Camp Wandawega

July 20, 2015

Camp Wandawega is a private, old-school campsite run by David Hernandez and Tereasa Surratt in Elkhorn, Wisconsin.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. David Hernandez & Tereasa Surratt:
By weekday: Senior Partner Creatives at ad agency Ogilvy & Mather Chicago.
By weekend: Proprietors of Camp Wandawega, Elkhorn Wisconsin.

What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? We are constantly inspired by the amazing people we have the honor to meet. Their tireless ambitions and amazing accomplishments constantly push us to go beyond our comfort zones. To name just a few:

Art & Design: Cody Hudson
Retail & Commerce: Jacques Panis
Music: Tom Windish
Preservation and Development: Ben Weprin
Architecture: Jeanne Gang

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What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on?
Recently: Global Spring Summer 2015 Camp Wandawega childrens’ apparel collaboration with GANT
A sidecar motorcycle collaboration with Ural

Upcoming: A Camp Wandawega-related childrens’ book with Random House and a Camp Wandawega product launch with Land of Nod

If you were a drink what drink would you be? David: Jim Beam Black, neat, or perhaps just a rock or two. In a world gone mad, with more boutique whiskeys and bourbons than we care to count, it’s nice to know an old standby like Jim Beam can hold it’s own with the best of them, at a fraction of the price, and none of the pretense.

Tereasa: Coffee. Black. (Gaslight Roasters). We’re collaborating with them on a custom roast with some pretty unique packaging.

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How did your interest in your work begin? By virtue of our day jobs, we’re both storytellers and brand builders. We’ve been honored to work for brands as varied as Patagonia, Mrs. Meyers, Nike, Miller Lite, Flor, and Dove. While the branding work we do is creative in its own right, we’re always looking for ways to be inspired outside of work. As the owners/innkeepers/proprietors of Camp Wandawega, we’re lucky to have a place where people of all walks of life – from artists, to chefs, filmmakers, musicians, entrepreneurs, photographers, writers and even celebrities – come together to “get away from it all.” Early on it occurred to us that by hosting events with interesting guests, we could share our little slice of Wisconsin while also being re-energized and inspired by the people we meet. What we do at Ogilvy makes us better innkeepers. And what we do at Camp Wandawega makes us better creative professionals at Ogilvy. It’s become a virtuous cycle.

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How long have you lived in Chicago and what brought you there? While we live and work in Chicago, Camp Wandawega (in Sugar Creek Township, Elkhorn, Wisconsin) is our home away from home, since 2004. In fact, David and his family have been escaping Chicago to visit Wandawega since the 1960s. The same reasons that made “Wandawega Inn” the perfect location for illegal gambling, liquor and prostitution during prohibition make it the perfect getaway today: it’s close to everything, but once you’re there you feel like you’re a million miles away.

What do you want a viewer to walk away with after experiencing Camp Wandawega? We want folks to “disconnect in order to reconnect.” By disconnecting from the day-to-day grind of meetings, technology, and constant connectivity, our guests can reconnect with the simple pleasures of simpler times. If they leave feeling like they just stepped back in time, then we’ve done our job. If they also leave having picked up a few extra skills – like hatchet-throwing, archery, and the fine art of s’mores – then even better.

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What’s your absolute favorite place in the city/the world to be? City: In Chicago, there’s nothing better than taking Charlie (our daughter) and Frankie (our mutt) for a walk through the many amazing neighborhoods.

World: There’s nothing we like better than exploring flea markets. From Paris to Prague to Amsterdam, the assortment of cheap/amazing/unique finds never ceases to amaze. For example, see here.

What are you really excited about right now? Just as the digital/social age has helped to democratize and popularize creativity – from filmmaking, to photography, to writing, and beyond – we’re excited to see how it’s also transformed the travel & hospitality industry. While the old, big, traditional hoteliers still have their place in the world, the agility and innovation of the new players is making the world more accessible. From Airbnb, to Mr. and Mrs. Smith, to Design Tripper, to Alastair Sawday’s, we now all have access to the tools, platforms and information that enables us to experience the unique people and places of the world in way that was never before possible. A man much wiser than us once said: “The world is a great book, of which they that never stir from home read only a page.” Never before has the world been so small, and so accessible, to so many.

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