Nfld. & Labrador

Have a May 2-4 hangover? There's a reason people on Bell Island stayed sober

“It’s intended to be sober … even after hours. You know the kiddies are gone to bed and you want to crack open a cold one? There’s none of that happening here tonight."

The area struggles with addiction and some locals are trying to show you don't need substances to have fun

Kids at the campout roast marshmallows. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Open the cooler and it's full of juice boxes, water and pop.

"It's intended to be sober … even after hours. You know the kiddies are gone to bed and you want to crack open a cold one? There's none of that happening here tonight," said Susan Boone.

Susan Boone helped organize the first, potentially annual, sober Victoria Day camping trip on Bell Island. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Bell Island, like a lot of places, has substance abuse issues.

Boone has a daughter who struggles with opioids and is a big part of a grassroots movement working to get local, addicted people harm reduction and help

Saturday's sober May 24th campout was "a smaller part of the bigger picture," she said.

She brought two granddaughters.

The only kind of bottle found at the group's campsite on Saturday. (Katie Breen/CBC)

"I think the things that they see us doing are the things that they're going to grow up with, so if I was rolling big tires down here to have my fire well, you know, when the time comes for them to go do their own May 2-4 weekend, they're going to be rolling down big tires," she said, adding the same thing goes for alcohol and drugs.

Maybe we can break that culture.- Lisa Gear

They're sleeping out without substances to try to disassociate them from fun — to show a younger generation that booze doesn't have to be on the must-bring checklist.

"People think that you have to drink to camp on May 2-4," said Lisa Gear, Boone's sister.

"Maybe we can break that culture."

The group gathers around the campfire. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Drinking is an enshrined part of the Victoria Day long weekend in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"It always was," said Gear. "Fifteen years old, we'd go camping and someone would smuggle in alcohol, beer and we'd drink and be loaded — disgustingly drunk —  at 15 years old, because that was the cool thing to do."

She brought her 12-year-old son Saturday and some of his friends tagged along.

"Maybe he can learn that we can all have a little bit of fun and, you know, it doesn't have to be all about booze."

Lisa Gear brought her 12-year-old son to this year's campout. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Gear made up a scavenger hunt for the children in attendance.

The group pitched tents, started a fire, and made a lean-to with string, sticks and a tarp.

The group built this lean-to where Gear's son and his friends planned to spend the night. (Katie Breen/CBC)

"They're going to sleep like rocks tonight. They've been everywhere in this little spot," said Boone.

Her girls have gone to bonfires, but this was their first overnight camping trip.

"I don't think they're going to notice anything — nothing is amiss — we're out camping and having fun and hopefully that association, just camping and having fun, is just going to carry on.

"It's going to be an annual thing, for sure."