Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Camp Feral! Payments are Online!

The Box Office for ‘It Came From Camp Feral!’ is now open!  Now’s the time to pick up a ticket…errr, registration…for the most unique and jam-packed furry event of the year!  For the best entertainment value for your dollar, simply go to www.campferal.org and follow these steps:

  1. If you haven’t already, register for camp by following instructions at ‘Feral Registration
  2. Now go to the ‘Feral! Trading Post‘ and choose your attendance package: Camper, Sponsor or Patron, or the ‘Pay On Site’ option!  Don’t worry, each package is described by clicking and viewing!  Also let us know if you’re taking the bus!  The Trading Post will instruct you on how to deal with payments, and guide you through the process!
  3. After you send payment, sit back and relax…everything’s covered!
  4. If you’re having trouble, don’t hesitate to contact our registration dude Yennix at his email: yennix@gmail.com!

Handling your all-inclusive fee early means you can secure a space on the bus, a bed, all your daily meals, and if you’re a Patron paying early means special goodies for when you arrive on site!

So there you have it!  We’re excited to see you at this year’s Camp Feral!  It’ll B an awesome time!!

Poll: 2012 Dates…we want your input!

We have an opportunity to set our dates for 2012 now!  This is pretty rare, but our options are pretty different.  We have been pushing for earlier dates for years – better weather, better for students – and we have been given an offer!  What is your opinion?

Camp Feral Online…mostly!

The website is finally up…the horrible horrible website.  Not that the website is horrible, Yennix did a great  job building it from scratch…it’s more that websites in general are horrible, at least from the perspective of Feral! staff.

Check the website out here! Please note: you can register for the site, making registration for camp and payment super easy once they’re ready for the public eye!  We expect a store with merch, more info, goodies and treats to still be on the way!

Check out Roo’s Blog on the horrors of websites here too!

Remember, Imaginary Campfire is a backup blog for Camp Feral!  If campferal.org is down or under construction we’ll update info here, but Roo will also occasionally write tidbits about running a furry con and the chaos of furry summer camps when the mood hits him.  Bookmark this page and check back occasionally!

Feral! @ Further Confusion Contest!

Heya Campers!  So…if you’ve been to Feral before odds are pretty good you picked up some Feral! swag while you were there!  Maybe a t-shirt, or one of our awesome Feral! hoodies?

If you’re going to Further Confusion this weekend the folks at Feral! would LOVE if you spread the word about how much fun you can have at our crazy con! Visit tables of our former and future guests of honour like Kyell Gold, Blotch…flag down Colson and ask him to get his Uke and play some Rick Astley!

…there’s even a way you can win a prize…for free…and all you need to do is snap a picture!

Wear your Feral! swag – t-shirt or hoodie – snap a picture of yourself at FC (maybe stand in front of the hotel, or next to one of the previously mentioned guests of honour??) and upload it!

If you upload it to Twitter, make sure you mention us (@CampFeral) and let us know you’re at FC in your swag!

If you upload to Facebook, share it and don’t forget to include @Camp Feral (our Facebook Page) in your update so we can see you shared!

If you don’t have Facebook or Twitter contact Potoroo, tell us where you put the pic, and he’ll share it for you…man, it’s like entering a contest without doing any work!!

That’s it!  Upload the pic and you’ve entered!

What do you win?

Not only do you get a free 2011 Feral! hoodie…you can choose the colour! (…limited by the options available, of course, but if you ever wanted a green, or blue, or pink Feral! hoodie this is your chance!)

So, get snappin’!

TERMS

This contest is open to anyone with Feral! swag in attendance at FC.  If you aren’t either, don’t worry, more contests will follow!! 🙂 One (1) Person will be awarded one (1) Feral! hoodie, to be picked up either at Feral! or shipped after production (estimated to be in August of 2011), printed in the colour of their choice based on available fabric colours (typical colours available can be seen at this link)  The winner will be announced during the week after FC, and we will contact you through the medium you entered (Twitter, Facebook or Email!)

CONNING: The Bane of My Existence!

We need it to survive.  It is what sustains us, breathes life into us, separates us from the inanimate, the unmoving, the dead.

