Fare Thee Well!

Saturday, June 29th, 2024

COSTUME BARN circa 3:00pm—An unseasonably temperate pick-up Saturday has been provided by some unexpected cloud cover. The muted pink madrone trunks trickle upward into the canopy, splaying their bright green and yellow leaves against the verdigris pines. Dry orange leaves cover the white tarp floor of the Costume Barn which is otherwise thoroughly tidy. Rows and rows of hanging racks, each packed full of colorful costumes, constitute a sort of technicolor hedge maze. From here campers can be seen in the Tipi Circle leading their grown-ups around. One such camper skips sideways, pointing and beckoning with their respective hands.

The first family arrives at the Costume Barn, led by their camper who presents the costumes to his visiting twin brother like a proud shopkeep.

“You can try on anything,” says Marcel, 9, of the Red Tipi to his brother Demian, who quickly busies himself with selecting the perfect outfit. A false start with red crab outfit gives way to a Matrix-worthy black leather duster and samurai sword combo. Mom agrees to don the eschewed crab garments and the family poses for a quick photo.

I sit down with Marcel for a quick interview.

“Don’t mind him,” he says of his brother who is fiercely holding the plastic sword blade to his neck in an unrequited dramatic display. “Improv was my favorite because you got to play silly acting games. We played this game where we had to jump in the middle and make up a song. It feels really exciting to show my family around, but also sad because we have to go.”

A group of Marcel’s friend arrive and they all disappear into the corridors of costumes.

“I love the tipis, very spacious,” says Marcel’s mom, Susannah. “I think it’s cool how you can see the stars out of the roof. And this costume barn is amazing!”

As more families stream in, I refer to my journal. Earlier today I spent some time gathering final thoughts from various campers and staff.

“I was unicycling like a hundred times,” said Lyric, 8, of the Green Tipi. “I went to the arts and crafts station three times! I made a puppet out of a black sock and a white mouth. I made it into a vampire key maker with fangs, a cape and a key on a necklace. I call him the Key Master.”

“There was a lot of little kids but it was low-key kinda good,” said Danica, 14 of the Rainbow Tipi. “As for counselors, Natalie is the best. Emma M. slays at art; she’s also the best. After a while camp becomes a home away from home, so be careful, you might get stuck in this place. I love it here. 4 out of 5 stars.”

“My tipi was really chill and vibey,” said Lyndin, 14, of the Flame Tipi. “Like everyone is really chill, nice and respectable.”

“My favorite things were dance and songwriting,” said Laila, 11, of the Gold Tipi. “One time when we were learning the choreography we all just stopped for no reason and we were all quiet for a second and then we all started laughing. It’s so different from other camps because it’s not about doing things ‘right’ but doing things your own way.”

“I like evening program because it’s always something different,” said Coral, 9, of the Yellow Tipi. “My favorite was either the teacher thing or the fire circle. Everybody is just super nice and it’s awesome that so many kids can experience this.”

“Probably the best session I’ve ever had, for reasons inexplicable, mysterious and magical,” said Puppeteering Instructor Milla Blackwelder. “The vulnerability we share—there’s a strength there. It’s undeniable.”

“Whether they’re watching, waiting back stage, or performing, everyone’s participating,” said Teen Staff Charlie of last night’s talent show, the Cabar-Nado. “When the clowns came shuffling onstage I was LOL-ing non-stop. Tornado is always a win.”

“The four farters did a beautiful rendition of “Happy Birthday” which made the crowd go wild,” said Stage Technician Zoë Takaki. “Backstage was crazy. There was lots of unicyclists and dancers preparing. Shout-out to the Teen Leaders Beatrix and Max and camper Danica for helping hold down the tech scene.”

“We trained a lot of beginners this session,” said Unicycle Instructor Arek Rein Jungwirth. “Some of them even learned to do partner pinwheels!”

“I enjoyed counseling in a gender inclusive tipi,” added Arek. “I’ve noticed the kids are more respectful and aware because they have to get along with different types of people.”

I asked Arek for an update on the Union, for which he serves as co-president.

“People noticed a difference in staffing levels,” he said. “The tipis were well staffed which meant less issues fell through the cracks. We worked with management during Set-Up to improve safety issues. There is a lot of optimism about the new director and the potential for Camp to grow.”

Thanks for reading along with me this session! Have a beautiful rest of your summer and as always,

Stay hydrated,

—J. Payseno, Editor