A-Camp October 2013 Recamp #3: If You Wanna Be My Lover, You Gotta Get With My Carnival

Friday Afternoon


[listen to the playlist here!]


(photo by taylor)

Games: Balloon Animals, Duck Match Game, Ring Toss, Bean-Bag Toss, Bobbing for Apples, Twister, Tug of War, Lesbian Bingo

Activities: Face-Painting, Tarot Card Reading, Caricatures w/Taylor, Advice Booth with Riese & Laneia, T-Shirt Cutting + Stenciling, High Tea, Kissing Booth w/Hannah Hart, Make a Thing: Merit Badges #2, Circus Moves, Hoola-Hooping, Haircuts w/Kip, Know Your Whiskey Tasting

Events: All-Camp Fashion Show, The Puppet Show w/Carly & Robin

Mainstage Hosted by DeAnne Smith: Lisa, Keely, Laurel, Emelina, Amanda, Kay, Lanie, Hailey, Georgina + Alaina, Lou, Joanna, Eleven and Emotions the P.O.E.T.

(photo by robin)

(photo by robin)

Robin, A-Camp Co-Director & Photographer: I was so so happy when Riese told me about her idea for a Carnival. I think the Carnival was just the change that A-Camp needed to break up a busy few days of non-stop panels and workshops. I knew right away I wanted a cotton candy machine and in my head I already knew what I wanted the Carnival to look like!

Marni, A-Camp Co-Director & Contributor: Robin took the lead and did such a good job planning all of the games and decorations.

Emily, Rockford Peaches Counselor: Robin designed a reblog worthy atmosphere and Marni built that adorable puppet show stage that was also a kissing booth. Snaps all around.

Bren, Bangles Counselor & Editorial Assistant: It was the hardest, yet most rewarding day of camp. It was exhausting. I mean we had to set up an entire carnival.

A-Camp 418

Robin: It was really fun pulling all of that together and setting everything up that morning. Stef worked at a party store for a summer when she was 17, so she has this incredible skill for making balloon arches, so of course we commissioned one from her.

Bren: Someone said “I wish we had a balloon arch for the entrance of the carnival” and Stef was like “Consider it done.”

Stef: It gave me a chance to show off my little-known balloon specialist skills. I build a mean balloon arch. I am available for weddings and bar mitzvahs.


(photo by robin)

Bren: This was no half-assed carnival. There was cotton candy, popcorn, balloons, face painting, a kissing booth, an ongoing talent show, potato sack racing, tug of war, and a million other things that I’m forgetting.

Marni: The carnival was a big departure for us this time – it was the first big, all-afternoon, all-camp event that we’ve planned and I think it was a huge success.

(photo by taylor of a drawing done by taylor)

(photo by taylor of a drawing done by taylor)

Carmen, Holograms Counselor & Contributing Editor: The A-Camp Carnival sounded like an idea way too ambitious to become real life the first time it got passed along to staff by Robin and Marni, but we did it!

Dani RDS, Stormtroopers Counselor & Contributing Editor: To be honest, I really had no idea how you could possibly execute a carnival, street fair like situation on a mountain, but they made it happen.

Carmen: It was quite possibly my favorite of the various changes we’ve seen since Camp 1; I got to set up an adorable little t-shirt cutting and stenciling “booth” and spent all day licking a huuuuuuge lollipop a la Miley Cyrus. And I regret nothing.

(via Carmen)

(via Carmen)

Dani: If most of A-Camp feels like a crazy crash course on feelings and politics, Carnival was the moment we remembered even the revolution has room for a little party.

Lizz: The carnival was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen! It was like am amazing twee wedding or something!

(photo by robin)

(photo by robin)

Bren: Everyone on staff was just so excited and ready to make this seemingly impossible thing happen and then it happened and all the campers had a great time. And the smiles on their faces made all the hard work completely worth it. The campers are so worth it.

Mey, Flashdance Counselor & Contributing Editor: I had never seen so many talented hula-hoopers before.

(photo by robin)

(photo by robin)

Carly: I thought the carnival idea was a bit ambitious but then I realized that I could create programming for an outdoor stage so I was happy. Plus I could turn that into a quasi-talent show, thus freeing up some more evening time.

Robin: I was so impressed by the Main Stage talent. Campers got up to sing, read poems and do stand-up!

