Hollywood has gone crazy for camp—camp TV shows, that is. A few weeks ago, two camp-centric shows premiered: the scripted Camp, a dramedy on NBC, and Summer Camp, a reality show featured on USA. In the latter, a group of twentysomethings return to their favorite place on earth to compete for big bucks. Think of it as Survivor with cabins.
It’s a goofy premise, but I was instantly hooked. I consider the summer camp of my youth to be my favorite place on earth. I went to camp for ten straight summers, from ages 7 to 16. And while my camp was filled mostly with upper middle class suburban kids who didn’t know nitty-gritty wilderness survival from Kumbaya, it was still a heck of a lot more rugged and bare bones than sleepaway camps today, they with their air- conditioned bunks, constant email communication with parents and Color War breakouts featuring celebrities like Rihanna and Jay Z.
Not surprisingly, because of their hefty price tags (upwards of $10,000 for seven weeks), camps, like universities, are becoming increasingly specialized. There are thousands of different camps out there, with offerings to suit every kind of overscheduled, helicopter-parented, gluten-free, aspiring blogger/basketball player/performance artist. Camps have also gotten super savvy at branding. Many staffs employ people who tweet, blog and post on Facebook about camp activities, as a way to keep parents informed, but more, to spread the word about the awesomeness of their offerings.
And just how awesome ARE they? Here’s a taste of some of the more unique camps out there and just who they are trying to reach with their branding efforts:
Plantation Farm Camp
What: A sustainable, environmentally conscious camp set on a farm in the Sonoma Redwoods
Where: Sonoma, California
Target audience: Parents who’ve read The Omnivore’s Dilemma
Why: Campers interact with plants, animals and nature and go to the roots – literally.
Uniform: Hemp t-shirts, TOMS shoes
Camp menu: Raw, whole grain, gluten free
Surf Diva’s All-Girls Overnight Surf Camp
What: An all-inclusive surf camp for girls
Where: San Diego, California
Target audience: Girls who’ve watched the movie Blue Crush ten times or more and who think Gabrielle Reece is a goddess
Why: Riding the waves is way cool, helps you get in great shape and builds self-confidence for girls who hope to be future Sheryl Sandbergs and Marisa Mayers.
Uniform: Quiksilver bikini
Camp menu: Bananas, water and lots of carbs
Thrill Coaster Tours
What: A roller coaster camp. I kid you not.
Where: Various cities across America (that have roller coasters, of course)
Target audience: Thrill-seekers, acrophobics Why: This is a teen tour with a spin; kids visit various amusement parks around the country and try out their roller coasters. Plus, they get to travel by luxury bus and stay at Marriott hotels along the way. Not exactly “roughing it.”
Uniform: Nothing too revealing, lest you have a wardrobe malfunction on the rides.
Camp menu: As little as possible; you don’t want to lose your lunch, so to speak!
New York Film Academy Camps
What: camp for teen and tween cinephiles
Where: Film-loving cities around the world: New York, LA, Paris, London
Target audience: Aspiring Scorseses, Tarantinos and Coppolas (Sofia, of course)
Why: Because Hollywood’s a competitive place – why not get a head start?
Uniform: Hollywood casual, with a digital video camera on your shoulder
Camp menu: Whatever you eat, you’ll be ordering it “off the menu.”
Of course, there are plenty of plain old overnight camps out there, whether they are in Upstate New York, Northern Michigan or Santa Fe, New Mexico. Not all of them sell some kind of fancy hook to get kids packing their bags for the summer. But in this day and age, that certainly can’t hurt. Personally, I wouldn’t mind ditching my husband and kids for two months and trying out that surf camp. Or maybe I’ll just send in an audition tape for season two of Summer Camp.