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Summer's Not Just for Kids Anymore At Maine's 'Camp' Camp

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Monday May 8, 2017

Who says you're too old for summer camp? Whether you loved sleepaway camp as a kid or never had the chance to go, 'Camp' Camp gives you the opportunity to be a kid again on August 20-27 in Portland, Maine. Best of all is that this premier camp is for LGBTQ adults, so even if you got bullied as a kid, now's your chance to make some new childhood memories.

"We tend to get a lot of people who went to camp as kids; longtime campers who want to have that experience again," said owner/director Kerry Riffle. "Some want to repair bad memories of being a gay kid at camp. Then there are people like myself, who never went to camp and thought it would be an interesting vacation."

Riffle said that they have an 80 percent return rate for campers, who say they are motivated by the welcoming and friendly campers. This goes back to the founder's original plan, to allow people to put down their phones and "be their real selves, to disconnect from everyday life and connect with people out in nature."

"The founder had been a director of camps, and when he came out fairly late in life, his wife sent him to Provincetown to find his gay self -- and he had a miserable time. He didn't fit in with the muscle guys, and wanted to find a place where gay men and women could come together without the pressures of sex and alcohol. Experience taught him that camp was a great place for that to happen. So he made a camp for gay adults," explained Riffle, who initially worked as an instructor at 'Camp' Camp since its inception in 1997 by Bill Cole.

Riffle said that when Cole stepped down in 2005, he asked him and his business partner, Susan, to take over operations. They did, and have maintained Cole's original structure, as well as the emphasis that campers be respectful of their substance use, out of respect for those in recovery.

In the past 20 years, the camp has grown from 88 people to more than 240 each summer, although about half of campers do work exchange. For example, one camper who was a rocket scientist taught a class on creating rockets; others teach softball, basketball, soccer, or pottery classes. Those without specific skills do work exchange at the dining hall or logistics.

A typical day at 'Camp' Camp is pretty much what you'd expect. There are four activity periods during the day, from which campers have 10-15 classes to choose. They can do yoga or grab a morning swim across the lake before breakfast, meet with their Rainbow Group of 12-14 people, then engage in activities, have lunch, do another activity, have dinner, and then enjoy the evening social event.

"We're structured just like a sleepaway camp for kids. In fact, the camp we use is a sleepaway camp for teens," said Riffle. "People make their own schedules, as active as making stained glass panels, or they can just lay by the water all week long. It's your vacation -- you can make it whatever you want."

Registration fees of $1,675 for the week include accommodations in communal cabins that sleep 5-20 men or women (one gender-neutral/co-ed cabin also available). It covers all meals & snacks; beer and wine during select evening social events; round-trip transportation to Camp from Portland, Maine airport, train, or bus station; and on-site parking.

Extra fees may be required for camp store purchases; premium services like massage and Reiki; supplemental fees ($10-$35) applicable to a few select activities such as jewelry classes and sightseeing trips (when offered); and beer and wine at the Best Time Wine Bar on select evenings from 10:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m.

A $500 deposit is required to reserve a space, with the balance of fees due by July 15. Monthly payment plans are available. 'Camp' Camp accepts reservations for as long as there is space, but some years have sold out by June 1.

If registration fees are out of your budget, consider applying for a staff position. About half of campers pay reduced fees in exchange for working at camp. Depending on your work exchange, your camp fees can be as little as $300. Camperships are awarded by need, but none will cover 100 percent of fees.

So if you'd like to end your summer by communing with nature and making new friends, 'Camp' Camp could be just the LGBT getaway you've been searching for!

To register, call 347-453-5257, email, or visit

For more information, visit or

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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