The Blog of Camps Kenwood and Evergreen

Our Overnight Camp's Amazing Annual Music Festival

Posted by Jason Sebell on Aug 5, 2018 8:17:00 AM

Our overnight camp has some pretty amazing traditions -- our Big and Little Siblings program, solemn ceremonial campfires, Jell-O Wrestling, our incredible Color War breakouts. They're all pretty special and important. At the top of the list of the most beloved, and most fun, has to be Hollowpallooza, our annual music festival.

Learn More About Our Traditions, Rituals and Special Events 

Always on the 5th Saturday of the summer, Hollowpallooza is a chance for our kids and staff to step on stage and become rock stars. For most it is the first time they've ever performed in a band in front of a crowd, and for the last 18 years it's been one of the most memorable events at our summer camp.

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It's all about finding different ways to celebrate the many talents of our campers. Hollowpallooza was, in fact, the idea of our Athletic Director Bob Mitchell. Many years ago, while we were sitting in a meeting, Bob looked at the rest of us and said "you know, we have so many kids who play instruments here and no event to showcase their talents. If you're on a soccer team your big moment each summer could be a soccer tournament...but what about if your thing is music?" And from that thought one of our favorite traditions was born!

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Before the show, as many of us were on the stage setting up the equipment, our friends Adam and Chico from Planet Rhythm were here to run African Hand Drumming classes with all of our campers. Since not every camper plays an instrument we want to make sure that everyone has some time on this day to participate in a group musical event.

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The work that Adam and Chico do with our kids is incredibly fun, and they get very into it. Their team have been a part of Hollowpallooza for many summers now, and the kids really look forward to their time with them! This morning's first group included all of this year's Kenwood Big and Little Brothers. It was a terrific bonding experience, and later tomorrow the Evergreen Big and Little Sisters will be doing the same. 

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Over the years this event has grown to really be about all sorts of forms of artistic expression. One example would be the backstage passes that every performer gets as a souvenir. Each summer one of our camper graphic artists comes up with a design, and during the festival about 200 of his or her friends end up wearing it around their necks. This year the pass was designed by our new friend Levi in the Kenwood Freshmen unit. All summer long he's been dazzling us with his pen and ink drawings, and a few weeks ago I commissioned him to design this year's pass. In the photo above he's with counselor Sam Thomas, who is studying to be a graphic designer. This year he created the backdrop for our stage, which we also loved. We think that they both did a great job! 

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Here were all of tonight's musicians happily gathering to get their own backstage passes.

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We also had a group of Camp friends come up with a new way to make Hollowpallooza fun. Aspiring to some day open their own shop together, the two oldest members of the group asked Scott if they could set up their own makeshift coffee and tea service. During our recent trips out of Camp Scott, Deena and I purchased them all of the supplies that they would need, and during the first 2 hours of the show they had a line at least 30 people deep as they served up delicious French press coffees and other artisanal drinks. After they made one for him Scott came running to me to say "you have to try this iced Early Grey. It's incredible". And it was. Thank you to Tommy, Jon Jon, Sam and their young friend Josh for this lovely new addition to our music festival! 

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Once the stage and equipment was set up the music counselors most of the day helping bands get in one final practice on stage. As you can see we were having loads of fun. These girls were gathered together doing vocal exercises to prepare for their big moment of the stage.

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At 5pm, after weeks and weeks of rehearsals, Hollowpallooza began. The entire Camp community was there to hear some great music and cheer for their friends...like all of these acts below.

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Then there were these guys. They started a band called The Fish Wizards 7 summers ago, and tonight was their final performance as campers. Having watched them grow up on this stage, and seeing them still happily playing music together after all of these years, made the members of our Leadership Team pretty emotional. 

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After their song their saxophone player sat down at the piano to wow us all with his version of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody In Blue". It was an absolute show stopper, and the crowd went bananas when he finished. 

