The stage directions and choreography and light design at the opening number far exceeded my expectations.

Riese: Then Dannielle introduced the whole staff to the whole camp!

Liz Castle, Contributor and Tower of Terror Counselor (4th A-Camp): I loved how Danielle yelled at everyone.

Chelsey: There was such a fun energy when everyone was being introduced. Taylor took a photo of a group of us during the opening number and my hands are clasped under my chin and I don’t think I have ever seen a photo of me looking so delighted. That is how the opening number made me feel.

chelsey_30

Hansen: Oh gosh, ALL the confetti/glitter happened during the opening ceremony and it stayed there forever. It is probably still there.

Jenny: The Taylor Swift cover and the choreographed dance and Dannielle scream-troducing all the staff got everyone so amped and the energy in the air was just eeeeelectric by the time we got down to the campfire.


Campfire

Then, all the A-Campers were escorted to the campfire in a strategic order for mysterious reasons.

HELLOOO

Marni: The second part of the opening ceremony was the campfire and it was beautiful and amazing in all the ways.

Jenny: When we got down to the campfire MARNI AND ROBIN WERE IN BEAR SUITS, MY FUCKING FAVORITE!

Marni: Twice the bears, twice the fun amirite?

Dannielle: Marni and Robin need face punches for the fucking bear costumes.

Marni and Robin are bears

Marni and Robin are bears

Kristin: Jesus Christ the goddamn bear suits. At this point we didn’t REALLY know Robin or Marni super well, so I am going to put it down on record that I think this was the moment I knew we’d work for the rest of camp to become their BFFs.

Jenny: Then Riese gave a heart-cracking speech, and asked everyone to stand up according to how many camps they’d been to and scream into the darkness — when she got to first-timers I stood up and screamed my face off and lots of other people screamed too and it felt pretty massive and that was the first of the zillion times I got choked up at camp.

(photo by Taylor)

(photo by Taylor)

Hansen: Riese told us to close our eyes and I’m pretty into guided meditation, but I cheated and looked around because I’m a rebel and everyone was so quiet and still and it remains one of my favorite moments of the entire camp.

good-people

Dannielle: Riese’s words were god damn beautiful. TBH I was slightly overwhelmed how it went from like 30 people to 300 people, but I think that’s just because I have anxiety around people I don’t know and 300 people I don’t know is scary sometimes. So, the first part of opening night was hard HOWEVER, after Riese’s speech, I felt so at ease.

Liz: It helped all of us focus on why we came to camp in the first place and what a magical space it really is.

grace-is-cheating

Jenny: Then I sang “With A Little Help From My Friends” with Julia, while dodging the campfire smoke monster, and everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.

Riese: I got such chills when Jenny and Julia started playing. They sounded so beautiful together I think I cried?

Rachel: I cried.

Laneia: I definitely clapped my hands up around my chin and cried, yes.

Alex: I loved it so much that I told Jenny it ‘put me to sleep‘ which I cannot believe I honestly meant as a compliment but somehow I did and now Jenny is my friend thank god.

Jenny Owen Youngs makes beautiful music

Jenny Owen Youngs makes beautiful music

Kristin: Jenny and Julia sang songs under the stars to three hundred campers and Riese said the best words of all time while a campfire burned so like are we fucking serious, people? A-Camp could have ended after this one opening night ceremony and I’d still be a blubbering mess just thinking back on it.

Dannielle: Fucking amazing. So much fun and really set an incredible tone for the rest of camp.

Marni: ALSO we got to give all the counties their FLAGS for rainbow wars! The counties were Cherry, Pineapple, Avocado and Blueberry and each one had a beautiful flag designed by staff artist Cameron Glavin that was laser-cut out of ABS and then lovingly painted onto fabric by this bear right here and sewn by my helper-elf girlfriend. The campers also all got their bandanas at the campfire and it was so cool to look out on a sea of red, yellow, green and blue lit up by the glow of the cam.

Robin: I can’t tell you all how happy I was that we had performances for the opening ceremonies! It was so wonderful to showcase our amazing musical talent.

Carly: The opening ceremonies were these things that Riese invented in her brain, wrote down in a Google doc, then handed over to me. Thank you to all of our lovely staff for humoring me during this. Grace killed the lighting cues, Jenny and Julia were amazing, no one died walking to the campfire… I think it was a success! But please don’t make me do that again!

Riese: I think next time we’ll do something even more complicated! I can’t wait. Neither can Carly.


