Michigan Filmmaker Hosts Adult Summer Camp
Participants relive their childhoods and forge new friendships
photograph courtesy of camp forever fun
Joel Reisig wears many hats. A Michigan-based movie producer, he has wrestled alligators, driven a 1983 Cadillac in a Labor Day demolition derby, raced sled dogs in the U.P., and trained to ride bulls — all while finding time to produce multiple movies a year.
During these adventures, Reisig found an even more unexpected calling: giving adults the chance to relive their childhoods at an event he’s titled Camp Forever Fun.
The self-proclaimed “Z-List celebrity” claims to be one of the few active moviemakers left in Michigan. While filming a movie at Black River Farm and Ranch in Croswell, Reisig and his crew stayed at the campgrounds, using the cabins, bunks, and mess hall as opposed to renting hotel rooms.
Over the course of two weeks, the crew — all in their 20s and 30s — began to relive their childhoods at summer camp.
“We had bonfires at night [and] without any sort of planning, there would be random, impromptu dance parties in the cafeteria at midnight,” says Reisig. “It was just a great, great time.”
Soon, friendships started to form. “Nobody knew each other coming in, and a few days later they were all best friends,” says Reisig.
Not only did they make “camp friends,” many stayed in touch after filming wrapped, forming “real relationships — the type of relationships that we often do not form post-college,” says Reisig.
After seeing the impact of those two weeks, Reisig began to ask himself, “What if I could replicate this experience?” In combination with his fond memories from summer camp as kid, and later camp counselor, he knew he was on to something.
In 2016, Camp Forever Fun was born.
Camp Forever Fun is a bit different than other adult summer camps. Some big-name programs focus on “detoxing” campers from mobile devices and electronics, immersing them in the outdoors. Others serve more as a weekend-long frat party.
Reisig’s concept falls somewhere in between. His goal was to replicate everything he did at Camp Al-Gon-Quian as a kid, he says. “I believe anything that we did when we were 14 is still fun when we’re 30.” Especially when you throw in craft beers.
Daily activities include arts and crafts, archery, canoeing, tug of war, water fights, and more. From morning to night, campers are treated to a packed schedule, starting with morning yoga and ending with campfires, music, and even a foam party.
“If you need a reset on life, this is it,” says Rachel Sowers, a longtime friend of Reisig’s who attended the camp last year.
Sowers, a purchase banker at Quicken Loans, immediately jumped on the idea of going to an adult summer camp. “I was on board the second he told me about it,” she says.
Just as Reisig hoped, the campers, who are adults from all over the U.S. and Canada, clicked and kicked “adulting” to the curb for the weekend.
In between relay races, scavenger hunts, and bonfires, Sowers began forming real friendships.
“Honestly, probably [my] favorite memory would be just creating the friends I did,” she says. “I know that sounds cheesy, but I met a group of amazing people who I still talk to on a daily basis.”
Last year’s success inspired Reisig to grow the program. This year, Camp Forever Fun will take place at a larger location on Michigan’s west side with some expanded activities like horseback riding.
“I know after running this camp now for a year, people in their 20s, 30s — really any age — still want to have fun,” says Reisig.
While aimed at adults ages 23-39, anyone over 21 is welcome. At Camp Forever Fun, “every single one of us is 30,” says Reisig. In fact, it’s against camp rules to ask another camper their age.
And while alcohol is included in the price of admission, Reisig warns it’s not the main attraction.
“If you’re 21 and you want to puke and rally all day, this is probably not the camp for you,” he says.
But for those over the age of the 39 and still young at heart? “As long as your attitude is good, I want you there.”