…WEBSITES!  Fucking websites (pardon my language!)  Yes, even a furry summer camp that takes place in the woods, that discourages technology, and has been known to run on paper and pen alone needs this bastard son of satan!

It’s a necessity.  The furry fandom lives online.  It grew online, and the most common and *heh* traditional way to get people offline to see each other face to face is a website.  One that informs, simplifies communication, allows people to register and pay, and overall acts as a portal to an annual event throughout the rest of the year.

Since I took over Camp Feral the website has been overhauled…and I mean ‘overhauled’ from the bottom up…every year but one.  Since the act of overhauling is managed by volunteers the pacing will always be slow…sometimes we have the site up in November, sometimes in January.

It always goes up.  Just never ‘right’ after camp.

Unless you have a hyper-passionate, dedicated web designer on your staff, you will likely have to deal with this headache as well.  My advice to everyone:

  1. As soon as possible change to a CMS.  Some people use WordPress, and that’s perfect for everything from a furmeet to a small scale con.  Feral is using Drupal because we like the way it can expand into a full-scale site rather than a blog.
  2. Chairs, directors, and people in control of the artistic vision of your event…TONE IT DOWN! 😉  Kidding…but seriously, part of our problem is that each year I want the site to be better than the last, and to suit the theme, maybe incorporate neat new ideas.  All good…but always keep in mind how much the new ideas will extend the deadline.
  3. A community site isn’t necessary.  In 2009 we decided to develop a ‘community’ based site with profiles and Facebook-like walls…unnecessary.  Let Facebook do the community (get a Page!), at most throw a forum or gallery on, and treat the site as it should be treated: a brochure or flyer to keep people informed, and let prospective new attendees learn about your event.

Am I saying don’t have a staff blog on the site?  No way!  If it suits your staff (do you have interesting, engaging, charismatic staff??) then by all means do it!

Am I saying you shouldn’t have a flash game or interactive element?  Sheesh, if you can do it, do it!

…if you have attendees that want that!  Remember, we’re doing this all for them!

All I’m saying is that the bane of my existence is the website, because it’s never what I want, and when it gets close it’s not what the attendees want.

So, keep an eye on www.campferal.org and see what comes up this year!

Conning – Introduction

 

Dive in! It's a furry con! (photo by Ciron)

 

The title to the 2007 write-up by Terry Wessner, co-founder of Camp Feral!, celebrating 10 years of the event is“Like Herding Cats.” This joke is common in this strange community because it’s accurate: convincing people to attend your event, organizing everything so they can show up at a specific place and find specific things going on, getting them officially registered, funnelling them through the various processes that make up your event, and trying to keep everything that MUST be organized in some order…it’s like herding cats.

Most conventions struggle against the current. Organizing furries…it’s frustrating!  It’s a pain in the ass.  It seems to take away from everything you’re working towards.  The whole reason anyone gets involved in a convention is because they had a great time at ANOTHER convention…you know, as an attendee…and want to help do the same for others.  Well…that or the broken thought that running a convention will make you a furry celebrity.  That oxymoron aside, the world is different when you are behind the scenes…when you’re not a cat anymore, you’re a herder.

I have been involved in cat herding since about 1998 or 99…I forget.  It started innocently enough – friends are coming to visit me, why not make an open invite and see who else wants to come out – and over the decade has become an unpaid, rarely thankful, and mostly time-consuming career.  I have planned everything from out-of-town breakfasts, to full-day hangouts with planned events and meal stops, to holiday parties, and now a full-on convention in the woods.  I have tried the simple (send an email, sit and wait for people to come) to the complex (year-round marketing, promotion, merchandise, insurance, bus rental etc. etc.). Overall,  I’ve devoted a lot of time convincing people to do things together.

I guess I’m a con man. …heh…hah…

This blog has two purposes.  The first is it’s central purpose: to post information and news about Camp Feral! in the case that our website is down, or otherwise we need to post information.  This will happen very irregularly.

The second is to talk about running an event, a convention…about marketing…about the little things people forget about or the ones people over think…about the experiences I’ve had…about the concepts I personally feel aren’t done well enough or are forgotten.  It’s an opinion blog, only related to Camp Feral! because that’s where my most intense, bizarre, and exciting experiences come from.