Cabin Initiation

Then, all the A-Campers were sent to their cabins to participate in mysterious ceremonies.

outsiders

Gabby: Trent and I were so excited to meet the Beehive in person. We had our first cabin meeting that night, even though everyone was hella tired. And I knew we were gonna have a great camp. The Beehive was all for cabin unity, processing feelings, and helping each other navigate intersectional/social justice-y politics and ideologies. DEEP. Mad deep and loving. Beyhive forever! We had our sister cabin meeting with the Firebirds in the dark with flashlights. Probs this is why the RED TEAM WON RAINBOW WARZ.

Mey: Heather and I were already really excited to be the Head Girls of the Hogwarts cabin, but we were even more excited when we met our campers. They were seriously so great. And a bunch of them actually had Harry Potter themed clothes! Our cabin initiation was so fun, we made wands and talked about the moral implications of using Veela hair and Fairy wings as wand cores and then met with our sister cabin Shark Week to assign Bigs and Littles.

Heather: Our initiation was awesome. I was a little nervous about asking grown-ups to do crafts, but these nerds made it even more fun that I had anticipated. They assembled their own wands out of different woods and wand cores (with a detailed info sheet about which kinds of cores and woods worked together and for which kinds of witches and wizards), and then we all shared why we chose our particular wands. I will love everyone in this cabin forever.

Stef: Taylor and I were thrilled to hang out with the Campires, who settled right in with the most incredibly organized liquor cabinet I’ve ever seen.

Chelsey: The Blackhearts/Runaways cabin initiations were so fun this time! I was super excited about how invested everyone got in my weird idea and I am just always blown away by how amazing everyone continues to be.

Riese: It was adorable.

Laneia: Ughhh fuck I love initiations so much! Our campers tend to react to us in a way similar to how you might look upon a gang of freed toddlers who were covered in syrup and carrying flames and speaking a third or fourth language that you definitely recognized but still couldn’t reconcile. I only wish initiations happened earlier in the evening so I could literally cover everyone in syrup.

Liz Castle: Brittani and I got super into cabin initiation this year and stole away each T.O.T. member individually for a super secret/creepy ritual. By the time I came back to grab our last camper she was hiding under the bed! My favorite part though was how the already-initiated campers made it so much more awesome by spooking their cabin mates just as they thought they were exiting initiation into safety. ONE OF US. ONE OF US. ONE OF US.

Nikki: I snuck into the Tower of Terror cabin before cabin initiation. By snuck, I mean they let me in the door and I just sat around talking to some of my favorite people. Honestly, I HAD NO IDEA what to do. I was in a staff cabin and all my cabin mates had their own cabins to be in charge of. SO, what is a critter to do who likes to bond with a group of people but is not part of their cabin? Join, I guess. When Torre tells you you can stay, YOU CAN STAY.

Brittani: I might not be great at decorating but I’m pretty good at culty secret society things because at this point, I am in three culty secret society things. So our cabin initiation was great. Through a very special ceremony, we attempted to keep all of our campers protected from lesbian drama. No word on if it worked.

Nikki: I would like to say, Brittani and Liz C. totally brought their A+ cabin initiation game. It was really creepy/suspenseful. THANK YOU FOR LETTING ME CRASH, I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO DO.

Kai: The Beach Cabin was tired and I was way too energetic for the day they just had, but I’d like to thank them for being THE BEST and tossing around our deflated beach balls anyway!

Kaylah: The Beach Cabin was the saltiest cabin in the land. There was so much snark from my cabin that I had to clutch my pearls on a few occasions…I loved it!

Rory: We initiated our amaaaazing Rodeo Disco crew with going round the circle, announcing our disco names and giving the campers My Lil Rodeo Disco Ponies each, that were reflective of their likeness and personality and favourite colours.

Whitney: I was so excited to meet all of the Star Runners, and it was amazing seeing all of them settle into the cabin and get to know each other. Our cabin initiation was both Ziggy Stardust face paints (lots of thunderbolts and stars) and a patch-pinning with our sibling cabin, The Outsiders, which is a cabin that consists of a lot of returning campers that Ali and I were counselors for. It was amazing seeing everyone, old and new, meet each other. I just want to tussle all of y’alls hair and hug you so hard.

Elicia: I was so stoked to meet my campers in Ghost Power. Tory brought everyone these awesome keychains and Rachel created a cool crossword activity for everyone to get to know each other better. Our bigs/littles ceremony was equally dorky and fun although I guess I’m not supposed to talk about it since those ceremonies are secret and sacred, but I will repeat it was dorky and fun and I appreciate everyone participating and taking it as “seriously” as possible. Also, I’m pretty sure this was the night I convinced people to play Kings in Wolf which is not only my favorite drinking game, but just like my favorite game, period. Last year I got some of the staff to play the first or second night, so all the disappointment I felt about failing to do that this year was eclipsed by the massive amounts of joy experienced in this one round of Kings with staff and campers. This also begin the trend of ending sentences to each other with ‘in my pants’ for the rest of camp which was never not funny.

