Some of my best childhood memories are of summer camp. Spending enough time in the water to reclassify as an amphibian. Strategizing over capture the flag with my cabinmates to a degree that would have exhausted Sun Tzu. Not washing my face even once over the course of two weeks, until I looked like what would have happened had Jackson Pollock abandoned paint for melted Popsicles. It is impossible to have that much fun after you have learned what supplemental life insurance is.
Or not, if you ask Ashley Morken. The owner of Unglued Market in downtown Fargo spends the bulk of her year selling goods from more than 250 regional artists, but when artistic stuff hasn’t got her full attention Ashley runs Unglued Summer Camp. The weekend-long affairs take place at beautiful YMCA Camp Cormorant in Lake Park, MN, and they are where grown-ups abandon world-weariness in pursuit of summer fun and get in touch with their creative sides.
About 120 adults attend either of Unglued Summer Camp’s two summer weekends. Upon arrival you are assigned your cabin, which you’ll share with 10 to 13 other people. (The cabins are divided by boys and girls so as to prevent any Dirty Dancing type snafus.) You will be provided with a cabin host, whose job includes placing chocolates on your pillow and not calling your mom if they catch you with alcohol.
The experience you take from Unglued Summer Camp is entirely yours to dictate. Should you decide to spend the entire weekend bobbing in the lake on a unicorn pool floatie, you will not be ostracized. You might get a tan in the process, but you would miss out on so much in the meantime!
Once you have settled in on Friday, you are treated to a variety show. The evening is replete with gourmet food, cocktails by Proof Artisan Distillers, and beer by Drekker Brewing. Such treats serve as the leitmotif for the weekend. Last year’s camp chef was Molly Yeh of Food Network fame, television’s second most lovable beet farmer.
You can undo the damage on Saturday morning. After waking to a trumpet call you may join a fitness class like ballet or hip-hop dancing, or go for a swim in the lake. Morning clubs commence — those who spent especial attention to Proof Artisan Distillers’ work the night prior may favor the “Cranky Coffee Club.” A prince’s breakfast of baked goods such as cinnamon rolls and donuts readies campers for the first of their creative workshop sessions.
Ashley’s hundreds of connections in the local crafting community provide Unglued Summer Camp with a great pool of instructors. These experts teach campers how to make things like mustard, coffee, and pint sleeves, and instruct on the finer points of indigo dyeing, book binding, wood carving, and the traditional Norwegian art of rosemåling. There are several such classes during the camp’s run, and you earn a merit badge for your participation in each.
After Saturday’s first class comes free time. Again, the entire weekend is free time by definition, but on this day you can join up with campers assigned the same colors as you to play kick ball, engage in a camp-wide scavenger hunt, or plunge into a giant ball pit à la something from Double Dare. The teams that do these things best are given their due laurels.
In the great civilized fashion, cocktail hour eventually commences. The restoratives are complemented by cookie dough and trail mix. Another craft session follows, and then a dinner that would curl your toes. 2019’s Saturday dinner was themed around hotdish, something that foreign visitors ought to have expected from a summer camp in Minnesota.
To keep the camp’s closing evening from turning to tearful farewells, a massive dance party is held. Here is your best chance to get your summer camp smooch. By the dance’s end many people are loosened up enough for campfire karaoke. If you have dreamt of singing “Rich Girl” by Hall & Oates over the crackle of a fire, as I have, then this is your moment.
Campers wake up an hour later on Sunday for continental breakfast, the day’s fitness session, and then brunch with waffles and bacon and other takes on the carb and meat themes. At commencement the prizes for those who have earned the most merit badges are awarded, the camp souveniers are distributed, and the annual camp flag is created. After 2pm you’ll be back in your car, wondering how you’ll ever top it.
“Unglued Summer Camp is for people who need a break from routine, to refresh and reenergize, and above all to have fun,” said Ashley. “Our campers have said it’s the best place on earth. Everyone always wants to come back!”
Unglued Summer Camp takes place on Labor Day Weekend and the weekend preceding it. You can learn more about it and apply at ungluedmarket.com. The lottery is fiercely competitive and opens on Memorial Day Weekend. Best of luck getting in!
By David Scheller