I’ll suggest ideas that I believe events and conventions should keep in mind when first starting out, such as ‘What makes your convention so much better than this IDENTICAL convention?’ or ‘What makes a good staff?’

I’ll suggest tips and tricks to market and promote your event…because telling a few friends isn’t always going to be enough (although a good word of mouth will beat a banner ad anyday!)

 

Exhausting!

 

I’ll tell stories about things that fell apart at Guelph Furry Breakfasts, Victoria Day BBQ Parties, and of course the ‘Digging Holes and Foraging for Berries Con.’  And I’ll be honest…Feral! is never 100% logistically smooth behind the scenes.

And I’m hoping to do it all from what I consider to be my unique position: I love herding cats.  I love doing it for other people even though I rarely get to enjoy the event myself.  I love trying new ideas and treating the event as a creative outlet rather than a business (I would call myself ‘Artistic Director’ of Camp Feral if it didn’t sound so douchey!) And I’ll leave the furry celebrity for the people who seem to want it so bad.

In all…I’m hoping to  be kinda entertaining for everyone who’s ever tried to invite people to their house or town to do something fun as a group.  I’m not trying to say I’m the lord of convention planners…I’m not even trying to say I do it well…I’ve just been doing it awhile and have a passion for it.

…I also have lots of training in traditional and new media marketing so…that might come in handy occasionally here.

I call it Conning…’cause really, in the end, that’s what you’re going to be doing.  Running a convention, that is…what did you think I meant?!?

Please subscribe to this blog, or I guess you can keep an eye on either my Twitter @Potoroo when I’ll announce new blog posts (you can join the Tword Association game on weekdays too!), or become a fan of Camp Feral! on Facebook where announcements will also happen!

Survey 2010 – The Chair Replies

…actually, that’s a funny image…I’d probably jump pretty far if my chair started talking!

In any case, YES!  This is a quick blog on our ‘backup’ site (ie. if campferal.org is down due to being upgraded, downtime, construction, or whatnot) in reply to the surveys you lovely campers filled out!  I’m just taking the most commonly asked questions and hopefully giving a decent answer, as well as pulling out the most interesting suggestions and comments (at least to me)!

Every year we hold a survey, and every year we take the advice campers give us and try to put it into action.  This year, I figured it might be nice to actually reply so you can see we’re paying attention!  In some cases, I was immediately inspired and made sure the idea or suggestion was part of policy or schedule in 2011.  In others…they are questions that come up each year for which there is no easy answer.

Without further ado…THE SURVEY!!

“Feral should run earlier in the summer…” “…different dates :(“

Each year this is a common question: why Labour Day weekend?  Feral! should be earlier so a) we can have nicer weather, and b) people can have some time free before school.  Also, we conflict with Eurofurence, DragonCon, MFM and many other furry and fandom conventions.

The answer is actually very simple: we are offered a seven-day span, in which we choose five days, and those dates are generally going to be around Labour Day weekend.  If we want the con to run over a weekend (ie. instead of Monday to Friday) then Labour Day weekend is the only option.

This isn’t out of spite or anything…the summer program run by Arowhon happens according to the Toronto School calendar.  After that program is done they run what is called an ‘Outdoor Centre,’ which Feral! takes part in.  There is one other group ahead of us, and they have seniority, so they get those dates.  We can’t run earlier than that week because…well, that’s when the kids are at camp, and THAT is the whole reason for the site existing in the first place 😉

The camp site loves us.  In one case actually scheduled us during their time off!! That’s right…we are so much fun it’s not like work for them!!

The long and the short of it is…if we want to stay at our current site, a place that offers us so much and has become an amazing friend to Feral! and the furs, then we work around their schedule.  Trust me…each year we try to bump ourselves up one week earlier, and we’ll keep trying!

“The Cabin System…the website…kinda sucked…”

After ‘Weather’ (60% of the ‘Least Favourite’ survey question) the biggest complaint was the cabin system and website. Yup…we dropped the ball on that one.

We have been trying some new ideas the last two years, and have decided to simplify in 2011.  We are moving to a CMS-based website, which basically means that there’s less work for us keeping it updated and to change over year to year. A kind camper has offered his services in creating a proper registration and cabin system for our site in 2011.  We want this to work, and we’ll make it work!

