Fire Works

Thursday, July 4th, 2024

RAINBOW THEATER circa 10:00am—Campers full of breakfast sit in lethargic posture on the orange theater benches, fiddling with rocks, kicking dangling feet, or staring motionlessly. The heat bears down like an extra layer of gravity, even in this mid-morning hour. Our reader today, filling in for Wavy, is Administrative Manager Mayahuel Montoya. She sits in a director’s chair on the stage which is framed by a large metal rainbow (with a staircase inside) and two massive oaks. Counselors meander through the audience, blobbing sunscreen into campers’ hands.

“July 4th is a day that is meant to celebrate freedom,” begins Mayahuel, reading a statement from the Indigenous Foundation. “While the United States and its settlers claimed its independence from Great Britain, this came at a cost of others’ freedom.”

She reads on, outlining the struggle of Native American and African American people in the context of today’s holiday. She concludes the statement with a simple call to action.

“The Fourth of July can be used as a day to reflect on the United States’ history and acknowledge the irreversible harm that has been done to many groups of people,” she reads. “It can also be used as an opportunity to address the whitewashed retelling of the American Revolution.”

Next Mayahuel reads a poem by Martín Espada, a Camp favorite, “Imagine the Angels of Bread.” Heads bob in the audience in response to the powerful imagery. Random birds titter and chirp along in the background. The poem concludes,

“So may every humiliated mouth,
teeth like desecrated headstones,
fill with the angels of bread.”

“Martín Espada!” exclaims Mayahuel, holding the poem aloft as the audience claps. “For our final piece, I will be reading on of my personal favorites, The Story of Ferdinand.

This is the material the kids have been waiting for. Several people familiar with the book react with whoops or whistles. The younger campers squirm closer to the stage to see the pictures as she reads, crowding into the front row. She finishes the book and exits stage with a brief curtsy.

“Give it up for Maya!” says Stilt Instructor Alan Knox, taking the stage to transition Camp from morning reading to warm-ups. He wears a ball cap and a backpack, a sure sign that he is a supervisor at Camp, or a “duper” as we call it. As “Duper of the Day”, Alan will spearhead all timekeeping and job-checking at Camp until he is relieved by the next duper at 4:30pm. He calmly disperses the crowd to the three warm-up options, which will serve to limber campers’ bodies before the rigors of circus training. I retreat to my blog lair to transcribe the reviews I gathered at breakfast of last night’s Fire Circle.

“Fire Circle’s chill,” said Karina, 14, of the Blue Tipi. “It’s just like being around the fire with a bunch of friends. It’s nostalgic, it’s campy. The acts were silly, serious—all of the above. The host, José Joaquin Garcia, made sure everyone could hear and be heard. It was fun.”

“We signed up to sing ‘The Wizard’ by Black Sabbath,” said Zane, 13, of the Red Tipi. “Tristan was wearing a long elf hat and I had on a sort of colorful witch hat. But then all of a sudden there was another group singing the same song, like six people and someone in a platypus costume. We decided to jump into the circle during their song and start running around. It was very silly, very fun.”

“The mouth harp act was funny,” said Lilah, 10, of the Gold Tipi. “There were two people making up silly songs about Neptune.”

“The labyrinth holds a special place in my heart,” continued Lilah. “I like taking my time, walking slow, and looking at the Bart Simpson action figure.”

During Fire Circle, tipi groups are taken one at a time to visit Camp’s labyrinth, a sacred walking design traced with stones and decorated with flowers, crystals, and various figurines.

“Sending tipis to the labyrinth is tricky,” said Alan. “The process is coordinating tipis so that Wavy doesn’t have to wait long times between tipis and stay up late. When to gather, when to send, that’s the game. I was just tracking down counselors and making announcements in between acts. Sometimes if we send a tipi but there’s a little extra time, they can stop in the creek and pick out a special pebble to add to the labyrinth.”

“Wavy and his wife were there and they told us about the rocks and stuff,” said Jojo, 8, of the Gold Tipi. “They said, ‘Enjoy the beautiful sight.’ The labyrinth is like a maze made out of stones, but the stones are on the ground and there’s no walls. There’s a track made out of soft sand and you can walk it barefoot if you want to. There’s an entrance that is also the exit. There’s like crystals, gnomes, and lots of cool rocks. I think it’s cool and interesting at the same time.”

Stay hyrdrated,

—J. Payseno, Editor