Last year’s Camp Christmas exhibition brought out more than 70,000 visitors, as families showed up in droves to experience creator Lonnie Hanzon’s winter wonderland at the Hangar at Stanley Marketplace. This year, Hanzon has dreamed up a way for families and friends to be together among similar wintry festivities—even if they’re not physically in the same room.
“When the pandemic hit, it was like, OK grandpa’s not going to get to come visit Johnny,” Hanzon says. “So we’re going to have to make it so that Camp Christmas comes to Johnny’s living room, in his imagination.”
Hanzon’s solution is a 2020 Camp Christmas event that takes place partially in a virtual, interactive fictional “camp” through a web-based app, and partially with users at home, who will receive deliverables for festive activities like garland-making, paper snowflake folding, and crafting DIY Christmas tree ornaments. Created in collaboration with the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ Off-Center and Hanzon Studios, the experience goes live on November 20 and runs through January 5.
General access to Camp Christmas begins with the $10 base camp package, which allows campers to visit the virtual world and check in to their own lodge or cabin, in addition to receiving a letter from Hanzon himself. From there, users can opt for additional packages, such as the $59 “Sweets Adventure Bundle,” which provides “campers” with the materials to make their own gingerbread houses and Christmas cookies, while visiting the virtual Sweetsville location for additional content and instructions.
By combining virtual elements with at-home crafts, activities, and recipes—including a festive drink-making package, with both boozy and non-alcoholic options available—Hanzon hopes that this socially distant version of Camp Christmas engages campers of all ages, who likely will be missing some of the traditional celebration this holiday season.
“We’re seeing that a lot of people are buying these as gifts to send to relatives, and the cards often read, ‘I’m sorry we can’t be together.’” Hanzon says. “People are using these as care packages.”
Much like the 2019 iteration of Camp Christmas, this year’s wonderland is an object of Hanzon’s creation. Illustrated entirely by hand, the locations featured on the interactive map include places like the Fairy Forest, Treehouse Village, and the Lighthouse, which is situated in the middle of a lake. In some cases, the buildings are nested within each other—through the main lodge, users can then access the library, tavern, and main hall.
Participants can also expect a local touch coming through in this fantasy land, as Hanzon drew inspiration from his childhood growing up in the mountains near Pine, Colorado, where he dreamed of one day owning a Christmas-themed cabin of his own. This year, he’ll see part of that dream realized, as he broadcasts a countdown to Christmas from his own cabin within the Camp Christmas virtual world.
As the site goes live, Hanzon plans to continue illustrating and adding new locations to the Camp Christmas map—and he encourages people to stop by and explore a new world, even while stuck at home.
“We’re recrafting this as a place in your imagination,” says Hanzon.
If you go: Camp Christmas packages are on sale now. The experience will be live starting November 20 through January 5. Packages start at $10.