A-Camp 414

Lizz: This camp’s Fashion Show starred the most important people at camp: the campers! I let campers who wanted to style themselves in whatever fabulous outfits they loved. For campers who wanted some help, we sat down and went through their clothes and picked out fun looks!

Carly: Everyone who performed on the Carnival Stage or walked in the fashion show, you are all STARS!

A-Camp 417-001

Robin: I was impressed with the random skills of our staff! Vanessa and Cara painted faces, Sarah Evan read tarot cards, Ali hula-hooped, Lizz Rubin organized a camper fashion show and Marni was the most realistic bear dancing to Janelle Monae that I have ever seen.

Kai, Wildcats Counselor & Calendar Girl: Some awesome QUEERleaders performed at the Carnival with a routine they learned in one hour at the But I’m a Cheerleader workshop. There were pompoms and everything was perfect. It seriously made me so happy to see this group of gorgeous people dance and yell and stunt in front of a crowd. Especially when immediately after they admitted they never thought they’d be shakin’ it onstage. Also, the catchphrase of the workshop was “ASS UP, GIGLER!” because stunting is hard.


(photo by robin)

Carly: Then there was a puppet show. I don’t even know what to say about this.

Marni: Of course I had a blast building the puppet theatre. It wouldn’t be camp if I didn’t undertake an overly-complicated construction project that monopolizes a huge amount of space in the car on our way to camp.

Carly: Robin and I rehearsed once two nights before this performance and that was it. We taped the scripts to the inside of the theatre, I rigged a makeshift microphone/amp setup, and it was all over before I even realized it. Another thing I didn’t realize: just how many people were watching us! Oof. I don’t know if this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done, or the most awesome; maybe both?

Puppet show videos courtesy of Mary Bresnihan: Mean Girls / OITNB / Texts From Emily Dickinson / The L Word

A-Camp 419

Riese: The puppet theater got a lot of action at the carnival. It began as an Advice Booth, which was a rare opportunity for Laneia and I to interact two-on-one with campers we hadn’t met before, as well as some we knew very well. We also gave The Bear good advice about winter migration.

Laneia: There really are few things I love more than telling people what to do, and sitting outside in the woods.

(photo by robin)

(photo by robin)

Riese: After the Advice Booth, the theater returned to its natural habitat of being a Puppet Theater, and finally, the Puppet Theater became the super-popular Hannah Hart Kissing Booth.


(photo by bree)

Riese: The kissing booth experience was enhanced by the loveliness of Hurraw Vegan Lip Balm, another one of the independent businesses that we know and love as a MAGICAL A-CAMP SPONSOR!



Haviland: The carnival was adorable, and I laughed SO HARD when I saw Marni in that bear suit. Marni as a brown bear is really cute. And the free hugs were really great. #bears

Mey: There was a dancing bear, so it’s pretty hard to beat that.

A-Camp 422

Marni: My afternoon at the carnival (spent giving out free bear hugs and hula hooping, mostly) was up there in my Most Fun moments of all of A-Camp so far. Dancing with Mel was a major highlight, though exhausting for both of us. We were really happy that we were able to donate the puppet theatre to Alpine’s summer program so it’s going to live on.

Emily G: Usually the only times that everyone is all together at once are for meals and nighttime activities. The carnival was so charming and creative and social and it was the best new thing.

A-Camp 420

Mey: Somehow, Kaylah and I, the two people on staff who are most afraid of balloons, ended up being at the balloon animal table. Since we couldn’t find the balloon pump at first, this activity ended up being a lot harder than it looked. For a while, this booth was pretty much just a bunch of queer ladies puckering up and then getting light-headed (which I’m sure is a pretty common occurrence at camp). After a while, though, we found some people who were really quite impressive with their balloon skills.

Stef: I ended up on Team Snax, the best team in the whole Carnival.

Sophia: I learned how to use a cotton candy machine! It was very special giving folks cotton candy, it felt so magical and lighthearted and very gay.  Stef was operating the sno-cone machine to my left and Geneva was operating the popcorn machine to her left. This was strategic I think, because we didn’t have to move and got to eat our wares all day.

A-Camp 416

Stef: The Sno Cone machine was fun to use and all (I felt very butch crushing an entire cooler of ice with my tremendous strength), but there was still snow on the ground and I was a bit sad about being regularly passed up for more temperature-appropriate confections. It wasn’t until we hit upon the brilliant idea to start adding vodka to the sno cones that I started burning through an awful lot of them.

