You never know when dancing is going to happen at Camp Damp.
In 1993, the first year of the camp, an impromptu folk dancing session erupted in the kitchen during after dinner cleanup.
"They were using sheets like they were veils," said Valerie DeLaune, one of the organizers of the camp. "A lot of fun happens in the kitchen."
Now entering its eighth year, Camp Damp offers a weekend of dance workshops, dances and music jams. Events begin with registration at 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 3, followed by a 7 p.m. dinner and welcome dance. On Aug. 4 and 5, couples dancing, English Country, square and contra dancing will be offered throughout the day.
Contra dancing is a form of dance in which partners move up and down two lines of people, DeLaune said.
"It's kind of like square dancing," she added.
Interspersed with the main dances will be workshops on the waltz, the hombo folk dance, classic contra dances, square dancing, English Country dancing, singing, tune writing, and fiddle and piano playing. A Beatles sing-along and music jams will also take place.
The original organizers wanted to give Juneau residents a unique experience, said Charli Meacham. Meacham helped found the camp and has headed it six years out of eight.
"We wanted to give the local people here an experience of camp because a lot of them only danced here and didn't get out to Seattle," she said.
About 50 people attended the first Camp Damp. That number has since increased to the current limit of 80, including two scholarship slots available in exchange for a day of volunteer work. Dancers attend from all over the United States and throughout Alaska.
The camp generally fills up quickly, but this year the scheduled retreat conflicts with the Salmon Derby and the start of hunting season. As a result, more dancers from the Lower 48 are registered.
"This is the first year we've gotten this many people from outside the state," DeLaune said. "There's a lot of time conflicts for this weekend."
Twelve slots remained as of this morning, including the two as-yet-unclaimed scholarships. In addition to singing and dancing activities, camp attendants prepare their own meals and help with the washing up.
"We've always felt that the preparation and the cleanup is part of the camp," DeLaune said.
The "Contrabandits," guest musicians from San Francisco, will play throughout the weekend. The band is made up of Kathrine Gradner on fiddle and percussion, Chris Knepper on fiddle, mandolin and pennywhistle, Charlie Hancock on piano and Kit Nelson on bass. Charlie Fenton, a prominent figure in the San Francisco contra dance community, will serve as guest caller.
Music lovers who don't dance are also welcome at the camp, and are free to join in at any time.
"People come who don't dance," DeLaune said. "There'll be music jams. There'll be tents set up ... (and) anybody who's never danced before can at least jump in on some of the easier dances."
Camp Damp is held at Argetsinger Methodist Camp, Mile 28 on the Glacier Highway. Parents are free to bring children, and though there are no activities provided, kids can play outside or join in on the indoor dances. Cabins and space to pitch tents are both available.
"It's just a very pleasant atmosphere," said Meacham, who has been dancing for more than 10 years. "I (like) getting a chance to talk to the people that you dance with all year. Usually you just dance up the line with them and you don't get to socialize. Here you get to do both."
DeLaune, a contra dancer since 1989, agreed.
"It's easy to learn. It doesn't matter if you screw up - that's half the fun," she said.
Camp Damp costs $75 for adults, $30 for children 6 to 18 and $10 for children 2 to 6. Couples should register together for wait list purposes. For more information and a detailed registration form, call Eileen Hosey at 789-2912, DeLaune at 463-3026 or Meacham at 463-5493.
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