COLLEGE CORNER – Hannon’s Camp America hosted the annual Fire in your Mouth, Fire in the Sky festival on Saturday, July 9. The popular festival is a combination of spicy food, hot music, and fireworks.
Camden native Kelly Crank and her band performed during the festivities.
Camp America is a 26 acre farm complete with a lodge house, pavilion, dance hall, family cabins, bunkhouse cabins, football field, party barn, two stages, 28-plus campground sites, and a camp store. They host three events each year, including Baconfest in March, Geek Out in June, and Fire in your Mouth, Fire in the Sky in July.
Rhonda Hannon said her mother and father in-law bought the camp 11 years ago, and since then they’ve been renovating the space and renting it out. She stressed that Camp America is a family endeavor – as is the fireworks festival. It is the Hannon family who shoots off the fireworks — they all have their professional license. They shoot all over the tri-state area when they’re not shooting for Camp America.
“The Fire Festival got started and we decided to combine it with everything spicy and some fundraising for some different groups,” Hannon said. There are two groups which benefit from that fundraising. An area fire department held a dunk tank at the festival and the proceeds went to their department. The proceeds of the spicy food cook-off went to went to the United Way.
In other years different organizations have benefited from the proceeds.
The cook-off was one of the main attractions of the festival. The rules are simple: a dish can be entered for free, but it has to be spicy, the dish is then judged by members of the public who paid $10 to sample the food. They put a ticket in the cup next to the dish they liked the most and the dish with the most tickets win. There are prize baskets handed out to the winners.
This was not the only spicy food attraction. In the evening, there was a hot pepper eating contest. The six contestants had peppers placed in front of them that they had to eat — they also had a glass of milk, but if they drank any of the milk, they were out of the competition.
The contestants could tap out, but the person who ate the last pepper the fastest won. Nobody tapped out, but the audience could tell it wasn’t a simple contest by the tears in the contestant’s eyes. Peppers they had to eat included one Cuban yellow, two serrano, one habanero, two Thai chilies, one ghost pepper, and three jalapeños.
The spiciest pepper out of that list is the ghost pepper, ringing in at over one million scoville units.
The festival operates like any other craft festival – the vendors pay for their booths. However, the musical guests ask to play in most cases. The Hannons only have room for four bands to play. Angela Combs and Jim Burns were the first to play, followed by Miss Jackie, Kelly Crank, and the Ruffins..
Crank is something of a local legend. Having been born and raised in Eaton, and then living in Camden, she is always a joy to see perform locally. Her band consists of Crank on vocals, Cody Jackson on guitar, Bill Wilson on bass, David Rose on guitar, and Jason Chasteen on drums.
Crank said of the style of their music: “We try to do a variety to keep everyone happy, so it can be anything from Jason Aldean ‘Hick Town’ to P!nk ‘Who Knew’ to ‘Zombie’ by the Cranberries.”
While the band does play covers, they also have an original CD they pull music from. In fact, they have another CD coming out within the next year, but the date is yet to be determined.
Most of the band members are new to the Kelly Crank band – only Crank and Rose are the original members. The band joked that they refer to Crank and Rose as “mom and dad,” because they are the original members. Like the Hannons with the festival, the Kelly Crank Band is a family affair. Crank said the spouses and kids all get involved.
“It’s good that we all click, because you have to be together a lot with practice,” she said.
The band plays many benefits. One they do every year is the MS walk. A new one they are performing at is BASH Heroin on Oct. 1, in Middletown. Crank shared that her sister passed away a year ago from a heroin overdose, so that benefit is close to her heart for her. She says she loves participating in the benefits.
The band even opened for Shooter Jennings two weeks prior to the Fire Festival.
After joking that the best part of performing at festivals was her new outfit, Crank admitted her favorite part was “meeting new people.” The entire band agreed.
They also noted, they love it when fans mention seeing them at a previous show. Crank said she feels they have a wonderful following. Some of the new members said it felt like they had big shoes to fill coming into the game later.
The fiery evening closed with a spectacular fireworks display.