"Your best day wrapped in cotton candy dipped in sprinkles and rolled in sunshine with beer." - 2021 camper
Even though we did indeed skip the summer of 2020 (minus a virtual "Unglued Camp Rewind" for all past campers!!), bringing Camp back for the best weekend of the year did blow all our expectations out of that Big Cormorant water. And there was indeed sprinkles, cotton candy, sunshine, and BEER. And a giant swan floatie island.
So. Pause. If you are me reading this and are wondering how this magic happened during a continued pandemic here's the skinny. As our 2021 Camp weekends (yes plural - this was our 2nd year of 2 back-to-back camp weekends) inched closer, pandemics started once again growing higher. So while July of 2021 would have been crazy less complicated, by the end of August and Labor Day weekend things were started to ramp up in virusland again.
From the start of our Camp Lottery opening (lottery since straight up normal registration sells out in a minute and crashes websites), campers knew they'd be picking their Covid-safety choice of either being fully vaccinated, having a PCR test ahead of Camp, OR rapid test on site with us. Which, YES, we became a certified lab through the ND Lab and Dept of Health in MN, and YES, feel very proud of that lol.
But, of course, 2021 isn't any easier of a year, and so when things ramped up, we notified campers we'd also be highly recommending masks indoors, got fancy ass air purifiers for each cabin, and continued to have a hella flexible refund policy at any point someone wasn't feeling well, comfortable coming, or wasn't interested in following our super fun health guidelines. We also rearranged as much as humanly possible to be outdoors, rented and borrowed giant wedding tents, and prepped our amazing medics with updated Covid quarantining and isolation protocols we drafted up with ND's epidemiologist.
AND IT WORKED. 240 campers came through between the 2 weekends and crafted their asses off, danced their asses off, and health-safety their asses off. And we cried multiple times (like that omg-this-is-working-i-can't-believe-it-in-gratefulness) through it all with our crew because we felt so frickin' lucky (#blessed) to be able to create this camp world for 2 weekends. #feelings. Just a few extra details to manage ;). TMI? Well, thanks for indulging my bonus event planning details so we can appreciate this in 20 years. Pitter patter let's get at 'er!!
Alright, alright, alrighty, back to the beginning. And our annual photo dump of all the campy goodness to look back on when it's a windchill of -30. Camp kicked off with our high jumping, ass kicking CAMP CREW.
An absolutely crazy, hard working, creative, kick ass, giving-a-shit group of past campers who are everything from small business owners to therapists to librarians to bakers to bankers to just straight up awesome friends that drive the back end of the Camp experience - and the golf cart ;)
AND THEN CAME OUR CAMPERS!
Campers settled into their campy cabins and then came down to the Beach Patio Mixer complete with the tunes of vibe perfection with DJ Pretty Ricky from Fargo and the cocktail mastery of Langston Johnson - the Camp Bar Boss! We threw in some carnival games this year and some speed mingle time because Camp includes a mix of people with their upcoming bridal party besties and people coming completely solo from out of state. And combine that with our high level social anxiety scooped up from isolated pandemic times we all pretty much needed a moment to ring toss an inflatable swan, fish pond some candy, and throw a super sharp dart at a balloon filled with paint Princess Diaries-style. And cotton candy.
And since it's late summer, by the time Camp is ready to roll into Campfire Orientation time it's pitch black outside with is pitch perfect for the camp 4-1-1.
Which included fairy flowers, the ukelele tunes of Randi Kay serenading with the Rainbow Connection, and then inevitably giant sequin CAMP letters in lights on unicorns. Then our Missy Elliot tik tok dancing Camp emcees took over to give campers the skinny.
Followed by our sibling-emceed Camp favorite Camp Variety Show! This is the moment in time campers get to meet their cabins so they aren't sleeping with total strangers later that night and try their hand at winning ridiculous prizes...and enjoy other variety show varietals.
Things like finger painting a bear on a flamingo floaty, sing-a-longs (but only 1 because #screaminsideyourheart), Jon from Nature of the North maintaining our beautiful fire, and dance breaks. With a side of Camper Feud and minute-to-win-it chaos.
Then it was off to the most uncomfortable bunk bed you've ever slept in OR beachside patio trivia! Hosted by our amazing crew with SO.MANY.FACTS.
And then waking up to a trumpet call by Faye to either pouring rain...
