Campus camping is so popular students camp out to get a camping spot

Photos by Ralph Freso

Sophomore Paul Boyd, who was first in line for Camp Elliott check-in, makes up his bed inside his tent on The Quad.

Paul Boyd arrived at 6 p.m. Monday with his gear to camp out in the middle of campus.

The sophomore wanted to be first in line for check-in 21 hours later.

“We camp out to camp out,” he said of being No. 1 in line to get a camping spot on The Quad for Friday night’s Midnight Madness, a yearly Grand Canyon University extravaganza called Camp Elliott.

Along came Josiah Luebcke.

“He beat me by like two minutes,” he said. “I’m No. 2. I know my place.”

The goal is to be some of the first students in line for the annual pep rally and Spirit Programs' performance that rings in the basketball season.

“I get into (GCU) Arena before any other students. So we are not only in before anyone who didn’t camp but before everybody who did camp,” Boyd said.

“It’s sort of an ego thing. But really it’s the novelty of camping out. Midnight Madness is a really cool event, but it’s the camping out for a week that’s the really cool part of the week.”

A group of the first students to Camp Elliott, including sophomore Josiah Luebcke (top left), play a game of cards on the first day of the event.

He didn’t know Luebcke, but now they are good friends.

Then along came No. 3, freshman Anna Groff. She was innocently getting her evening run in when she crossed the paths of Boyd and Luebcke, stretching out on the cement outside the Building 33 patio where the check-in table was set up.

“They convinced me to do it. I came back around midnight with a duffle bag and blankets and slept on a wooden bench,” she said. “I covered my head with my blanket because the lights are bright, put my ear buds in, and got to sleep about 1. At 5 a.m. someone came up and I popped up and said, “okay,” and went back to sleep for two hours.”

That’s what it’s like to be young at Camp Elliott. Students on the ground, in hammocks or tents, filling up every corner of the turf throughout the week, and somehow managing to get sleep -- and carry on this zany tradition that started in 2015 when its namesake Daniel Elliott pitched a tent way early.

Boyd said he’s used to hard ground. He’s from Washington, and they just drive forest roads until they find a spot to camp. So he knew how to locate the best spot, under the big tree by the southwest corner of the Quad, where he could get the morning sun and be protected from it in the afternoon.

The Havocs run this small city on turf, checking hundreds of people in, policing the rules, such as making sure every group has a least one member at their tent site during the day and most all are there in the evenings.

Sophomore Eric Grant (left) gets some help from Havoc leader Luke Stoffel as he puts together his tent in front of GCU Arena on the first day of Camp Elliott.

This year Havocs President Luke Stoffel said they planned more evening events, from trivia to karaoke, to keep students entertained, though he had to speak up because a very loud card game broke out right next to him just a half hour past the 3 p.m. check-in on Tuesday.

Students find many ways to entertain themselves, from volleyball to football, dipping toes in kiddie pools or watching movies or games on TV.

“To me it’s part of the show actually, because the show itself isn’t the longest thing in world,” Stoffel said.

But expect this year's Midnight Madness show to be entertaining. “It’s like the biggest production we have ever done,” he said. “Lots of lighting, lots of music. It’s almost like a rave feel and why we called it ElectroMadness.”

The Midnight Madness show is set in a space-like futuristic time using lights and high energy electronic music to tell the story of GCU’s history heading into its 75th anniversary.

Camp Elliott builds on those stories. "Bugs or cold or wind," said “No. 1" Boyd. Or the new people you meet, said “No. 2” Luebcke.

“I didn’t know 90 percent of these people 24 hours ago,” Luebcke said. “Now we’re all close.”

Students set up their tents on the Quad in front of GCU Arena during the first day of Camp Elliott.

At 1 a.m. Tuesday morning, he was so excited about the experience that he send a lovely message to his mom in Colorado.

“I took a picture of myself in a tent sleeping on the cement,” he said.

The rest of the conversation went like this:

Mom: “Don’t you have class tomorrow?”

Son: “Actually, I don’t.”

Mom: “Get a job.”

Mom didn’t know that at Camp Elliott being No. 2 is worth more than any fat paycheck.

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected]

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