Kids on Stilts
March 2020

Family Folk Music Camp


Kids on StiltsTucked away in the redwoods just outside Aptos is a family summer camp for all ages. For one week each summer people come from all over the Bay Area and beyond to dance, play music, sing, and create a community. Its called Family Week and its held at Monte Toyon retreat center.
Family Week is sponsored by the Bay Area Country Dance Society (BACDS), a corporation formed in 1981 to promote English and American music and dance in the Bay Area. BACDS is affiliated with the National Country Dance and Song Society (CDSS) and local dances and camps were modeled on the examples of CDSS.

In 1990 the Bay Area dance scene was thriving with its offerings of English country dances and American contradances for adults, but there was nothing that welcomed families or children. As dancers started raising children they began looking for ways to include their families in the dance activities that they loved. Dance organizers Jerry Allen and Emily Flouton looked to CDSS to again set the example of how to expand our dance community.

Their answer was Family Week, and in 1992 BACDS Family Week was founded with Jerry and Emily leading the committee. Twenty-eight years later Family Week is thriving as a week-long experience of folk culture for the whole family. Campers range in age from newborn to grandparent and family units range from one adult to families with multiple adults and children.

As you walk through the camp you see children of all ages clustered around different teachers and activities. At one table there’s a crafts class, taught by a teacher of woodworking from Sebastopol. In the dining hall the tables are pushed aside and children are learning a simple contradance. Outside you hear the jingle of bells while another class learns English Morris dancing. Across the way there’s the sound of harmony from the singing class. In another room there’s over a dozen campers learning to play dance tunes. And in the main hall there is dancing for teens and adults – one hour its contradance, one hour its English Country dance, and the next hour there’s a teacher from Quebec teaching French Canadian dance. Live music accompanies all the dance classes. And at some point the preschool passes by on their nature walk with their teacher.
In the quieter hours of the afternoon the main activity in camp is stilt-walking. Anyone who wants to has the opportunity to learn this skill and to be guided by fellow campers until they are ready to walk on their own. Meanwhile, musicians gather on the deck to play tunes and a few smaller dance classes are held. Some families take naps, always a favorite for the adults!

As the day draws to a close the whole camp gathers in the main hall for dancing followed by a story from the storyteller. And then the musicians lead a procession to the cabins and everyone walks along to sing and bid the youngest campers goodnight. Children go to sleep quickly, tired from a day of fun and activities, and looking forward to more the next day.

By the end of the week everyone seems to know everyone else at camp, and a community has grown from the assortment of families and friends. The children are everyone’s children and the friendships formed at camp continue throughout the year. The community has become the village it takes to raise a child.
Community is as much what camp is about as all the activities. Although camp started as a way to share a love of music and dance and to pass these traditions from one generation to the next, what has flourished along with that is a bond between people that is so much bigger than a week of camp.
Wishing a wonderful summer to you and your families.

* BACDS Family Week will be held June 28-July 4 this year. Please visit to learn more about camp and to register, or contact registrar Katie Riemer at 510-684-1454 for more information.

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