Sophia: The boozey cones were a secret menu item if you knew what to ask for.

Stef: A-Camp: a place for entrepreneurs.


(photo by taylor)

Cara: Most of my time, attention, and energy was focused on the facepainting booth, but I could tell peripherally that a lot of amazing things were going on in other places (could also tell from the screams/shouts/growls of Marni the Bear). I loved all my customers, but the highlight for me was painting a purple-tinted goatee on Lex. Also Vanessa is really good at facepainting, which I didn’t know. Did you see her penguin? It was art.

A-Camp 413

Vanessa:  I was so nervous about this but it turned out to be my absolute favorite thing I did at this camp! Seriously, if I could somehow land a gig as a professional queer face painter I would probably be happy for the rest of my life. Cara and I had wanted to practice on each other beforehand but we got swept up in things like pranking the entire camp and being super emotional with our campers during feelings circles (please guess which one of us was doing which activity) so we just had to wing it when the time came. And wing it we did! We flew, basically. Soared. Face painting was a MAJOR success, is what I’m saying. We painted skulls and rainbows and daggers and trees and bees and penguins and cats and unicorns and lightening bolts. We made dreams come true.


(photo by taylor)

Vanessa: We were only scheduled to face paint for a portion of the carnival but we ended up painting faces from 2:30pm – 6pm and only stopped because it was time for dinner. We could’ve painted all night. It was so much fun to have a chance to chat with campers one on one and to just chill out in a really cool, fun, relaxed environment. So much of camp is a vibe of non-stop excitement, which is awesome but can be tiring, and I think both the campers and the staff were grateful to have a whole chunk of time – a whole carnival afternoon! – to just breath and enjoy going at a bit of a slower pace.

(photo by robin)

(photo by robin)

Chloe: At the Carnival I had the pleasure of running the bobbing for apples activity. I had expected it to be a hard sell, but was proven very wrong. I am still so impressed by all of you who let me persuade you into putting your face in that bucket of freezing water for a whole minute as well as the good number of you who actually came out of it with an apple, despite Kai and I unintentionally making the game nearly impossible by cutting off all the stems.

A-Camp 415

Donna: I got a chance to have quality time with Sarah Evan the next day of camp. Sarah was doing Tarot Card Readings during the carnival. I’m a bit of a skeptic, but shit got real.

jane and sarah at the tarot card table (photo by robin)

jane and sarah at the tarot card table (photo by robin)

Donna: I am pretty sure Sarah is a unicorn, or one of the X-Men, because she basically recounted my past and predicted my future. Then I watched her do the same for a camper. We were all spooked and flabbergasted. I’d like my own personal Sarah on call at all times.


Crystal: Once upon a time I had a dream that there was queer bingo on top of the mountain, and Marni and Robin allowed me to make a reality during the A-Camp Carnival.

Hansen: I was feeling a little rough for Queer Bingo due to too much fun at Klub Deer the previous night, so I was grateful that it was pretty low key. Basically Crystal made bingo cards with a bunch of queer words that we had written down in a google doc spreadsheet, and then we wrote them all on ping pong balls which we drew out of a Trader Joe’s bag.

Crystal: We shared a very special learning moment mid-game, the lesson being that I should not trusted with preparing bingo balls and cards.


(photo by bree)

Hansen: Never trust Crystal with writing words on ping pong balls. She forgot the Taystee ball and made a Tegan AND a Sara ball when it was definitely just one space for Tegan & Sara. The campers were outraged by this, and rightly so (“Why haven’t you called Taystee?! I bet there isn’t even a Taystee ball in there!” The purple team cried from the back and we laughed so hard when we proved them right), but I feel like our general charm won them over in the end.

Crystal: Despite this we all had a great time, except possibly the Purple team who accused us of rigging and left in protest. Coincidentally, mine and Hansen’s team, Orange, were the victors.

Hasen: Orange won the whole thing, so I was happy.


Emily Mans The Beanbag Toss (photo by cee)

Next: The carnival continues with High Tea, Whiskey-Tasting and The Femme Friday meet-Up, and then it’s time for shit to get real funny!

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, 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. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3178 articles for us.


  1. Minor correction: the song was “Groovy Kind of Love” by Phil Collins. In Your Eyes is a fantastic song, but it’s by Peter Gabriel, and I’ve never slow danced to a near-stranger for three minutes to it.

    Note to self: find a way to slow dance to a stranger to In Your Eyes.

