Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
By Isabella Paredes
Every 51 weeks a group of Christian music loving aliens reunite at the Champaign County Fairgrounds in Urbana.
“The music brings you in, but the community keeps you going,” one of the founding members of Camp 51, Jodi Parker, said. Camp 51 members refer to themselves as aliens because they come together from several different parts of the country to listen to their favorite Christian music artists.
The group has been attending the Audio Feed Festival since it was founded in 2013. Before that, the group went to the Cornerstone Christian music festival.
Although they have been camping together since 2003, Camp 51 created their name in 2009 from the bible verse Ephesians 2:19-20, which refers to “aliens”. They identify as aliens,or foreigners, because they are all from different places. According to Lisa Fenner, Camp 51 also refers to themselves as aliens due to the similarity between the names Camp 51 and Area 51.
The group also has a mock government, according to Jerry and Pixie Roberts, who are city council members of Camp 51. Chad Fenner, who is the mayor of Camp 51, said he was elected mayor when none of the other members stepped forward. According to the founding members, Camp 51 has many other traditions.
Rodney Parker, another founding member, said there is a potluck every year where 40 to 50 of the members get together to eat food and participate in food-eating competitions where the winner will get a trophy in the shape on an alien. Traditionally, Camp 51 get to the fairgrounds two days before the festival starts to park in the same spot every year.
“I’m learning how to accept people that are different from me,” Jodi Parker said. According to multiple founding members, the atmosphere is friendly and is what people love most about the Audio Feed Festival.