Instead of sending letters home to Mom and Dad, Hoopla's summer intern Audrey Dwyer is sending sporadic (because, let's be honest, she needs to have some fun too) letters home from camp to us. Except this isn't the summer camp of your youth. At Camp Euforia, instead of s'mores there's sangria. And kumbaya has been traded for funky beats. Like stay away camp, though, we guarantee everyone will be staying up way past their bed time.
Camp Euforia, Day 1:
Waking up to a rising sun over the dewy cornfields as a stillness cloaked the campsite at Jerry Hotz's Lone Tree farm, I had a new appreciation for this place I call home.
Only 10 minutes from Iowa City, the Hotz farm is the site of the annual music festival Camp Euforia, which celebrates its 10th birthday this year.
It also happens to be my birthday. So I started the celebration early on Thursday night as Euforquestra -- the band that started it all a decade ago -- played a few songs as the last minute preparations came together and everyone was able to relax and begin to enjoy the weekend's festivities.
I woke up Friday morning on the farm before the bulk of the festival goers flocked to Lone Tree for the opening band at 4:30 p.m. Throughout the day I watched the crowds trickle in as "Tent City" began to grow. By2 p.m., the bar was a popular place to be as the attendees waiting for the evenings festivities sipped on Bloody Mary's made with a vodka infused with various peppers, margaritas and sangrias.
One word -- carefree -- encompasses every aspect of the festival thus far. Removed from reality, the farm allows for friends to reconnect as well as an escape.
For a weekend, we will all live in the moment. It doesn't matter who you are or where you have been, everyone is here to enjoy the music and good vibes.
As a few bands got the event rolling with funky beats, by 7 p.m. what would surely a night to remember had only just begun.
Camp Euforia: Day 2
With poor service and a limited amount of outlets to charge my phone, the emphasis of the whole experience really is to live in the moment and enjoy who you were with.
In this setting the barrier between the audience and band members on stage was somewhat nonexistent, with the events such as the Bloody Mary's with Maximilian Eubank, Coffee with the Grossos band, and the morning yoga everyone joined in on all the festivities, band member or audience member. Even the happy hour with Euforquestra in the afternoon. The band may have never been a bartender before but they were friendly and made it look like they knew what they were doing with a few of the seasoned bartender's help.
On the medium sized stage in the barn, Chasing Shade played a set in the early afternoon just as the sky was beginning to clear up with the emerging sun. They played old tunes and new, but also a few cover songs. Not only did this band engage with the audience like many of the other bands throughout the weekend, the band invited one of the Uniphonics members to freestyle on stage with them. After some cheering to get the seasoned freestyle rapper on stage, he finally mustered up the courage to give it a change. After a few warm up versus from Chasing Shade, he then went into an original freestyle made without notes, and without kind of rehearsing before hand. The crowd loved it, and even those who could hear him throughout the lawn and campsite, it was an original show that may never be the same at any other venue. Next they invited the saxophone player from Euforquestra to join their own saxophone and trumpet player, similar to the freestyler, he too had a chance in the spotlight as he played his heart out with the saxophone. As the set ended the audience cleared the barn to sit on the lawn for the afternoon's upcoming acts.
As people were seen gathering in the lawn or around the campsite, new friends were made as well as memories. Music ranging from soft jazzy beats in the morning from Maximilian Eubank to the more upbeat infectious dancing tunes in the afternoon from Pimps of Joytime and the Uniphonics soon after.
Wandering around in between the various performances, there was the opportunity to browse a few of the vendors merchandise. A few that I stopped in to look at had the psychedelic tie-dye clothing, posters, tapestries, hemp jewelry, posters and more. There were also a few other unique vendors such as the button maker, who took a picture of you and a group of friends then made it into a large sized button. In addition there was a massage tent and a few that made t-shirts or sold band merchandise.
Once the clock turned 10 p.m. (not that anyone really knew what time it was without a phone or watch on them) the campsite and main lawn area turned dark and silent. All that was seen were the bright aqua blue lights on the main stage. People emerged from the campsite to join in the crowd for the weekend's most anticipated performance. KCRG TV-9's Bruce Aune welcomed the crowd and the band that is the reason the festival began 10 years ago.
Once the crowd silenced, the lights dimmed and Euforquestra emerged from behind the stage with and vivid visual of lights. Going right into their first set with a new sense of energy and unquestionably rhythmic funk, the crowd was going wild with admiration and a groove that couldn't be stopped. Providing a set of new and old songs, the band gave a performance that seemed to have a new sense of charm as they gave a few members a chance in the spotlight to rock the stage. Craig Babineau, the drummer, struck the drums in full on force as he provide a back bone to many of the songs and carried his solo in the same fashion. Mike Tallman's guitar solo created a rise and fall of continuous guitar riffs as the notes were carried throughout the surrounding cornfields for miles and miles. Never missing a beat or faltered with energy, Euforquestra keep the energy and good vibes in high spirits late into the night. Once the band finished the next two that played into the wee hours were That 1 Guy, Jack Willis, and Tallgrass. Even though the clock struck 3 a.m. the crowds still gathered around to see the bands perform whether on the barn stage or right outside on the smaller stage.
Camp Euforia: Day 3
Throughout the weekend, I couldn't help but stop for a minute and get a glimpse of the horizon. Everywhere I looked the sun cast a hazy purple tinted red glow over the fields rich with vibrant hues of color. It truly did not feel like we were only 10minutes from Iowa City.
All in all as today's ending good byes came, I reflected on an event that is a true celebration of community and music. A sense of community, friendship, and family, was felt through every performance and every effort given to help solve the intricate details of what it meant to host a festival like Camp Euforia. I can honestly say, it was a weekend I will never forget. Thanks to Jerry Hotz who hosts this event on his farm every year and thank you to all the volunteers and organizers who dedicated their time and money to create this experience those young and old to enjoy.