By Shana Vesel
My favorite time of year is when summer comes to a close. Days are getting colder and leaves are turning colors. With Halloween right around the corner, the best way to enjoy a fall day is to have a party! Most people don’t have much going on. School is in full swing, the cabin is packed up tight, and there aren’t any other big events or holidays. So, every year, I host a camping gathering called “Octoberfest”. It started out several years ago with my Grandpa.
He was a big fan of fall camping. The colder the better. My husband still jokes that if we don’t travel down 20 miles of dirt roads and pull off into the wilderness, it isn’t camping by Grandpa’s standards! So, “Octoberfest” became a tradition and we made it into more of a party. I like to plan food, activities and games so that everyone can be involved and have a good time. We lost Grandpa a few years back, but our annual “Octoberfest” helps us remember him and celebrate with fall camping.
When we decide on a weekend, I send out an invite either by regular mail (if you have the time to put something fun together) or by email. We always have our favorite campground in mind and I plan games and activities around the campground layout. With the invitation, I will invite the group to sign up for our one group shared meal: a soup
We plan arrival for Friday afternoon. That gives us time to all get to the campground and set up. Decorating your campsite is highly encouraged! I’ll hit the local craft stores, dollar store and home store for various props, lights and decorations. There are no power hook-ups at this time of year, so I have to keep in mind that whatever we do has to be run off of a generator. I can’t tell you how cool light-up inflatables look at night in your campsite. Think of your neighborhood, only condensed! It’s especially fun when we have the campground to ourselves. Something else to keep in mind is the weather. It may be cold, rainy or sometimes snowy. Your decorations should be able to withstand mother nature. A covered screen tent or canopy makes a good gathering spot if the weather is not the best.
On Friday evening, we like to carve pumpkins. I ask everyone to bring their own pumpkins and I supply the tools. They can carve their pumpkin however they choose. We line them up in front of our campsite and put lights inside. Be careful with candles especially if there are children or dry leaves. I prefer to use the battery operated lights. Walking around the campground loop seeing all those carved pumpkins lit up is really neat!
Saturday we start the day with t-shirt or sweatshirt making.
I usually buy multi-packs of men’s white t-shirts to share, but you could have people bring their own. Choose an area with lots of ventilation and a flat space to decorate the shirts on. Using masking tape, create a design on the t-shirt making sure to press the tape down firmly. Lay flat and take spray paint to highlight various areas of the design. Be sure to supervise and assist children with spray paint! Once dry (usually less than 30 minutes), remove tape and customize further. We like to cut and/or tie the t-shirt with ribbon to really make it your own. Matching t-shirts really make a group photo look amazing!
After the t-shirts are made and everyone’s wearing them, we get some fun games started. One of our favorites is called “Newspaper Costume Contest”. We separate the group into teams. It works best if you have at least 3 people per team, especially if there are children playing. Every team gets a stack of old newspapers, scissors, masking tape, packing tape and/or scotch tape. On the word “go!”, each team has to create a handmade costume using only newspaper and tape. One person has to designated as the “costume” wearer and the other teammates are the builders/designers. I recommend a 30 minute limit, but you could make it longer. To set the mood, I will play Halloween music while the teams work. After the time is up, have a costume parade and judge for places. Make sure you have lots of prizes – it’s hard to choose a favorite sometimes. Also, it’s important to take as many photos as you can!
For lunch, we gather together for our soup potluck. Some people bring soup or stew, others bring crackers, bread or rolls and some bring dessert. Whatever you decide on, just make sure it’s enough to share!
When it starts to get dark and our campsites are glowing with decorations and pumpkins, we have a flashlight scavenger hunt. I choose about a dozen various Halloween themed items to hide around the campground. In the past, I’ve made painted wooden
cut-outs, but the dollar store will have lots to choose from too. Teams split up and use their flashlights to hunt down all of the items on their list. If you’re creative, make up little clue poems to help find them. If not, make sure all the items are out in the open enough to find easily.
Our fall camping trip has become something my family and friends look forward to all year. It’s something fun to get everyone outside and enjoying our fall weather. This party can easily be adapted for other locations and condensed into one day or afternoon. We have also used some of these ideas for other holidays. Just make it your own and invite your family and friends. They’re sure to have a great time!