...or gorgeous sunshine. Which makes beach yoga so much more comfortable. And all fitness activities. But there was no pity parties for the rainy start to the first weekend because we actually were all together doing Camp during a continued pandemic and for that we threw on our rain coats and yoga'd under the tents!
After celebrating some birthday action and enjoying morning clubs (canoe & coffee club FTW) to meet more people, it was breakfast time! But not just any old breakfast time...
THIS kind of breakfast time! Sous vide eggs with mashed potatoes, bacon, braised kale, lemon coffee cake kind of breakfast. Like the dreamiest frickin' breakfast to prepare you for your dreamiest camp day. Created by...
Chef Scott Grandi-Hill! Who just crushed the dreamiest food menu of all our dreamiest dreams.
And THEN CAME CRAFT TIME NUMBER 1. The kind where you have over 50 workshops to choose from over the weekend in 4 workshop sessions. Taught by local and regional crazy talented makers and businesses.
"Just go. Do it.
Are you a guy? Do it.
Are you a girl? Do it.
Are you married? Do it.
Are you single? Do it.
Are you young? Do it.
Are you old and your bones creak in the morning? Do it.
Camp is something that is greater than the sum of its parts.
All of those parts individually, fantastic, but it's the experience of all of the things that makes it. You won't find my ass awake before 9:30 on a weekend 51 other weekends a year."
- 2021 Camper
"My absolute favorite piece about camp is the endless amounts of sessions there were to choose from. I struggled to pick which ones to attend. And the amount of creativity and talent from not only the instructors but from the campers as well is INSANE! I have never met such neat and dynamic people in my entire life." - 2021 Camper
Picture things like fresh flower arrangements and floral tattoos with Botanica Floristry, wood carving a spoon, creating a macrame rainbow wall hanging, street art and spray paint, glass dipped pen and watercolor painting, learning to create mediterranean dishes with a local author, printmaking a summer camp design, shibori indigo dying, leather stamping, sauna 101, knot tying & fire making, painting wood bead jewelry and a felt pennant with Catie Miller, and a hell of a lot more.
Which followed with Camp Workshop Session 2 to really double down on this being an Unglued Summer Camp with action like felt pennants, cyanotype printmaking, ceramic texture mugs with Fermie Studios, wood burning, weaving, screenprinting a tote bag, honey heist, quilling, self-care nature walks and essential oils, cross stitch, and The 90 Minute Wine Expert.
"Camp is the best weekend of the year. It is comparable to my wedding day. It’s so damn amazing & I would cry my eyes out if I couldn’t go next year." - 2021 Camper
"It is literally my favorite weekend of year. Every year." - 2021 Camper
Session 2 even included Dumpling Making with Chef Scott in which the class truly leveled up to mastery by making ALL THE DUMPLINGS for 120 campers to later enjoy for dinner!
Then Beans and Weenies - or Justin's dance moves - called your name down for LUNCH TIME. Again by Chef Scott and our kitchen crew - complete with a delicious drink infusion with edible glitter because CAMP.
After either a super rainy - or beautiful sunshine - bout of free time was enjoyed for an afternoon delight and then Matt's track suit (and our judges floral crowns) called your name to the BATTLE FIELD.
For the CAMP BATTLE. A battle of teamwork, wits, crafts, and slip-n-slides.
As the competition heats up and Kevin enters in to a Hulk-like sports rage to inspire his team to victory, campers craft, show off their team spirit, create real estate pitches for their giant sand castles, and jenga and gold rush to jock jam 4-on-the-floor action. First weekend in Wet-Ass-Pouring rain by the end of it and second weekend in continued vacation sunshine.
"All the things!!!! Kayaking and mimosas, yoga on the beach, meeting Internet friends IRL, learning how to weave (even if I was admittedly Not Very Good at it), dancing my ass off, water balloon fight. HOLY SHIT DEX'S BURGERS." - 2021 Camper
"It was the best 3 days. I felt so much joy and so carefree. You have thought of EVERY detail, go above and beyond to make every little thing feel special and it's genuinely impressive. I've had a tough few months and this was a literal breath of fresh air - I have not laughed and felt so relaxed in months." - 2021 Camper
Also the ball pit made a return. Ball pits should always make a return, right JUSTIN? (20,000 ball pit balls happen to need to be stored in our house so that's a fun conversation every year ;) lolz).
