Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Super Rockin' Fun-- Summer Camp Style-- at 3 Sisters Park in Chillicothe, IL

Summer Camp Unlike Any Other

**double click on any photos for a larger view**

We are all freshly back from 4 days of non stop music, art, camping and fun. It was a bit of a working vacation for us, since I scored a press pass to shoot footage for our documentary about families who take their young children to music festivals.
We got a bunch of great interviews, insightful commentary, and playful B-roll in the kids' area.

A highlight of the weekend was interviewing Jay Goldberg, mastermind behind Summer Camp, now in it's 8th year.

He was down to earth and happy to talk with us, when we caught up with him, power walking the festival grounds.

The guy really knows how to throw a party and keep things clean, well organized, safe and fun.

He makes a point to swing by the kids' area a hand full of times each day, to see how the next generation of music lovers is coming along.

We plan to shoot at Pitchfork, Phish and Lollapalooza later in the summer. If you live in the Chicago area, are a family that experiences music festivals together, and would like to be interviewed for our documentary, please post to the comments section of ChiIL Mama and we'll get in touch with you.

Adult tickets are $170, but Summer Fest was a lotta fest for the price. Children under 6 are still free with paying adults, and 6-12 year olds are half price, so families get a bit of a break. Every year the number of children grows at this family friendly fest. Inside, extra ice, beer and little necessities are available at two summer camp stores, and there are plenty of food vendors. No outside alcohol is allowed, but food is fine to bring.

With hundreds of bands, ranging from hip hop and alt rock to jam bands and country, Summer Camp, was a rockin' fun time this Memorial Day weekend.
One of the best things about multi band fests is that they often sit in with each other.

Friday, we loved seeing freaky guitar virtuoso, Buckethead,

rock out with
That 1 guy, a classically trained bass guitar player, strumming an odd metal, pipe-like instrument with mounted drums.
Saturday, Les Claypool played an amazing set with his masked band members then he sat in with jam band, Umphrey's Mcgee.

Sunday, Willie Nelson capped off a day, filled to the brim with great tunes and family fun.
We love introducing the kids to a variety of musical styles, and they thrive on the playful atmosphere. I told the kids that music fests are filled with grownups who wish they were still kids. All weekend, those childlike adults blew bubbles, wore silly costumes,

made magical mazes

and bungee swings in the woods,

hula hooped,
and played well with the actual children.

We heard music from 11am till 11pm, then let the young adults have the run of the woods without us for the bonfire and late night shows. Our kids managed to stay awake through a great fireworks show, during Umphrey's Mcgee's Saturday sets, but slept through all the late Moe performances. We pitched our tent near the Sunshine Stage, one of the two main stages. That way, we could hang at the campsite and still hear and see the stage when the kids fell asleep.

Despite the joy of staying up past bedtime, the kids still popped up at dawn, raring to go and asking how soon the kids' area would open.

When we first went to Summer Camp in 2004, "kids' camp" was one small table with some craft
supplies. Now there's an entire area dedicated to the littlest rockers.

Like last year, the water balloon launchers were back,

as were the inflatable ball,

hair wraps,
hemp bracelet making, balloon hats,

sand table, face painting and a tent full of craft supplies. This year they added a parachute and drum lessons with a pro.The kids' staff is phenomenal and so dedicated the same people come back year after year. Last year, Sagezilla was at an evening show and excitedly exclaimed, "I see my friend with the fat hair (dredlocks)!"The golf cart parade was a huge hit again. Kids camp ran Friday through Sunday, 11-5pm and everything was free and included with admission.

Summer Camp had a greener twist this year with bins marked for recycling, compostable, and garbage, to reduce the impact on the environment. Green team volunteers were stationed to assist. There was an area to recycle cell phones and non profit groups enlightening the masses on eco-issues like global warming and the plight of the bears and the bees.

The fest children did their part to conserve by composting between their toes and not showering for 4 days to save water!

Yoga classes in the Soulshine Tent and family yoga in the kids area
were even offered every morning.
And food vendors not only offered the usual fest fare, like funnel cakes, but an eclectic and international range of foods, including vegetarian and vegan options. Outside food was also welcome at camp sites, so we brought coolers and made affordable "home cooked" camping favs, and even scored some watermelon from generous neighbors.

The only difficult thing to negotiate with a family of little ones was the parking policy. All cars stay in the lot and you have to "hike in" to the campsites. There were a plethora of golf carts and an endlessly circling wagon to help schlep camping gear in and out of the grounds. And people got creative, loading up kid wagons, toboggans, wheelbarrows, and jogging strollers. Still, whatever doesn't kill ya makes you stronger. I've got a few blisters, a bunch of photos, great memories, new earrings and bigger biceps to show for the weekend.

Thank you Summer Camp. We had a blast. Till next year.....................


  1. WOW! THis is amazing. I will forward it to my girls & Jay. We had a great time with all the kids as always. Let me know if you have any ideas for next year. Maybe we'll run into eachother again this summer. lots of love, xoxox, your friend with the fat hair.

  2. Wow mama! I was at Summer Camp last year and I don't recall seeing a single child! Looks like it's become a lot more kid-friendly, which is great. Hope you had a chance to catch Daphne Willis while you were there! She rocks.