    And the Tardy to the Party panel, OMG. This is a memorable moment in my life. The emotional honesty that came pouring out of everyone, myself included, was shocking and magical! So many tissues needed!

  2. It was so incredible in the Tardy for the Party panel was when Laneia said we could either go to lunch or keep talking and not ONE. SINGLE. PERSON. got up from their seats.

    That panel was SO FUCKING necessary. I was so moved and touched and I have never felt more connected to a gigantic group of strangers. Thank you to everyone who spoke on that panel and contributed from the audience because you gave me the words I needed to understand my own messy, complicated feelings. You are all beautiful humans and I’m so glad we were all able to show up fashionably late together <3

  3. Words cannot express what the tardy for the party panel meant to me. I was not the same person when I left that room. It was life altering. If camp had been just that panel it would have been worth the trip.
    Thank you to all that participated and especially to Laneia for remembering to bring the box of tissues!

  4. Not pictured during The Carnival: The cotton candy machine gorgeously spewing sugar dust into the rapidly returning sunlight. It was nearly as pretty as all the queers.

    I also learned first hand that Dimitri Martin’s joke about skulls and daggers with glitter on them is actually a little obscure. But my face paint still looked adorable, even though it was not the funny T-shirt for my face I tried to make it be.

    • i did not know the joke when you requested those things BUT i really fucking loved painting them on your face, for the record

  5. This I think was my favorite day of camp. Lanie and I played at the carnival and nothing bad happened and it was wonderful.
    Sarah Hansen gave me her identity, and if anyone actually believed I was her, I’m really sorry.
    AND I got to slow dance with Sarah Evan, and you should all be really jealous of that.


  6. “…like a starfish hitting an uncooked ham.”

    That line has forever been etched into my brain space. And the carnival was just, you know, everything I ever wanted out of life.

  7. Sometimes I forget that Autostraddle as a site isn’t Tumblr or Facebook because I click every picture and try to like it.

  8. guys, i just wanted to let you know that anne marie is my best friend and i’ve never been so proud of a human before. that was the best thing on earth.

  9. Every time there was a new picture, I fell in love with whomever was in it. Does that make me shallow, or is it just that A-Camp attracts such a gorgeous group of people that that reaction is totally expected?

    • the photoshop situations in this recap are really really really impressive

      like, possibly deserve space at MoMA, just saying

  10. guys! whenever i read recamps, i wish i had written more myself. sometimes, it’s too much to get into words, you know?

    for now i’ll say:

    i love that brittani was “jazzed.” i love it so much.

    may have to make that pic of stef with the vodka snowcones (which were DELISH and refreshing, by the way!) my phone background to remind me that sometimes life delivers up exactly what you didn’t know you needed.


    long live all the klubs. even club bluebird.

    • whenever i read the recamps i notice that i always start out saying I AM GONNA BE BRIEF and then i am never ever brief. maybe this means we are meant to be, deanne. maybe it means i’m just really fucking longwinded and self-involved. WHO’S TO SAY.

  11. The recamps: where I find out about all the things I was missing while doing the other things. I really need to figure out how to drink in multiple places at the same time.

    I suspect the solution involves more whiskey, but despite my best efforts, I have yet found the solution.

    More research is required.

    • Ya’ll, DJ missed out on a chunk of the carnival because she elected to let me cry on her about missing my friend, who passed right after May Camp.

      She’s real good people.

      • this made my heart swell. i am so sorry for your loss. i am also so happy that a-camp fosters such beautiful close connections.

        • Thank you Vanessa. The last night I spent with that friend was the night before May Camp. I packed my bags while she and two other close friends drank wine and made fun of my chosen camp schedule.

          Quote my friend, “Ugh, you’re going to California to learn how to SPOON?”

          I’m so glad I have ya’ll, and I’m so glad we have each other. Hold your loved ones close.

      • DJ, I’m pretty sure you already figured it out. I thought you spent a lot of the carnival with me, but you were also off being a super friend, dancing with bears and just generally having a damn whimsical time.

        It was the Whiskey snowcones we made. Whiskey snowcones make you have the ability to do ALL the things in multiple places, but you just aren’t able to remember any of it. I’m pretty sure that’s science.

        • Holy shit. I didn’t realize. Next time I’ll wear my lab coat so we can make it official.

          I think it is important to recognize prior work, so I want to give some credit for the snow on the first night. It convinced me that it needed to be combined with whiskey. I guess when the snowcones showed up, it was easy to see what needed to be done.