Rachel: I was pretty proud of our big/little cabin bonding, which was definitely dorky and fun but also, I would argue, COOL AND MYSTERIOUS. I did not end up participating in this Kings game in Wolf, though, so I guess I’ll have to wait until next year to weigh in on that, ELICIA.

Lizz: Our cabin initiations were incredible. I can’t tell you anything, obviously, but you need to know that Cecelia is a witch. She is. It’s a good thing.


Meanwhile in the VIP Cabins…

Dannielle: Kristin chased a moth around the room for like 45 minutes.

Kristin: LOL I CAUGHT IT, TOO AND SAVED ITS LIFE EVERYONE IS WELCOME.

Screenshot 2016-01-16 19.12.17


Stay tuned for the next Recamp, when we have our first full day of A-Camp!

A-Camp 7.0 will take place from May 29th-June 3rd in Angelus Oaks and registration will open at some point between January 29th-February 3rd, I’m still figuring it out and will let you know for sure in the last recamp!


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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 2855 articles for us.

82 Comments

  1. Rie

    CAMP CAMP CAMP CAMP.

    This was objectively my favorite camp. (Subjectively, my first, 3.0, holds a very special place in my heart.)

    My advice:

    1. If you’re kinda delicate stomach-wise or brain-wise, limit or eliminate drinking and keep dairy to a minimum
    2. Have one friend you’re campdependent with and split travel medicine cabinets with
    3. Go directly to a Queer Hotspot after to ease back into real life. (For me, San Francisco.)

  2. This makes me even more hyped for my first camp this year! I really hope I get a spot.

  3. Oh man camp sounds great. I hope to be able to make it some year, though it’s been a while since I’ve been on the camper side of a camp exprience

  4. I’m gonna be honest – I had an AWFUL camp last year (which was not at all Autostraddle’s fault. Just one bad luck after another and me not knowing how to deal with it.)

    But I still couldn’t help but smile while reading this and remembering all the small moments where staff and campers went out of their way to help me or make me feel welcome. Camp is a magical place, truly.

  5. GUYS. This year is going to be my FIRST A-CAMP and I’m so excited that my stomach is in knots and this article just makes me all the more pumped for it!! I’m just also simultaneously nervous/scared because I’m not gonna know anybody there. But reading things like this makes me feel like wow maybe it’ll be okay and maybe I’ll be able to make friends there (hopefully, fingers crossed.) Ya’ll are just making me all the more excited for my first A-Camp AND my first trip to the West coast! So yeah, I guess I’ll see ya’ll there!

    • That’s totally cool! I think you will be surprised at how completely easygoing and cool everyone is. Its intimidating at first because there are SO MANY ATTRACTIVE HUMANS I DONT EVEN KNOW but then theyre all shy and friendly too and then there are hugs and deep discussions and after a week you don’t know what life was without any of them

    • Yay! Last year was my first A-Camp and I am super shy and scared of people but it was beautiful and everyone was wonderful.

  6. Mey

    Wait, @heatherannehogan i don’t think you ever texted me about pokemon cards! i want to know what that was about! Also, getting texts from you always makes my day, so don’t ever feel like you can’t ask me about agent carter, white canary, steven universe, wonder woman, pokemon or anything else!

  7. Camp made me realise I’m not as outgoing as I think I am? Either that or Americans are just SO much more out there than Brits that I pale in comparison. Or it was the jetlag. I’m blaming that. Yep.

    ANYWAYS- I’m still glad y’all do what you do- and am raising a glass to many more years of Autostraddle and A-Camp.

    • Gah Ali, I had flashbacks the other day of you coming to check on the poorly Starrunners in your unicorn onesie and it just brought so much joy to my heart. <3

  8. And then me and some newly friend StarSiders spent over an hour drunkenly trying to hoist the blue flag into a tree without climbing it, but making it high and secure enough to stay put. We were so damn PROUD of ourselves. I heard later the next day it had taken mere seconds to take down. WE TRIED SO HARD.

  9. I probably can’t get to camp this year and it makes me so sad in my heart! I’ll miss all you beautiful weirdos! Especially my Shark alum!

    A-Camp 7.0 first-timers, do not worry. It will be overwhelming in the best way and you will make friends and have the time of your damn life. It is even more than you can even imagine. It will change you!