And then came that beautiful, serene HAPPY HOUR time. Time to enjoy lakeside vibes, hammock naps, a glorious cocktail bar menu, DIY buckets to continue making because you just can't stop, beach books, and FRIENDSHIP.
And then for first weekend's rainy day reward the heavens opened up and gave us this RAINBOW. During FREE TIME. Right before we were almost going to cancel Workshop Session 3's Ukelele & Pontoon Ride class. And Morgan captured the beauty - BEHOLD:
Then it was time to earn that 3rd workshop session merit badge (or just keep taking your hammock nap under a rainbow, because this is ADULT summer camp and you can choose your own adventure).
Session 3 included drawing and sketching food & snacks(!), gelli printing, quilling unicorns, lefse that kept blowing electrical fuses & Scandinavian mixology, English paper piecing, soldering a flashy name badge for upcoming dance times, embroidery, flower presses, and the fan fave - Canoe, Kayak, Cormorant, and Champagne with Nature of the North.
"Unglued summer camp is the thing I look forward to all year. It’s friendship, sparkles, laughs, arts, foodies, drinkies, and silliness. And despite the fact the beds are awful, it is still kick ass!" - 2021 Camper
And after a damn delicious dumpling-infused dinner by Chef Scott & team it was DANCE TIME. And usually we don't have photos of our homewrecker-bass-drop-speakers dance time, but this year is your lucky year and we saw NEXT LEVEL camp costumes for our Out of this World and Under the Sea theme that you should see, too.
"There was just enough WAP, the people were super friendly and welcoming, and I made some cool shit. Also, the food was *chefs kiss*" - 2021 Camper
We need to also acknowledge that Justin built a 3rd eye laser cat that was projection mapped for the occasion. You could literally have enjoyed the entire dance by just standing totally still and watching said cat do its thing. But that's also impossible because the speakers he built are dripping with that sweet velvety bass and bounce that you've needed since 2020.
And 2nd weekend rounded out with Campfire Karaoke but in full rock show mode...first weekend danced in the returning rain and hung around for beachside Mr. Brightside sing-a-longs and Matt Lee's birthday. Not pictured: Chef Scott's outdoor late night tacos complete on a turning trompo of meat heaven.
As Sunday morning rolled around and you heard either Faye or a Spotify trumpet call, Thunder Coffee was calling your name to the Dining Hall...or fitness and morning clubs. Or sunshine because the weather finally got the memo first weekend to give us some endless summer love.
And you paused for a moment to make your mark on the Camp letters to recap your past 2 nights and one helluva full day.
And breakfast with avocado toast, egg bakes, cinnamon rolls, and more handcrafted goodness from the kitchen of 701 restaurant called your name before your last workshop session.
Which included more pontoon and cross stitch classes, needle felting flamingo floaties, morning pour-overs and coffee painting, charcoal drawing, Y2K bracelet making with Larissa Loden, calligraphy, beeswax candle making, bloody mary building, sour dough bread making, and mini cheese platter and charcuterie boards with Milk Made.
"Camp gave me an opportunity to embrace and nurture my inner child. It was one of my favorite weekends of my entire life. I will be coming back every summer until I die." - 2021 Camper
And before you knew it it was time for our first-ever All Camp Craft Sesh - tie dying a custom screen printed shirt by Lost in Fargo on the BEACH!
AND to everyone's surprise and delight, Dex from Beef Cakes smashed your patties for double decker absolutely insane burgers to make your camp foodie experience complete while you made your camp crafty swag.
"Camp is literally the best thing to happen to my life (no lie)." - 2021 Camper
And we gathered one last time around the ol' fire for Camp Commencement and receiving your merit badge earning rewards for kicking ass all weekend.
And then our damn fine Camp Crew took our annual photos as campers packed up with full hearts and burger bellies.
It's a weekend(s) we have the honor to create, host, and plan that's under 48 hours of your life, but will fill you up full of new hobbies, food and drinks of your dreams, hope, kick assery, friendship, and either wasps stings or rain-soaked shoes. Looking forward to 2022 in whatever complicated wonder it brings!
And cue the fireworks and thank and support the hell out of these fine Camp sponsors:
These business and the people behind them create magic all year round with their handcrafted delicious glory and we are forever grateful they are apart of this craziness.
"It made my dreams come true." - 2021 Camper