Tuesday, January 31, 2012

School's Out fun at Vinegar Hill

School’s Out went as a group to Vinegar Hill this year. This was the first time that our current leadership had taken youth on any such venture, so we spent the weeks beforehand meticulously planning with help from a couple of the more ‘camp experienced’ youth. Braving cold showers and the likelihood of torrential rain, sixteen of us ventured up to the Manawatu in vans and cars a few days after Christmas.

Vinegar Hill, for those who don’t know, is a popular destination for the queer community in the Christmas/New Year period, and it has been going since the 1980s at least. Every year people set up their tents, generators, fairy lights, disco balls, bring their tiny dogs and their lilos for an extravagant and flamboyant camping holiday.

On the first night, the Queen of Vinegar Hill (who is elected each year on New Year’s eve) hosted Fashion in the Field, in which contestants constructed costumes from the local flora and fauna and modelled it down the runway. The winner, Shane from Camp Snow, later gave cheap haircuts to some of the School’s Out campers.

We played some team bonding games and went swimming in the river the next day. After dinner we played ‘Secret pals’ where we went round the circle writing at least one nice thing about someone else, and everyone had good warm fuzzies going before getting costumes ready for the Paper and Plastic party. The rain had set in by this stage so we gradually ended up sitting next to the massive fire at Camp Hilton.

Our youth mentioned that their favourite things about the trip were swimming, cute group bonding times, games, hanging at camp with each other, dancing by the bonfire, the river, the people, being away, connecting more with the queer community, and meeting everyone. They wanted to stay longer!

Our youth had a great time in a queer space where they felt like they could be themselves. We also had some great opportunities to bond as a group. A lot of the other campers hoped to see us come back next year. We would love to return to Vinegar Hill, with the hope of making it an annual event for School’s Out. Feedback from the youth: “Thanks for camp! It was great fun (even with the rain)”; “It was just awesome to hangout and bond with everyone from School’s Out- I feel like we are a family now.”