  10. Fucking amazing! I still love how my teammate and i took the pie eating contest WAY to seriously ;)

    • everybody’s behavior during the pie-eating contest was glorious truly

  11. – I CANT WAIT for registration
    – nurse Vivian is the best
    – Shark week and Hogwarts doors were amazing
    – the grey shirts were very flattering

    • One evening I hadn’t yet checked Autostraddle and was like wait, I had better check because a-camp registration! So thanks, Riese, for giving a time frame for registration!

  12. This makes me so sad about having to cancel on going. I really want to come backkkkk

  13. I have been looking forward to the recamps. Except now I’m just bummed that I can’t come back this year.

  14. I AM SO EXCITED! I’ve asked for the days off work. I just filed my taxes and am getting enough of a refund to afford camp. A-CAMP IS HAPPENING!!!

  15. Reading these pre-pre-camp recaps is new, unexpected, and easily the best thing about my day today. Exceptional considering I just got asked to go out out drinks with my former principal and the first lesbian I ever knew, which is also a big deal for me. BUT THESE PRECAMPS THO

  16. I flew from Ohio to NYC, painted a weird cow on a bed sheet, and packed up my Brooklyn apartment while also packing for Camp. This was my pre-pre-pre-camp. There was very little sleep. Somehow @alioh managed to be human, dapper, AND cheerful at 4 AM whereas I was a tired, limping potato in a sweatshirt. Upon landing at LAX, I drank 3 very large coffees to evolve into a human who could speak in sentences.

  17. This gave me so many feelings and reminded me how much camp means to me and how it feels like HOME. I cannot wait to be back on the mountain in 127 days!! (I am the countdown queen in case you didn’t know)

  18. Also (OUTSIDERS FOR LYFE) you have no idea how long it took the starsiders to figure out if our cabin names were related. We tried everything. Google. Amazon. Wikipedia. No one could solve what StarSiders was from.

    Until one day someone checked the name of the author. Glory.

      • Y’all, I am ashamed. I don’t watch movies, I don’t listen to music, I read books. I’m in an MFA program. It could be said that the one thing I do know is books. AND I DIDN’T GET THIS OH GOD.

        • I dunno. I always thought of Mario Kart and rainbow road with a star activated. I thought it was great that way.

  19. I miss EVERYONE, but especially the Firebirds and ESPECIALLY the SWINGS.

    • Whenever I see you playing I remember when your guitar strap (?) fell apart (?) and I think I caught it on video but don’t remember which song. LOL

      • it was “cool party” and it was 100% because i was trying to make eyes at gabby and got distracted.

    • Lex

      This sent me on youtube spiral to watch all the A Camp Family Band stuff which lead further places and then I got back here to read the context as the spiral got to Goodbye Earl just at the “Ain’t it dark? Wrapped up in that tarrrrp, Eaaaaarl!”

      SO DARK VINZZ AND STEF SO DARK.

      • Lex

        It gets brighter like the venue lights.
        They live happily ever after selling ham and jam at a roadside stand, whether or not they’re gal paling or gal paling happily ever is up to the listener.
        No body goes to jail.
        Trust me it’s all good.

  20. I was the person who awkwardly and quite conspicuously confirmed for Mal Blum that it was indeed Sinbad they were seeing.

  21. Jay

    I couldn’t make it to camp last year, but you best believe I’ll be there in May! Gosh oh my! Reading this every cell in my body is telling me to be there. The last camp I was at was emotionally a lot, in mixed ways, I wasn’t present. But I’m ready, I’m ready deep down in my soul to be back on the mountain, and I am soo excited!!! <3 <3 <3 (like it may be the week before finals but oh well, I'm doing it, I'm ready to book my flight any day now)

  22. Lex

    I can’t stop giggling about the shuttles actually being great white sharks that ate all the campers. It’s gunna be one of those things that’ll randomly pop into my brain and make me giggle seemingly out of the blue.

    Y’all did pretty fantastic with decorating for people who use glue sticks instead of the bestest paper adhesive evar; rubber cement.
    But I’m not judging normal people for not knowing secret hardware store type knowledge.
    Just trying (badly) to prosthelytize about one of my favourite things that is not food.
    Rubber cement, brush in cap.
    It will change your life.
    Much like A-Camp probably does, not that I would know because stalking instagram and tumblr like a creepy little creeper is not the same as being in the light of Mount Feelings.

    But yes, rubber cement it’s great.

  23. I delayed reading this because I knew it would give me FEELINGS and I WAS RIGHT, I SHOULD NEVER HAVE READ IT, I MISS CAMP SO MUCH. I was so scared and freaked out for the first day but every single day I text my camp friends so WHATEVER I GUESS IT WORKED.

    FEELINGS.

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