Photographs courtesy of The Last Weekend
The idea for The Last Weekend came to Peter Coffin and Jon Santos at their friend Jane Virga and Gabe Pinar’s wedding. Peter and Jon — the eventual co-founders of The Last Weekend — had both bought property in Wurstburo, following Jane’s pioneering lead, and the wedding was held on the grounds of Camp Lakota, the local Wurtsboro camp that shared a lake with Peter, Jon, and Jane’s houses. At some point during the wedding festivities at the camp, Peter remembers he and Jon decided that the wedding should be the first of many gatherings of friends at Camp Lakota, and that was germ of the idea that culminated in The Last Weekend.
Jon Santos has since stepped down from involvement in operations, but he is still involved as a participant. Peter now runs The Last Weekend operations with his friend Ken Farmer, who runs the Nuit Blanche NY Festival. There are also numerous other people working on organizing The Last Weekend, all of whose participation is vital. The participation of so many talented people is the result of their collective commitment to The Last Weekend’s philosophy of Volunteerism and Collaboration.
I sat down with Peter Coffin in the midst of Last Weekend preparations and asked him if The Last Weekend refers to the last weekend of the summer. He said it does; it’s an “end of summer retreat for people to get out of the city.” He elaborated: “The Last Weekend is designed to bring people together and allow them to have some fun out of the summer before the busyness of fall.” Peter also describes it as a way to “Do things we do in the city in the context of the country, like go see live music or go out dancing, but in this case under the stars or in the camp gymnasium.” Indeed, last years Saturday night ball featuring international voguers from the legendary House of Ninja rivaled any night out in the city.
But the more you speak with Peter about the event, the clearer it is that The Last Weekend is about more than just having fun. There is so much focus on workshops, teaching, and modeling sustainable practices, that going to The Last Weekends feels like being a part of something larger. One of the many special things about The Last Weekend is the group meals in the Camp Lakota cafeteria. The 250+ people meals are organized and prepared by Abby Paloma and Anne Apparu, who actually farm their own food and who Peter and Jon knew from their catering for large groups at various art events including the Bicycle Film Festival.
It’s important to Peter that The Last Weekend be open and accessible to anyone; “We’ve made an effort to keep it from feeling clique-y.” People who come up by themselves inevitably make friends, particularly because — just like at camp — you have the option of dorming with a group of diverse people. Peter told stories of people starting to date through the last weekend and also forming work partnerships, as many of the attendees share a common interest in sustainable entrepreneurship.
This year Peter expects about 300 campers; this is up a bit from last year, but the organizers never plan to go over 350 participants. The idea is to be sustainable, not profitable.
According to Peter, the last weekend is evolving into something more than a weekend. The organizers are increasingly cooperating with institutions that are in the area year-round. The School of Making Thinking is one of the like-minded organizations who Peter is recruiting. Denniston Hill — one of the models for the last weekend – is another like-minded organization and neighbor to The Last Weekend. The local farmers including Majestic Farms bring their goods to camp on Sunday for a farmer’s market that also includes crafts and art by attendees and program leaders. Peter also wants transform the event into a resource that can be tapped at any time. Events at the 2014 Last Weekend will be recorded, documented, and posted on line. The forums, performances and workshops will be available to anyone who wants to learn how to tie-dye, star gaze, forage for mushrooms, or any of the other things The Last Weekend offers.