      • Aww, ‘Rie, you know there’s nothing else at a-camp that takes priority over a cabinmate. And not that we’re keeping a tally, but need I remind you that you were and have been there for me tons the same way?

        I was mostly thinking about that group of us who missed A-campalooza because we were at that strip cards against humanity game.

        I have no regrets. About any of it.

        But if I can figure out how to be in multiple places at once in the future, you can bet I’ll be doing it.


          I mean, reading the recamp, A-Camp-alooza sounds like it was incredible buuuuuut…absolutely no regrets missing it to join a bunch of lovely humans in getting increasingly drunk + increasingly naked (to comfort levels, for both of these things!) + increasingly hilarious.

  12. i forgot to mention in this recap that a-camp-alooza incited an official shift in my sexual orientation. my sexual orientation is now just “butch beyonce.”

    also i’m really glad carmen made “b is hilarious” signs because even if we didn’t get to use them at the intended moment we have them ready for, you know, every other moment for the rest of our lives. no one will ever again not know that b is hilarious.

  13. now that i’m finally back in the states, and have been dying to go to a-camp for the past 2 a-camps, i SWEAR i am going to go to the next a-camp! is it going to be in april or may?

  14. you guys. i’m pretty much about to cry right now. i think all of you are the funniest, coolest humans on the planet, and i love you.


  15. THIS WAS SUCH A FUN DAY AT CAMP. and not going to lie we laughed really hard with Nicole about almost getting caught by chloe while collecting sticks and honestly stick bouquets will forever be romantic now.

    BUT SERIOUSLY–I don’t even know what to say SO MUCH AMAZING STUFF HAPPENED.
    the carnival was sooo much fun and a nice break and way to socialize and all the actvities were so much fun and that fashion show! oh man. DeAnne Smith. that is all.

    I can get soooo carried away. But it was an AMAZING AMAZING day!!!

  16. I figured the best time to comment on this was after a few venti sized glasses of wine. The only thing I regret about camp was NOT doing the thing and people that I was doing some intense eye flirting with…but you bet your little queer ass I’ll break out of my shell by 5.0. I promise I won’t spend ALL of my time having panic attacks in the DSA even though I met some of the most beautiful humans by just standing outside. In the snow. Because when you’re drunk and with a bunch of amazing queers not even the snow can stop the socialization that only happens in nature…

  17. “at first it was super-disorienting to be surrounded by kinky identical twins, but it turns out I’m really into that.”

    somer my love for you grows deeper every day

  18. Man, it’s stuff like this that’s gonna have some queer attend next years awesomest camp! Spice girls medley. Man, IDK if i ever love the spice girls more.

  19. This was the day our cabin got so into bonding time that we accidentally missed part of an event just to spend time together. It was also the day I fell in love with 15 humans simultaneously. Stormtroopers for life <3

  20. Look at Kirsten being super adorable on the swings!

    Also, appreciative head nod to all the Amazons up there in their short shorts.

  21. This was an excellent day of camp. I was super impressed by the Carnival! Seriously, there were many ways it could have been half-assed, which would be totally justified because it was being set up on top of a mountain, but I really appreciated all of the little thoughtful details (gorgeous decorations, classy signs for each activity, etc.) that went into it. Definitely not half-assed!

    Also, the talent show was great – I was feeling rather oversocialized by the time the carnival rolled around (#introvertproblems) so I didn’t participate in many of the activities/talk to many people, but I still felt very much included in the goings-on when I was able to just stand there and watch all of the super talented acts take place.

    Finally, a massive thank you to Kate for coming back to our cabin to retrieve me when the Hannah Hart kissing booth was happening!!! I would have been crushed to have missed it. Hannah was seriously SO SWEET and she made a video for my [local] girlfriend so my girlfriend wouldn’t be too jealous of me meeting Hannah :)

  22. the recamps really make me miss camp so much..
    but also i’m hanging out with some of my favourite campers this weekend so that does make it a lot better

  23. I want to know more about these three ‘sailor’ people wearing the same thing! Was it planned? Was it homosexual wardrobe coincidence? Should you have all called each other first? (Or rather, should you not have and it happened perfectly?)

  24. 1. Im pretty sure that was easily the cutest queer-prom-date proposal that ever did or will happen. EVER.

    2. My face turns red just thinking about Deanne singing to me.

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