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Camp camp gears up for fun

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    Camp camp gears up for fun - 30-Dec-2005
    Most people will be having a gay old time as they party their way into 2006, but none as much as the visitors to Vinegar Hill.

    The 29th annual gay camp has once again sprung up on the riverside campsite near Hunterville.

    More than 150 people have parked up and pitchched tents and organisers are expecting twice that number to have filed in by midnight on New Year's Eve.

    "It's definitely getting stronger and stronger," says Jenni James, who helped organise this year's event.

    "People just come here and they can chill out.

    "People feel like this is their home over Christmas and New Year's," Ms James says.

    Visitors have come from as far as Wellington, Auckland, Dunedin, Australia, Germany, England and Canada, she says.

    New Year's Eve will see campers entertained by musical performances, DJs, drag queen and king acts, and the Big Bonfire will be blazing through the night.

    Owen Draper, from Napier, has been to every Vinegar Hill camp since its inception, and says it's come a long way in 29 years.

    "We now mix with the girls, which is marvellous, and it's brilliant to see the young people coming in," Mr Draper says.

    "I just think we can be ourselves and it's such a lovely feeling," he says.

    Rongotea man Keven Laing has been to Vinegar Hill six times and says it's the perfect place to get away from it all.

    "We're living in a little world where it's normal to be like this. You can come here and be who you want to be," Mr Laing says.

    The 35 year old came out of the closet in his early 20s "and now I'm very, very open about my sexuality and I don't hide and a lot of my young straight mates are very accepting of it".

    "It's changed big time."
    Ref: - Manwatu Standard - Vinegar Hill

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