In March of 1993, Robert Crampton suggested to Kent Cummins that he should combine his magic, juggling, and puppetry programs into a camp. Kent remarked that that might be a good idea, to which Mr. Crampton replied: “No, that’s a business plan!” And so it was. Kent recruited the assistance of Peter Hinrichs (AKA Peter the Adequate) who at the time was working with him on a number of projects under the umbrella of “Magic Hotline.” The Magic Camp officially opened in June of 1993, and was an immediate success. Kids liked it because it was fun; parents liked it because they saw their children enthusiastically learning new skills.
George Skaggs, Manager of Westgate Mall, generously agreed to provide open space to get the camp started. This space served the camp well for the first four years, but then closed its doors. However, as Robert Crampton often says, “That’s another opportunity!” For three years the camp enjoyed the beautiful indoor and outdoor facilities of the Sri Atmananda Memorial School campus at 4100 Red River in central Austin.
The new millennium brought a new change in facilities. The camp began setting up partnerships with schools in the Austin Independent School District, thanks to the enthusiasm of several of the principals. Our first school partnership was with Baranoff Elementary, then T.A. Brown Elementary, Ridgetop Elementary, Fulmore Middle School, and Bedichek Middle School. Over the years we have also had partnerships with the Austin Waldorf School, Concordia University, Trinity United Methodist Church, St. John’s Presbyterian Church, The Khabele School, Soccer Zone and GattiTown. This year we have “returned to our roots” thanks to the people at Highland Mall. We are excited to see what the future brings in this regard.
The Magic Camp owes a great deal of thanks to a great number of people without whom none of this exciting adventure would have been possible. Kent’s wife, Margot, handled the increasingly complex administrative chores of the camp for seventeen years. Kent’s mom was the “Grandmother-In-Residence” and puppetry coordinator for many of the first years and helped set the tone for much of what goes on at the camp. We also are proud of the awesome skills of Jason Caballero, our first counselor and Camp Manager and Gus Davis, also known as “Gusto the Great,” who was a camper at our first camp and later became our first Counselor in Training, a Counselor, Junior Staff Member, Camp Director, and eventually a Board member! In addition to these founding members, the Fantastic Magic Camp owes much to all of the members of the magic, juggling, puppetry and variety arts community who have so graciously given both their time and energy to insure the ongoing success of the camp.
The greatest thanks however, go to the many young men and women who started out as campers and have gone on to assume leadership roles in the camp. From our interns (Counselors in Training, Counselors, camp managers and even camp directors) and to their parents who made sure that their children could attend the countless hours of training necessary to work at the Fantastic magic Camp (some of our staff has had over 300 hours of Life Skill and Camp Management training).
Six years ago, Peter the Adequate moved to Branson, MO to perform and a few years later, Kent decided that it was time to let others take on the role of running the camp. With the help of Doctor Stan Seaton, a board was formed, a new director, Aaron Parker-Fasel, was hired, and Magic Camp became in IRS 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. A few years later, Kent officially retired from Magic Camp, selling it to a new board made up of Austin Witt (a former camper), Aaron Parker-Fasel (a former counselor), and Bertil Fredstrom (a professional magician who moved to Texas from Sweden). At that point, the camp was re-named “Fantastic Magic Camp” as a tribute to its founder who for most of his career has performed under the stage name of “The Fantastic Kent Cummins.”
What started as an interesting idea has become the defining project in the lives of many. It has been an incredible privilege to have been a part of these young people’s lives as they have grown from awkward campers to competent counselor, staff members and most importantly contributing adult members of the community, constantly amazing everyone with their caring, competence and creativity.
As Cody Fisher, our 1997 Camp Manager pointed out, “It’s really a life skills camp!”
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