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Wet weather doesn't dampen Summer Camp fun

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Editor's note: The Peorian got a couple press passes and sent a freelance writer, Julian Watkins, and our own Stu Clubb (and his camera) to the Summer Camp Music Festival to review the event. Here is their first installment.

Every year on Memorial Date weekend, Three Sisters Park in Chillicothe is filled with thousands of music lovers flocking to the campgrounds for a weekend filled with heavy hitting musical acts for the Summer Camp Music Festival.

Since it began in 2001, the festival has grown exponentially and has attracted many major artists. This year was no different, hosting artists such as Trey Anastasio, STS9 and hip hop artist Big Boi. Also back in the mix were Summer Camp regulars Umnphrey's McGee and moe. who, as usual, played multiple sets throughout the weekend, drawing huge crowds for power packed performances.

On Thursday, hardcore Summer Camp attendees, which I refer to as Scampers, flood Three Sisters park to begin preparing for the weekend. The parking lot begins to fill with thousands of attendees organizing their camping gear for the weekend. Seasoned veterans of the festival have learned creative ways to prepare for the long hike to the camping area, loading wagons and wheeled coolers filled with tents, food, beverages and other gear to take up residence for the weekend.

Lines form at the gates where patrons are searched and given wristbands before entering into the campgrounds. Once through the gates, Scampers are home for the weekend.

The wooded area of the campgrounds quickly fill with tents and gazebos. Trails line with concert goers who turn the wooded area into a gathering for festivities that last late into the night. Outside the wooded area is a sea of campsites in the field camping area. It is amazing to see such a gathering at Three Sisters Park, which becomes somewhat of a shantytown for the weekend. Festival attendees help each other set up tents and tape off areas for friends who have not yet arrived to set up camp. Some campsites are tagged with flags and markers for easy identification throughout the weekend. Some of these identifying markers include smiley face flags, college mascots and even Pac Man and Mrs. Pac Man.

Three Sister's Park has hosted Summer Camp Music Festival all 13 years and the atmosphere and environment has evolved as it has grown. This year was no different. With a wide variety of vendors and restaurants, the campgrounds had some extra added fun and festivities this year. The most noticeable addition to the festival this year was carnival rides for Scampers to enjoy. Summer Camp always seems like a bit of a circus, but this addition reiterated this feeling. Campers had the opportunity to ride a giant slide, a Ferris wheel or the Tilt-A-Whirl as well as participate in carnival games. A major highlight of this Scamper's weekend was getting to watch Umphrey's McGee play their instrumental power jam Glory from the top of the Ferris wheel... pure joy.

Beginning on Thursday the side stages of the festival give a preview of what is to come. This year's pre-party saw such acts Family Groove Company, Cornmeal and Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band.

This year, however, the weather proved to be a key component to the ambiance of the festival. Thursday's festivities began with a light drizzle, which did not damper the fun for concert goers. The drizzle was only a sample of the weather that was to come later in the weekend.

A Summer Camp favorite, Family Groove Company jammed out to a power packed performance in which they were joined by Cornmeal's Allie Kral, who had announced that the Summer Camp Music Festival would be her last performance with her longtime Cornmeal band mates.

Some attendees flocked to the Vibe Tent, which is basically a circus tent full of funkiness and good vibes. The Vibe Tent did not fail to live up to its name, hosting aptly named Positive Vibr8ions, which left Scampers in a state of euphoria by bringing together U.S. and UK sounds.

One of the last shows on Thursday was a Campfire Stage performance by Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band, which was phenomenal.

The sun decided to come out to play on Friday to provide for a fun-filled day of performances with no impediment. This is when most attendees who were not able to get off work for Thursday's pre-party festivals start rolling in.

Many top-notch performers played the festival stages on Friday. Normally performing as a sort of one-man jam band, Keller Williams took the stage with his new band "More Than a Little," playing an amazing set including a cover of Grateful Dead's West LA Fadeaway. This performance was joined by bassist Victor Wooten and Umphrey's guitarist Jake Cinninger. Reggae Legends, the Wailers, also took the stage on Friday afternoon, playing the music of Jamaica's son, Bob Marley. Never disappointing, the Wailers played the familiar tunes such as "Stir It Up" and "Waiting in Vain."

Friday night also proved to be no disappointment. Umphrey's McGee played two incredible sets followed by an electronic rock performance on the popular Moonshine stage by STS9. While these popular acts drew large crowds, the side stages had acts that are less known, but still put on some of the best performances at the festival.

One of these hidden gems was The Soul Rebels performing a set consisting of nothing but songs from the hip-hop trio DeLaSoul. They called themselves the DeLaSoul Rebels and gave an amazing performance which was not to be forgotten by anyone who attended.

Coming up: A review of Saturday's shows, including Cornmeal's last performance, Karl Denson, Thievery Corp., and the Umphrey-Moe sandwich.

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