Skoolie Swarm ™ is a yearly event put on by Travis and Michelle Mattson. Since the first gathering in 2018, this event has grown exponentially with the 2022 event drawing the largest crowd yet with over 250 rigs in attendance throughout the event. This event runs for ten days at the end of February.
This year’s event location was the Trinity Youth Camp in Melrose, Florida. The camp offers over 100 acres to spread out on with amenities such as a lake for fishing and kayaking, a large swimming pool, several bathhouses, and a large mess hall for community gatherings such as potluck dinners, group solar talks, or a game room for the kids on a rainy afternoon.
Checking in at The Swarm means being greeted with a hug and a smile. You say Hi to familiar faces and pick up the schedule of events for the next ten days that have something for everyone. You can get your picture taken here with your rig for the Skoolie Swarm™ Facebook album.
After check-in, you can choose to park under the tall pine trees or down by the lake to catch sunset views on the rooftop deck of a bus or out in the backfield for more personal space. Whichever you chose, you then begin to get settled in and the excitement sets in for the week ahead.
Some Mondays leave us wanting more of the weekend but not when there’s a smell of cotton candy in the air thanks to the girls of Thriving on Sugar - Cotton Candy Couture. There is excitement heard around the field as the kids get ready to play against the adults in a game of kickball.
Later on in the evening, the dining hall starts to look like Thanksgiving in February for the night’s potluck dinner with tables displayed with a variety of food options like roasted chicken, pasta dishes, homemade chili, and chopped salads along with sweet treats such as warm brownies and cookies, homemade cobblers and fresh out of the oven cinnamon rolls.
The tables are lined from end to end with contributions from swarm families, ready to break bread with a neighbor under the glow of the string lights and enjoy the live music performed by JDW music.
Morning safety meetings with the ladies over coffee was a great way to hear single travelers share their safety stories and give travel tips while sipping coffee in the company of friends. Later in the afternoon is the apple pie eating contest for all ages.
Movie night is always fun and of course, the theatre is an open field. A white king-size sheet hung on the side of a bus and a projector makes for a great setup as kids and adults make their way across the field with the smell of fresh popcorn in the air.
Community breakfast is where everyone gathers and brings something to share. With over 100 pancakes, dozens of biscuits with gravy, fresh fruit, and coffee to share, breakfast quickly becomes the best meal of the day.
After breakfast everyone heads off in different directions, some to the pool, some to work on projects and some to maybe catch an afternoon nap in a hammock hung between the pines.
The evening air quickly fills with the smell of cobblers bubbling in the warm Dutch ovens that sit over hot coals in the field near the big bonfire. This bonfire is made up of a wooden structure that stands about 15 ft. tall. Campers gather their families and bring a chair to hear the musicians play around the fire.
Mid-week Veteran’s Coffee is a time to honor and thank those who have served our great country. Most afternoons at Swarm are full of bus tours, Jeepin’ around the grounds, visiting with friends at their camp, stopping by the coffee trailer for a cup of joe, shopping at the free table, or just hanging out and enjoying the atmosphere. As the sun goes down, the streamers go up for a birthday bash and costume party. Everyone is invited to join in and party the night away.
The weekend jumpstarts with coffee and fresh biscuits baking in the oven of the mess hall for a community breakfast. Mid-day is kick-off time for the adult’s vs. kids kickball in the check-in field. This game has high stakes, bragging rights around the campfire until next year. A special treat follows the afternoon games at the bonfire with live music from Helene Nicole for a relaxing end to another great day.
Groups gather on Saturday morning for a bike ride down the trails near the camp. There’s plenty to do around the grounds. Some campers are busy with bus projects, others visit pop-up shops that offer items for sale such as tie-dye items, custom-made art, personalized vinyl printing, boiled peanuts, herbal homeopathic oils, and much more to shop for and socialize around. As the sun sets, it signals the start of the last pot luck dinner for this event.
These meals bring a band of travelers together as a family. Sharing a meal at a table with someone you’ve just met in line while making your plate is an experience you have to have firsthand. The group not only brings food to share, but they also share in the setup and breakdown of the mess hall where we gather to eat. Once the kitchen is clean, the lights flicker off and the group heads to the big fire pit for karaoke night under the stars.
The last full day at swarm starts with a non-denominational church service down by the lake. Mid-afternoon everyone heads to the check-in field for the annual group photo.
This photo has changed throughout the years. It was once a picture of a group of conversions parked in the shape of a smiley face. This year’s picture has participants lying down to spell out swarm 2022 and the rest standing in a circle around them. The drone ascends to take the picture as everyone smiles, waves, and yells Swarm 2022!
The evening offers smaller group fires throughout the swarm community. It’s a chance to gather in smaller groups and deepen friendships made during the week. As the last log is added to the fire, a bittersweet moment comes and we all know it is our last time to gather here until next year. It is a sweet thing to have something you treasure so much.
Morning comes and it’s time to break down camp and move on. We pack up and make sure to clean up our sites and leave the land better than we found it. As the rigs prepare to start on their next adventure they are sending out lots of hugs and the “See ya down the road” goodbyes with a wave.
Reflecting on this amazing event that the Mattsons put on yearly, what makes it great is all of the hard work from Travis, Michelle, and the swarm volunteers do. This event continues to grow because of the beautiful souls that put their hearts into making it great all year before we roll in for those amazing ten days. Thank you to all who make this one an event not to miss!
Some people may ask what this event could be for them and I’ll say it can be anything you want it to be.
You should come and see for yourself!!