To have a fifteen year streak in the festival world is quite the feat - as more and more festivals have sprung up around the globe, Summer Camp in Chillicothe, Illinois, is one that has survived the test of time. This festival is beautifully run, from its sustainability and waste reduction teams, to its wide spectrum of talented musicians, the variety of vendors, and the workshops provided. SCamp is the type of festival that once you attend one year, it becomes a tradition - and for good reason. This was my first camping festival, and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but as the fest drew to a close, I felt like I was leaving a piece of my heart at Three Sisters Park after an incredible Memorial Day Weekend.
Every moment was lived right then and there, every smile was perfectly genuine and I gave (and received) more hugs than I could count. I could literally feel my vibrational frequency rising every time I made eye contact with a stranger that felt like a friend, or the bright lights that shined across my smiling face, or the music that made me forget who I was for a second. My ego steadily receded and by the end of the weekend, I remembered who I was, and she is a different person than the one who arrived four days prior.
The community of SCamp was the most influential piece of this whole masterpiece. Even though I started my journey to the festival pretty much solo, I came back with a whole slew of friends I now endearingly call my “SCampily.” So many smiles were passed with (or without) kind words, dozens of random high-fives given, and there were countless times when the entire audience vibed together to the rhythm of the tunes blaring through massive sound systems. I had never seen a barter system so in effect – where money was unnecessary and art was even more valuable. Meandering through the forest, there were artists selling their artwork from makeshift booths, including hand-crafted wire wraps, pipes, pins, and more. Usually they were willing to part with their pieces for a trade, cash, or even just gifting. It wasn’t a competition on who had the best stuff, but rather they built a community-based platform to share their prides and joys. This camaraderie was evident throughout the campsites, where neighbors shared supplies, good vibes, and stories. It even carried into the audiences at the stages – no one was really competing for dancing space, but rather adjusted their position to accommodate the new additions.
When you get 15,000 people together in a secluded place away from police and structure, it’s easy to assume that chaos will ensue. However, SCamp proved just the opposite. Three Sisters Park was overflowing with love, positivity, and friendship. I can honestly say I did not witness a single fight, not even a middle finger pointed in anyone’s direction. There were very few minor issues with attendees getting unruly, according to Jay Goldberg Events Director Mike Armintrout. It seemed like every S’Camper – man, woman, child, rookies and OGs – had opened their hearts to let this copious amount of love in. Due to this, every individual’s true colors were able to shine through, unadulterated by the filter of normal society. Freak Flags were held high and proud, or ‘totems’ as others would call them. I spotted many repping their home teams, some embarrassing their friends by using a terrible picture of them, some elaborate stuffed animals, and tons of clever sayings that accurately described the group belonging to it (Shout-out to my crew of funky friends, Shag Funk!). People dressed for comfort, or to catch a few eyes, or to express themselves fully. There were dinosaurs, a dude dressed as Abe Lincoln, gypsies, and the nonconformists (I’m talking full nudity). Summer Camp provided an environment that was safe and fun to be yourself, to dance your legs into jell-o, to give up all worries and accept everyone for all that they are. All judgments were rescinded as Third Eyes were opened. To encourage this, other S’Campers set up energy readings, crystal trades, gave away or sold fractal images, and there was even a “spaceship” of gongs, where participants sat in the middle of a ring of gongs, closed their eyes, and let the sound take them out of Three Sisters Park and into their own subconscious.
To open minds, it is crucial to provide helpful information for people to use to their own discretion. Summer Camp provided dozens of workshops based on topics to help promote making the world a better, greener place. Some topics included permaculture, sustainability, gardening, and more. Their goal was to promote responsible living as humans on this planet, and the festival encouraged many people to pursue a more sustainable lifestyle. Morning yoga sessions were full of early risers wishing to limber up their bodies and refresh their spirits after a long night of dancing. The Soulshine tent was the perfect place to rejuvenate, grow, and learn as each session provided meaningful messages to its attendees.
I could not have asked for a more perfect experience for my first festival. I have brought the love I found at Summer Camp back to Colorado, and I am sharing it with others along my journey in every moment. My smile is a little wider, my feet will never be fully clean again, and my calendar is marking down the days until I can reunite with my SCampily in 2016. Thank you Summer Camp, for helping me further open my heart, mind, and soul.
Written By: Jaelyn Kohl
Photos courtesy of Sam Silkworth - for more, check out Silky Shots on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/SilkyShots)