Band Camp

Hosting Longtime Best Friends Makes for Lifelong Memorable Weekends

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November 2020 Issue
By Meredith Millen Deal

Longtime friends knew you back when and probably still, know you best.


We were band nerds, but my best friends and bandmates (both guys and girls) and I always envisioned ourselves as cool musicians. It was the early ‘70s, and we had sheet music for songs by Three Dog Night and Chicago. We listened to greats like Led Zeppelin, The Temptations, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and the Guess Who on transistor radios. At Ft. Lauderdale’s Northeast High School football games, our more than 200-member band marched to themes from “2001- A Space Odyssey” and “Hawaii Five-O.” With my school-rental bass clarinet, I rose to section leader and all-county band, and to this day, we’re all still in touch with our 90-year-old band director, Mr. Jamison.

Being band members bonded our friendships because of time we spent in practice, at competitions, traveling to away games, marching and concert performances together. These friends are the ones who made going to school fun, and we have never let our connections wane.  

A few of these pals and I talked about us all getting together more often and decided to go for it. My social title became organizer and activity director for the biennial Band Camp reunion weekends on St. Simons Island. We’ve had seven memorable weekends since 2007.

When you stay in touch with your BFFs from way-back-when, getting together is a blast. Our drum major, band captain and even some majorettes join in. And, believe me, there have been some twirling of fire batons!

What’s the secret to these successful small group band camp reunion weekends? 1. Many of us have been friends since elementary school, and gathering with life-long friends gives a grounded comfort and familiarity like no other. 2. The lure of spending a relaxing, fun time together in beautiful Coastal Georgia.

Each biennial event is three nights with scheduled events, albeit not overfull, or too rigid. Over the years, favorite weekend activities remain, such as our Field Trip Friday excursions, local dining and Saturday night Lowcountry boil dinner. Our arrivals are mid-Thursday afternoon, our departures Sunday morning. In between, we reminisce, play music (some with instruments), totally relax, and share many meals and good times.

We invited other longtime school chums the last two weekends, and they loved it, too. Spouses, mostly not from our younger years, are always welcome. We’ve been lucky because everyone gets along and joins in the fun.

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Now It’s Your Turn:
“This is How We Do It” (Best Tips for Your Besties Weekends)

Preparations and Arrival:  

• Contact your group: Who’s interested? We have usually 12 to 24 attendees. Share group emails covering possible dates; outline a loose weekend schedule.
• Secure a local vacation rental company you can work with. Ask for cash discounts. If two or more rental houses are needed, make sure one is large enough for everyone to gather for shared meals and conversations. Make it the main gathering house.
• If cash makes for a great discount, ask friends for rental deposit checks five to six months ahead (it demonstrates their commitment). Ask friends for final checks two weeks ahead.
• Create cool name tags for assigned bedroom doors. Use old school logos, photos, etc. They will love them and take them home. Have brochures and maps from the visitors bureau in each room’s welcome bag.

Three-Day Weekend Agenda:

• Have a loose but somewhat scheduled agenda each day with plenty of time to shop and prepare anticipated shared meals.

Food:

• Consider a heavy hors d’oeuvres feast the first night to welcome all. There’s nothing better than sharing appetizers while reuniting. Each morning we cook several breakfast choices and always dine out local for lunch. My friends can’t get over how many well-known, delicious restaurants we have! Someone always steps up with a delicious recipe for Friday night dinner. We pitch-in money for in-house meals; we bring our own appetizers, snacks, and beverages.

Field Trip Friday:

• When you are the weekend host, you get to pick the excursion! Our local recommended tours for 10 to 24 people (in no particular order) are St. Simons Lighthouse and Museum, Sapelo Island tours with the State of Georgia, any St. Simons trolley tour, Cap Fendig Boat Tours, Coastal Georgia WWII Homefront Museum, Jekyll Island Club Hotel and historic district, plus the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. (Be sure to check for group discounts.)  *Hint: Pose for your group photo out on Field Trip Friday—the best time and location.

Saturday:

• Go for early to mid-morning beach walks, then try some free time. Your friends can choose to play golf, tour sites, explore, dine out, ride bikes, shop or just relax. But ALL band camp girlfriends love to shop local boutiques, we go every time! Best meal ever: Lowcountry boil with wild caught Georgia shrimp for the last supper of the weekend. Then party-in or party-out with music and entertainment.
And in two years, you do it all again. No kidding!

Your friends will tell you they cannot wait to come back! Just like that, you and your longtime besties will have created your own Best Friends’ tradition.

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