Trip report: Northeast Naturist Festival 2015 (Empire Haven, NY)

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We are back from the Northeast Naturist Festival in upstate New York! A big thank you to everyone who came out and helped make this such a great weekend.

A Packed Schedule

The NENF schedule was packed with activities and workshops. They ranged from the practical (such as an online marketing workshop run by our friends Jordan and Felicity at YNA), to the introspective (a communication workshop by the Human Awareness Institute), to the far-out (ramblings about UFOs, energy healing seminars and other such things).

A diverse selection of music included drum circles, meditations backed by beautiful bowed gongs, karaoke as good (bad) as any karaoke in a downtown bar, and a ’70s-style disco pavilion with a 2000s pop/club DJ.

Fun And Comfortable

With beautiful upstate New York weather keeping everyone’s clothing where it belonged (in the cars), Empire Haven’s pool and hot tubs were a major focus of attention. A small cadre of vendors offered beautiful sarongs, wraps and other such products. (It’s interesting to note that most of our favourite sundresses and sarongs have come from naturist venues!)

Empire Haven is a truly beautiful park. Nearly surrounded by unspoiled state forest, it is clean, well-kept and alive with acres of vibrant green grassland and woodland. The park is relatively easy to find, being just a short hop off I-81 along paved sideroads.

The single best thing about the naturist community, we think, is the ease with which one can quickly meet great new friends. We met more people than we can remember how to keep track of, each with their own fascinating stories, perspectives and ideas.

Room For Improvement

There’s always room for improvement, and here our attention fell on the registration process and fee structure.

The Empire Haven / NENF registration process was… well, somewhat less than smooth or clear. We would highly recommend that, next year, the registration forms be clearly organized and unambiguous. (This year’s documents were reminiscent of a corporate tax filing form, if it were re-typed in Word by someone unfamiliar with columns and tables.) We emailed in our forms, but never received an acknowledgement or reply; nevertheless, they were already on file when we arrived.

In addition to the festival fee ($50/person regardless of how long you stay), the park charges day fees ($18/person/day with an 11 AM checkout), and camp site rental fees ($12 to $15/camp/night).

Then, we were dinged an extra $18/person day fee for all of Friday, even though we arrived late after dinner when the day’s activities were over. It was too late in the evening for us to argue over this, but it meant that our first impression of Empire Haven was one of petty profiteering. No other park we know of charges 3 days of fees for a 44-hour visit.

This fee structure means that while the festival is somewhat reasonably priced if you arrive on Tuesday morning and leave on Sunday morning, virtually any shorter schedule (or staying for lunch on Sunday) is heavily penalized. Not surprisingly, retirees were over-represented and young folks (who would be working during the week) were relatively few in number.

It would be far better to charge only a per-person, per-day fee (as other naturist parks do) or a per-vehicle/site, per-day fee (as non-naturist parks, like state forests or Canadian public parks, do).

Will we be back next year? Maybe. It’s too early to say what our 2016 schedule will be like. If Empire Haven’s management and the festival organizers were to fix the problems with the pricing structure, we might consider making NENF a regular feature of our calendar.

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