Yam here - it's been a while since I've written in this space. How are you, campers? Hopefully all is well in your world. Oh damn, there's so much to fill you in on! 2021 was a blur of chaos, creativity, loss, wins, so much pain but lots of joy, and new friendships forged with campers from around the world.
Our online community continued to grow and evolve with all six summer sessions we held - and for the first time, we were able to meet our tri-state east coast campers in person around pop up events in Manhattan! We partied in places like Governor's Island and in Central Park, and each person we met online was even cooler in person. It was so humbling to meet you all and give you a hug! We even had Guest Camp Counselors whom we had met as a result of Camp Yampire stay in our guest room over the summer of 2021 - it felt like the "new normal" everyone was writing about was finally entering our space. And so, we were cautiously optimistic for what the next year would hold - both for our world, and for the Camp Yampire endeavor we were two two years into nurturing. As people started to go outside more and move away from avenues like Zoom, was there still a need for Camp Yampire in 2022?
And so that brings us into this year:
Oh 2022, you too brought a whole heaping pile of hardship your way. Both Pie and I were so thankful that we decided to bring Camp Yampire back for another summer season, because whoo, it would have sucked not to have an avenue like this that provides a space for connection and creativity! June, July, and August were planned as three distinctly themed camp weekends, each one a reflection of what we loved, and what campers have told us they loved, too. Camp Yampire has always been a source of joy and fun to us, but has also been that of friendship and familiarity. Our campers that attend have become true friends, and they made our February 2022 move to San Francisco so much better. Yep, you read that right. After 12 years in NYC, we packed up and headed to the "City by the Bay." Pie got a new opportunity in his career that we couldn't pass up.
(It's "fogust" in SF currently)
I am still not "home" in SF yet. Our apt is finally unpacked and we've been being tourists to discover what would be our "usual" spots, but we still feel like visitors to a city that has its own unique beauty and chaos. But as we felt a bit without a home for a solid chunk of 2022, we took great comfort in our online community of campers. When we held events in the spring and early summer, we were met with a kindness and positive energy that lifted our spirits greatly when we were feeling down or lonely. It meant so much to know that no matter where we are geographically, we will still have friends when we log on to Zoom. I still find myself pining for NYC often, and so we have taken steps to get back east as much as possible. I have been able to host work events in the city, and Pie and I even flew from SF to NYC to hold our "in-person" element around the city during our June camp weekend, Dancing in Starlight. So, we get to our camp weekend in June, right? As a cruel reminder of the "new normal" and the very real fact that this pandemic is not over, we got the chimes on our phone that notified us of Covid exposure. Well...shit. What's a Yam to do? Pie and I sequestered into our hotel, took the at-home test, and the results showed negative. However, as you already know, the virus sometimes takes a minute to show up and you might receive a false negative test result, especially with the omicron variant. So, we made the tough (but correct) call to err on the side of caution, taking the Sunday session in June to Zoom. It was a great time on Zoom, but we definitely need another camp weekend in NYC so we can see campers in person, too.
(A solid depiction of our world right now)
July's camp went well by most accounts - the themes for Keepers of Kindness were connection and empathy, and we had some excellent GCC sessions to cheer about! The camper count was lower, as were the number of GCCs that signed on as volunteers. We were a bit disheartened at the thought that our 2021 predictions might be coming true - the need for a space like this was quickly disappearing - but we did have an awesome turnout from our regulars and we are so VERY thankful for you showing up and showing out! It's not the number of people who attend, its the quality of the connection, and the friendships strengthened that weekend were many. All the people we hoped to see were there, and you brought us so much joy!
July also had an in-person element in San Francisco, and we learned from the experience that getting in-person campers interested in joining us when they had no idea what Camp Yampire is, was un uphill battle. We also learned that many of our usual marketing outlets (looking at you, Goldstar) aren't allowing "free" events to be posted anymore. And the same goes for posting online events in our usual marketing channels - everyone is pushing so hard for in person only. Even after a massive media push in SF for our July camp weekend, our in-person turnout was low. We rsvp'd nearly all our tickets, but they were from names we did not know, and most did not show up. It was our first camp weekend on the west coast, so we chalked it up to the notion that these things take time, and with every "failure," you grow and learn something new. Shout out to the amazing campers who DID attend, though! We had so much fun hanging out with you. As we make our mark on San Francisco, we will make new friends, who will hopefully introduce us to even more cool people who would be a badass addition to the Camp Yampire community. If you know some cool pals in the Bay Area, please send them our way if you feel comfortable doing so! We are still very much fishes out of water.
Each camp weekend this year has been stand alone in that it reflects the time that it happens in, so this means that we had to take a hard look at our future plans when planning our sessions. This summer, we can see that people want to be outdoors rather than on Zoom, and wish to leave everything related to the pandemic in the past. While we share your joy in being able to safely meet with those we love now, we've also been doing some hard thinking. Is there still a need for Camp Yampire as the world settles into its "new normal?"
Two things we have harshly learned from giving away so much high-quality content for free these past few years is that A: people will assume you have an ulterior motive (fair, because the world can suck, but that's just not us) and that B: Camp Yampire is not *worth* as much, because it's free. And that one really stings, because we know the amazing-ness that happens in this space! Even just one hosted game of Jeopardy or Trivia goes for at least $10-15 a person on Meetup or Goldstar. We know that what we offer at Camp Yampire could be monetized - but that's not why we do this.
(Thanks for the affirmation, muses from Hercules!)
We do what we do here at Camp Yampire to spread joy, to fight isolation, and to create community in spaces that, before the pandemic, we had never given much thought to. We've made friends, true and lasting ones, who have shown us far more creativity, compassion, and resilience than we could ever hope to have. We are SO grateful for you, the one-time campers AND the regulars. Your attendance, your input, and your ideas have shaped Camp Yampire into what it is today. We can't thank you enough, and we hope that we can continue to move forward together. It's up to all of us to determine what "moving forward" in the future looks like.
We feel that there is indeed a need for our particular brand of camp fun in 2023 and beyond, but we would much rather hear your thoughts on the matter, so send us an email with your comments to campyampire(at)gmail.com. We'll also be holding space during our Closing Ceremony this Saturday, so campers can share their visions and ideas for the future of Camp Yampire. The summer plans for 2023 are a new story in a beautiful book that we hope has many chapters left to give.
I know this has been a long post, but there was a lot to catch you up on, camper! Thanks for hearing my musings. I hope you'll join us for our last camp weekend of 2022, Chaos and Creation, we are super pumped for this one! We're talking art, chaos, activism, destruction, and science, all while keeping those sweet summer camp vibes you've grown to love! And if you can't make it this weekend, we'll be hosting some one-off events and bringing "12 Days of Holiday Joy" back to our camp space as well in December. Half the time during 12 Days of Holiday Joy will be spent in San Francisco, the other half in NYC. So, let's hang out, okay? Whether we see you in a virtual capacity, or at a future in-person event, that cool guy Pie and I hope to connect with you soon. We're here for you, campers. Sending you lots of love from SF!
Love and light, Yam