A quick rundown of changes:

  • a reliable cabin and registration system
  • easier cabin mate selection
  • questions for newbies or people who don’t know what cabin to join to help us create better cabins
  • the option to choose your first, second and third favourite cabin in advance of camp (ie. do you like cabin 14?  And kinda like 21 and 38 A?  Let us know and we’ll make sure you get one of them!)
  • A ‘quiet’ side of camp, and a…well…not ‘loud’ side, but a side of camp where people can stay up later to chat in their cabin, thus helping to ensure campers get the experience they want!

This is just the start.  You spoke, we listened…the cabin and registration system are very important to getting off on the right foot, and it is a priority for us this year!

“Can we arrive earlier on the first day?  ie. start Feral! at noon rather than 5!?”

We certainly can!  We’re looking into this for 2011.  What it really changes for us is our set up for registration on site, and of course the departure of the bus: for this to work, the bus would have to leave Yorkdale at about 9 am.  If we find that campers are cool with this (meaning, of course, planes would have to land the day before or VERY early in the morning) we could consider making this change!  Again, this is something we’ll consider and discuss with you guys through the year!

“The Price Tag.  Why does Feral! cost what it does?”

I’ve heard this phrased in many ways through the years: “Can’t Feral! be $100?” “Why is AC $35 and Feral! $325?” “Feral! is SOOO expensive!”

I’ll start by saying that…yes…I believe we are officially the most expensive furry registration fee in the world.  Well…sort of

Unless you are the kind of fur who has GREAT friends and secure a free ride to a con, sleeps on someone’s floor without paying for the room, and live off the con suite…conventions cost money!  The registration fee you pay at a convention helps pay for the convention rooms, the conbadges, the conbook, flying in a guest of honour, etc. etc.  It’s low because those costs are low when broken down among 500…1000…3500 furs!

Feral! does things differently, as all campers know: we have an all-inclusive fee so that your lodging, your food, and your activities are covered with that one fee.  There are some exceptions – the bus, some workshops – but overall once you’ve paid your Feral! registration and gotten yourself to Feral! you don’t need another penny.

All those costs adds up.  Arowhon obviously has a fee, which we pay so we can use all the facilities. Feral! has operations costs…the website, workshop materials and supplies, conbadges, conbooks, and the overall cost of running the camp!

I’m pretty certain that if you took all the costs of going to a convention and added them up, the cost wouldn’t be much different than Feral!  What you can’t get elsewhere is the unique experience, three square meals a day served communally, the intimate culture of having a small group of people to share the event with…and if you’re bored at a hotel you most certainly don’t have a waterslide, archery range, or Predator vs Prey game to join (…you might…tell me about this con, it sounds cool!)

One last point about cost…I was going through old papers recently from before I took on the role as chairman in 2004ish.  I pulled out documents from 2002 and…well…was kinda shocked.  Do you know what the registration fee was in 2002??

$325…the same as in 2010!!!

According to StatsCan, the rate of inflation since 2002 means that by 2009 our registration fee should have been $372!  In 2004 we dropped the fee to $295 to make it easier for furs to attend.  In 2008, to help combat costs, we begrudgingly became a 19+ event to save on insurance fees.  And as always (although generally unknown to most campers)…ALL Feral! staff pay a full registration fee, some even pay Sponsor or Patron to help out that little bit more.

Due to heavy increases in the last four years we will have to increase our rate for the first time since 2002, but I hope this explanation helps you understand why.  And I PROMISE…we won’t go as high as the government tells us we should 😉

Now…onto less boring administrative logisticky stuff!


“Can the trading post run longer, or have a second day?”

We can certainly try that again.  As backstory, we ‘have’ tried that once before, and I think it frustrated the artists more than anything.  Feral! isn’t really a dealer’s room kind of event.  There are no ATM’s, many people come with minimal cash, and our schedule is pretty tight.  In 2006, we ran a second Trading Post on the third day.  Artists sat in the Main Lodge…chatting with people…but not really selling anything.  Most campers seem to blast their money in the mad ‘Trading Post’ rush, and then move on from buying into enjoying the rest of camp.