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During and after every act groups of our campers and staff were at the front of the stage, so proud of their friends for taking a risk and getting up to perform. They pumped their fists in the air, sang along with the choruses, and cheered as loudly as they could. As each band stepped off of the stage you could see on their faces that something profound had just happened for them.

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Being a musician is fun and rewarding, but getting to be an actual rock star with actual screaming fans is a the sort of thing that stays with you forever.

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And when you step off stage and your closest friends rush you to throw their arms around you and tell you how proud they are of you...well...it really doesn't get much better than that. 

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Tonight we had five separate acts who wrote and performed their own music. These guys composed a tune called "It Makes No Sense" which was both wonderful and whimsical, and they already have plans with our music counselors to record a studio demo later this week, and then shoot a music video.

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Over the course of the event we heard everything including Classic Rock, 70's Ballads, Jazz, Hip Hop, Show Tunes, Country, Ska, Blues, Synth Pop and more. There were solo acts, duos, trios, and at one point more than 25 different performers on the stage simultaneously. I was fortunate enough to perform a John Prine song and have every girl in the Evergreen Freshmen unit sing back up. How can you not love a day like this?!

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After 18 incredible songs we ended the first act, and it was time for a fabulous outdoor BBQ dinner. Chef Charles and his team put out a delicious spread, and of course, our Head Baker Kristie went all out with her desserts. Tonight we had 3 different types of pie -- apple, cherry and blueberry -- along with sugar cookies shaped like musical notes.

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After dinner we had 19 more acts, and these were the more complex performances of the night. Some had intricate guitar solos while others had three layers of separate piano parts. Some had 3 percussionists and a horn section at the same time. 

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This is also when we took to the stage and threw a little over 800 glow sticks and LED tubes into the crowd.

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Of all of the moments tonight, my favorite had to be when members of our support staff took to the stage. All members of Housekeeping, Kitchen and Maintenance teams -- and all citizens of Mexico -- had secretly been working on their own act for tonight's event. Taking the stage they donned their instruments and began to play a crowd favorite, "The Scientist" by Coldplay. This song has meant a lot to a lot of people in this community for many years, especially after it was used as a Color War Alma Mater a few years back. Most current K&E campers and staff hear this song on the radio during the winter and immediately become wistful for summers at K&E. 

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The entire Camp crowded to the front of the stage, eager to hear them perform. Together we put our fists full of glow sticks into the air and began singing along with the lyrics to this beautiful song. 

Nobody said it was easy
It's such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be this hard
Oh take me back to the start

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These members of our staff are often the most unsung heroes of the summer, and some of our most passionate community members. Many have worked here for 3, 5 and even 8 summers, and sacrifice a whole lot to return. Watching them on stage, while 500 members of this camp family sang with them in unison, brought tears to my eyes. Moments like this are what our community is all about. 

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As is our tradition, the final act of the night was a band put together by Scott playing a classic rock tune. Tonight it was Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over", and our eclectic band included a 10 year old a drums, and 11 year old on guitar, and two very talented counselors on bass and keyboards. By the end of the song all 500 people in attendance were singing the refrain over and over again "Don't dream it's over" while the counselor on keyboards and I traded lead licks. 

And then it was over. As we do with every special event like this we held our friends' hands and sang Taps together. Then we grabbed our things and all made the walk back to the bunks to prepare for bed. As I sit here at my computer in my home office I am struck by how many incredible moments I witnessed today. I probably saw 50 people take to the stage to perform in front of an audience for the first time in their entire lives, and every single one of them walked off to a massive roar of applause, and a sea of hugs and high fives. Today was all about collaboration and friendship and artistry and quality risk taking. It was about the importance of setting goals and practicing, and making your rock star dreams come true. Today was pretty much what the Kenwood and Evergreen experience is all about. 

Download Our Summer Camp's Brochure

Camps Kenwood & Evergreen is known for our amazing special event,s including our annual music festival, Gold Rush, Color War, All Camp Capture the Flag, Big Weekend, and so many more! 

Topics: Hollowpallooza, path to rhythm

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