Chelsea Lauren/WireImage
Michele Bird
August 26, 2016 6:00 am

Some may know this place as the punk rock summer camp of their dreams. Others may think it’s just like any other concert. To me, the Vans Warped Tour has always felt like home. It’s the place where I grew up, and a place that I can’t seem to leave behind.

My first experience with the Vans Warped Tour brings me back to the summer of 2004. I was a fresh-faced teen who had never before been to a festival of this magnitude. From mosh pits to mohawks, I immersed myself in the madness and excitement of the tour’s culture.

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I give a lot of credit to my cousin, who opened my eyes to what would soon become a longstanding tradition for me year after year.

I was lucky enough to have a set of parents who unconditionally supported my love for the music scene.

They were always the first to volunteer to drive; they spent countless hours waiting in line for doors to open, and they watched the show at venues both near and far. If it weren’t for them, especially my dad — who came more often — my VWT excursions simply wouldn’t have been possible.

With each passing summer, the VWT quickly became the staple event of the season for me and my friends. We created a seemingly endless amount of handmade t-shirts as we scoured the lineup well in advance to figure out which bands we wanted to see.

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We tackled long lines to meet our favorite artists, and sang all day until we had no voices left by night. It was always the summer day we never wanted to end, and the one we couldn’t wait to see again.

Sometimes the most unsuspecting places teach you the most valuable lessons.

I learned the value of a solid work ethic after transitioning from fan, to volunteer, to concert photographer in a matter of summers.

I formed strong, unbreakable bonds with friends old and new.

Suzi Pratt/WireImage

Whether it’s my first or one hundredth VWT, the nostalgia and memories will never disappear. I’ve discovered that I can consistently count on this tour to simultaneously bring together everything I love: family, friends, and music. It has never been just a rock show; instead, it became a community.

Most of all, I found a place that will always remind me of my youth — no matter how old I get.

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