As I said…if there is enough interest, we can run a second Trading Post, and maybe this time it’ll be more successful!  I would propose, as an additional help, that all artists wanting a Trading Post table make sure they get ads into us for the conbook, AND we could incorporate a ‘Trading Post’ section on our new site showcasing who will be at Feral!, linking to artist and artisan websites, to give campers more of an idea of who will be there and what they may want to buy or commission.  Sound good?

“Something for fursuiters would be nice.”

There must’ve been a cosmic shift this year. Due to our very nature, Feral! has always been a con with very few fursuiters.  I recall one year when ONE fursuiter attended, or at least one fursuit was brought!  It’s dusty, it’s sometimes muddy, it can be muggy and fursuits are often left in cabin even if they’re brought to camp.

This year, however, it seems all the fursuiters came out of the woods…heh heh.  Hell yeah, we’ll run more fursuiting events next year!  I’m even thinking of putting a checkbox on the registration form to see just how many people are bringing suits in 2011 so we can make better plans! 🙂

“Musicians need more attention!”

I was surprised to find that the Musicians Circle, Drum Circle, Sing A Long, and just general statements about Music were regularly brought up in the surveys!  We have some big announcements re: the Musicians Circle in 2011.  Let’s just say that we can see there is an interest in change at Feral, and in a different approach to music, and we’re going to do that for you!

“We need an archery competition!”

Done…already scheduled on the last day in 2011! Awesome suggestion! That way all you archers can get in some practise!

“My favourite part…the Friday! the 13th screening.”

…I think I have a tear in my eye.  My baby…it’s all growed up!  I was so excited to have a Friday the 13th theme, let alone screen one of the movies.  The Grindhouse trailers seemed to be appreciated, folks seemed to love watching the movie in a cabin by the lake, and POPCORN MADE IT’S TRIUMPHANT RETURN AFTER A FIVE YEAR BAN!

…yes…we will be showing spooky movies in the Rec Hall in 2011…maybe even a couple!

“Favourite Part: Cabin Skits”

Yo…yo yo…Cabin Skits was the THIRD MOST POPULAR thing at Feral.  I’m not talking events…when we asked what your Favourite Part about Feral was in the survey, Cabin Skits placed third under Socializing and the DJ Dance.  It grows on you, doesn’t it!

It’s nice to see Cabin Skits finally come into their own after over a decade of trying.  Three years ago we had people saying it was their least favourite part, AND actually had a group of furs ask us to cancel them outright cause they didn’t like them.  HAH!

“Favourite Part: Frisbee Disc Golf Course.”

…what now?  There was a frisbee disc golf course?!?  I’m always the last to know!  Did you know there’s coin laundry on site too?!?  You know when you’re so close to someone, such a good friend, you kinda forget to say things cause you think they already know.  Our friends on site are getting that way with us…worse, the coin laundry has been there since we came back in 2004!

“An annual ‘Campwide’ game, like the Jason Furhees game!”

Also in the works!  We have learned from the Jason Game, and will try to make a new game for 2011 that suits the theme! 🙂

“Can there be a campwide Icebreaker on the first night?!”

The question should be “Why hasn’t there been a campwide Icebreaker on the first night!”  I think we always assumed the Drum Circle was kind of an icebreaker, but then again not everyone is interested in that single event.  With cabins hopefully sorted out well before camp, I really like the idea of having a post-announcement quick icebreaker before moving on to the evenings events…and I think I have just the game…*evillaugh*

CLOSING REMARKS

From the survey results it seems we did a good job this year. I’d be pretty lame if I left it at that.  Next year, I want Feral! to be even better than this year.  That means changing things that don’t work, improving things that do, trying out some fresh ideas, and of course, listening to the campers who make it all happen in the first place!

Just because the survey is closed doesn’t mean you can’t still offer suggestions!  We’ll try to do what we can, where we can, and are always happy to hear what you have to say!

As always, keep an eye on Feral! in all the places we exist on the web:

Our Website: www.campferal.org

YouTube: Camp Feral’s Channel!

Twitter: @CampFeral

Facebook: Camp Feral’s Official Page