Saturday morning was a buzz as participants of Camp Soul City trekked the pavement in search of the nine local businesses, and their prepared activities for campers of all ages to enjoy.
One by one, campers were encouraged to stop at all stations, complete an activity and collect a special badge from the shop.
Siblings Ben and Anna Wilson started their day off at Augusta and Co. by making a miniature campfire using marshmallows, pretzels and candy corn before snacking on their delicious treat and heading off to the next station.
As business owners entertained new customers, campers, like the Wilsons, took part in a multitude of fun projects scattered across the downtown area, and even a scavenger hunt for “Where’s Waldo” scattered across the downtown area.
Many campers stopped early on at Grantski’s Records Store to tie-dye camp T-shirts to take home, while others sifted through the hundreds of new records just in stock. Packed with a line for T-shirts, shop owner, Evans Grantski, described his shock at the camp’s popularity and traction.
“This was so much bigger than we thought it was going to be,” said Grantski.
Meanwhile, just a few doors down, other participants were having trouble deciding what scents to mix together for their Citronella candle at Augusta Candle Co. Millie Hill decided on mixing grapefruit with just a hint of eucalyptus, while her friend, Stacy Studstill was adding just the right amount of her chosen scents to reach a perfect medium.
“This is a great way to get foot-traffic downtown, and it’s so beautiful outside,” said Hill as she refined her candle.
Young camper, Emma Leigh Martin, chose to mix vanilla and orange for her candle. Her father, Joseph Martin, said Camp Soul City was a great, family-friendly way to boost local businesses and that he thought the camp was a wonderful alternative to spending another Saturday morning with the kids stuck in front of the screen.
Several adults and college students also enjoyed participating in activities like coffee cupping classes at The Bee’s Knees and screen printing a poster at Mod Ink. General Manager of The Bee’s Knees, John Porter, said he wanted his activity to focus on teaching people how to make a cup of coffee even for those who don’t have all the equipment.
“All you need is coffee grounds and hot water to make a great cup,” Porter said as campers sipped from their mugs. Porter emphasized the different flavor profiles grounds can have depending on where they are grown, while some children turn their noses to the bitter taste of black coffee and parents laugh in the background. After learning a little more about coffee, many take a break, rest their feet, grab a bite and an artisan cold drink at the cafe.
Afterwards, Westobou and The Book Tavern encourage various participants to get in touch with their inner artist by showing them how to make a zine (a mini pamphlet) and designing a color patch. The Book Tavern’s station focused on teaching children about zines and their significance in history for numerous subjects and topics.
All the while, others venture over to Freshwater Design Co. and make friendship bracelets after glancing around the store and picking up a few hilarious and adorable accessories. Several newcomers remarked “this place is so cute” as they admired purses, hats, jewelry, dog tags and keychains among items. Some kids were even handed popsicles outside the doors to cool off from the weather.
Co-owner, Dani Harmadi, of Freshwater Design Co., said many were discovering the store for the first time, as a result of Camp Soul City, and her excitement at the success the event has been for all the businesses involved.
Field Botanical’s DIY bug spray was such a hit, staff ran out of supplies long before the event was through, but they still invited families to stop by for snacks, water and some adult juice to get campers through the rest of the day.
Founder of Field Botanicals, Jennifer Tinsley, said she thinks it is important to host events that attract customers and families to local businesses without requiring that participants spend money.
“When you have kids, especially a lot, it gets expensive, and we didn’t want to disclude anyone which is why we made the activities free,” said Tinsley.
Many business owners expressed their hope for additional shops to get involved next year, and a desire to gain sponsors for future Camp Soul Cities to make it even more enjoyable and busy.
Enthusiastic campers, Jessie Arnold and Nicole Haibach, said they were excited to participate next year and see how the event will grow.
“It’s cool that we came to the first one,” said Haibach. “We’ll always get to say we came to the first one and then see how the Camp will change or improve next year.”
To get involved with future Camp Soul City events go to facebook.com/DowntownSoulCity/
Liz Wright is a correspondent for The Augusta Press.