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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Before you go! It takes funding to keep this publication by and for queer women and trans people of all genders running every day. We will never put our site behind a paywall because we know how important it is to keep Autostraddle free. But that means we rely on the support of our A+ Members. Still, 99.9% of our readers are not members. A+ membership starts at just $4/month. If you’re able to, will you join A+ and keep Autostraddle here and working for everyone?