As most people know, Gay Naturists International (GNI) had to cancel its annual Gathering this year because of a scheduling conflict. Instead, GNI hosted its first-ever NakedFest at Camp Ramblewood in northern Maryland, a venue more convenient than the Poconos for those of us who travel the Auto-Train from Florida. Holding NakedFest in early August also worked to my advantage, since my day job kept me from attending the late-August Gathering, year after year. Though I have been a proud member of GNI since 2000, NakedFest 2014 is the first time that I attended a GNI event.
I was not the only first-timer. Up to one-third of the 300-plus men who attended Naked Fest were there for the first time. Some of them, like me, signed up for all seven days; some came for the first or the second half of the Fest, a few for two days, and at least one man signed up for one day. (He had such a good time that he later signed up for a second day.) Camp Ramblewood, a campground for alternative lifestyles, is an ideal place for NakedFest. (It already hosts International Men Enjoying Naturism’s “other” Gathering.) It is conveniently located between Baltimore and Philadelphia. It offers isolation and privacy while still being close enough to a town (Darlington) in case of an emergency. The weather was ideal (if a bit rainy), though both the nights and the swimming pool were a tad bit cold for a South Floridian. The Camp staff was very accepting and tolerant – Having seen it all, they did not find a group of naked men running around to be too startling. The meals were regular camp food, though one evening the Camp boss brought a chef in from a nearby Indian restaurant who cooked some Indian delicacies for our dining pleasure. Now, that is what I call class.
NakedFest offered its participants plenty to do; certainly enough to keep a naked boy happy for seven whole days. At the same time, I never felt any pressure to do anything. One highlight of NakedFest was Kendall’s one-man show, “Clothes get in the way.” Another highlight was the daily social hour, a time of gaiety (in both senses of the words) when GNI members “dressed” in outrageous outfits that conformed to the day’s particular theme. But not even the social hour could compete with the nightly disco, with professional DJs who played everything from old school oldies to the most avant-garde hits. (They also played at the social hour.) Though my dancing ability is atrocious (I did not inherit the Cuban dance gene), I managed to close the disco almost every night, while enjoying every minute of it. The residents of Cabins 1 and 2, located next to the disco, kept our spirits up (so to speak) by hosting nightly parties where they generously shared their ample supply of liquor with those of us who were less favored. They even turned up the suds machine, turning Camp Ramblewood into a foam party. For those who do not like disco, NakedFest had nightly movies and ritual drumming by the lake.
However, all things considered, what I most enjoyed about NakedFest 2014 was the men; especially all the new friends that I made that week. The 300 plus men who attended NakedFest ranged from 25 to 89 and came from all over the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland and other countries. One truly adventurous couple came all the way from New Zealand, leather gear and all. Almost 40% of the attendees were under 50; a welcome statistic for those of us who worry about attracting younger men to nudist events. NakedFest featured racial diversity as well, with African-American, Asian and Latino men present, mixed in with the mostly Caucasian crowd. There was even a Friday evening Kabbalat Shabbat Service by the lake for Jews and those who love us.
Finally, Mr. Bob Morton, Executive Director of the Naturist Action Committee, was in attendance, to remind us that the right to be naked can be a serious business. All in all, I had a great time at NakedFest, and so did most of the people there. The Board of GNI is seriously considering continuing NakedFest as an annual event along with the venerable Gathering. If they do so, I plan to be there.