There’s no place like Summer Camp
Published: Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 12:05
If you’ve never been to an outdoor, four-day music festival before, you can’t really imagine how sprawling and truly massive it is. It’s really like a small city.
Picture it like this: Everyone who lives in Champaign decides to camp out for the weekend on Parkland’s campus. Now throw in over half a dozen huge stages and circus tents with live bands.
Music being played everywhere nonstop 24/7 the whole weekend. Electronic beats at four in the morning, rock and roll at noon, jam bands in the evening and bluegrass at midnight.
Djembes, bongos, banjos, mandolins, acoustic and electric guitars, saxophones, giant stand-up bass guitars. Every instrument you can think of, and a good number you may have never heard of. Ever heard a theremin? Or a whamola? Ever heard someone playing a pickle bucket? You will at Summer Camp.
That still doesn’t quite cover it. The description leaves out about a hundred golf carts, three huge tractors pulling trailers full of screaming fans and the equivalent of a medium sized mall’s worth of outdoor vendors’ kiosks.
Add a full city division sized police department and twice that again in safety and security personnel. There’s an outdoor emergency room and triage station. Helicopters are available to airlift emergency cases.
Everywhere, hundreds of volunteers stand around smiling, eager to let you know that if you stand there, you might get run over or that you can compost your cheeseburger wrapper over there.
Think Middle Eastern bazaar. People with their heads and faces wrapped up to keep out the sun, dirt and dust. But with port-a-potties.
That’s getting closer, but it doesn’t quite cover it. It says nothing of the sense of community. This group of random strangers is somehow a family. One of the golf cart cabbies named Rainbow explained it by saying, “There’s no such thing as strangers, just friends you haven’t met yet.”
No one is too busy to stop and say hello or shake your hand or even just give you a high-five. And if you shout out “Knock knock!” you’ll hear a dozen people shout back “Who’s there?”
It’s hot, it’s humid, it’s loud and it’s crowded. And all around you, everyone is smiling.
That’s Summer Camp.
This four day event doesn’t just happen, though. It takes an entire company of full time employees all year to get it ready.
Every little detail must be imagined and every eventuality provided for months in advance. Everything from the number and service frequency of port-a-potties to how much ice will be needed must be taken into account.
What will the weather be like? How will three one hundred degree days change the needs of the festival as opposed to a rainy seventy-degree weekend? These are all just some of the things that must be considered when planning an event this size.
It takes a special sort of person to want to go through so much effort for an even that only lasts a few days. Holly Brinkman, Director of Marketing for Jay Goldberg Events & Entertainment explained what motivated her.
“This is my 8th Summer Camp. I started coming to the events and fell in love,” she said.
“I decided to quit my job as a copywriter so that I could help make 20,000 people happy.”
She said she enjoyed the challenges she faced while working with a group of people she’d never met before. “You’ve got to always be on call and just expect the unexpected. There’s no other option, and you’ve got to be up for it,” she explained. The huge grin on her face showed how much she loved it.
Media intern Graham Sauser said that putting together something this size brought along a whole different set of challenges from what he had been used to at previous events. This was his first Summer Camp. He came from a background of events such as Riverfest in St. Charles, LPGA tournaments and concerts at Eastern Illinois University.
Sauser said that the logistics of putting together something like this were somewhat different. He explained that schedule updates and communication difficulties made keeping everything running smoothly a bit more challenging.
“My favorite thing about this event is getting up at the crack of dawn, grabbing a coffee and looking around at all of the people laying half out of their tents or sprawled across the cart paths,” Sauser said. “That means that they have enjoyed the festival and that we did our job.”
Dave Weissman was Media Director for the event. This was his first Summer Camp, although he’d come from such other festivals as 10,000 Lakes Music Festival and the All Good Music Festival.
Weissman explained what he found challenging about putting together a festival like Summer Camp.
“The festival is like the finish line,” he said. “No matter what, it has to happen this week.”
He went on to say that it was all worthwhile. “It’s so fun to be a part of the support structure of something which will be one of the highlights of people’s lives for years to come.”
All the effort put forth is not lost on the thousands who attended. Summer Camp really will be something that stands out in the minds and memories of all who attended.