A Profound Closeness

For many of us this was an especially emotional evening because we held our last Spirit Fire of the summer. The Spirit Fire is another of the long traditions at Rockbrook, something that’s been a closing ceremony for every session since the camp’s founding more than 100 years ago. It’s a campfire ceremony held on the large rock (“Vesper Rock”) overlooking the camp lake. Surrounded by huge white oak and hemlock trees, the entire camp gathers there dressed in our red and white uniforms. In the same fire ring as generations of Rockbrook girls have done in the past, we build a great campfire. We begin near dusk, so as the surrounding woods turn from green to blue to grey and finally to black, the orange glow of the campfire looks gorgeous. With crickets and frogs chirping, and the sound of the waterfall into the lake faintly splashing in the background, we create an almost dreamy setting.

The Spirit Fire program provides an opportunity to recall and reflect upon the rich experiences we shared during the session. We sing favorite traditional camp songs and listen as fellow campers and counselors share their thoughts about their time at camp. For example, we sing “How Did we Come to Meet Pal” and “The Streams and the Mountains,” just two favorites. The speakers are selected from all age groups (Juniors, Middlers, Seniors, and Hi-Ups) and from both first-year and returning counselors.

The speeches tonight confirmed what we’ve all been experiencing this session— a profound closeness, a special feeling of connection and comfort shared with the others at camp. One word that kept coming up was “home.” Campers described feeling “at home” here at Rockbrook. One simply said, “When I’m at camp, I’m home.” And a counselor put it perfectly, “Rockbrook is my home, not because of the place, but because of the people.” All of these speakers realized that as camp enlivens the best part of ourselves, as we live those core relationship values of kindness and caring, we make the best friends of our lives. Through the day, we find our true selves relaxing into the generous arms of a supportive community.

That’s why the Spirit Fire is bittersweet. It’s a wonderful reminder of why these girls love camp, of why, for many, it’s their favorite time of the year. Nowhere else do they feel this good and have these kinds of close relationships. But the Spirit Fire also marks the end of the session and the time when we must soon say goodbye. Camp friends are the best friends, but they are also usually seen only once a year. Closing camp for this reason is always sad.

It’s been especially gratifying this session to see your girls enjoy the special experiences of camp, to learn and grow individually, and to forge so many close camp friendships. We are so grateful to everyone— campers, staff, and parents alike —for helping make this session so successful. Thank you! We know Rockbrook means as much to all of you as it does to us. We are already looking forward to being together again next summer.

summer camp counselor

A Rockbrook Slumber Party

The surprise everyone was waiting for was finally revealed last night. Planned from the very first day of camp, this was a well-kept secret all session long. The CA campers (9th graders) presented their banquet, an all-camp party to celebrate the session and our time together at camp. What’s kept a secret is the theme of the party. Only the CAs and their counselors know the theme— until the event happens.

summer camp party surprise

Based on the theme, the CA girls decorate the inside of the dining hall, dress in costume, serve particular food, perform skits and choreographed group dances, and play special music. So what was the theme this session? It was a “slumber party” banquet!

Imagine going to a huge slumber party of 160 girls all in the same room. That’s what we had at this banquet. The CAs all dressed as party guests in pajamas and slippers, while their counselors dressed as “moms” in velour tracksuit loungewear. All of the campers first removed their shoes before entering the “bedroom” where the sleepover would take place. On floor-to-ceiling paper panels, the CAs had painted all sorts of things to make the dining hall look like a bedroom set up for a slumber party. They painted balloons, bedroom furniture, a TV with Netflix, a diary, a telephone, an invitation, board games, sleeping bags, slippers, nail polish bottles, a book shelf, a closet of clothes hanging, eye masks, pajamas, a lava lamp, and Polaroid photos. These colorful wall decorations, plus the streamers, fairy lights and party hats made the whole scene fun and festive.

For food, they served Rick’s homemade pizza as the main “movie night” entrée. They had popcorn too, of course. And with a nod to the moms, they also served carrot and celery sticks. They gave each camper a small can of soda to drink and for dessert offered ice cream sandwiches, adding to the candy treats scattered across the tables.

In addition to playing a few classic slumber party games like Charades, painting nails, and Telephone, some interesting drama unfolded when one of the campers went “missing” during a game of hide and seek. Where was Virginia!? A little later someone dressed as a ghost appeared at the party to scare everyone as a prank! And it was Virginia! The velour tracksuit moms got in on the fun too when they performed a dance number for everyone. At one point a counselor dressed as a pizza delivery guy arrived to announce the main course of the meal.

Between scenes in these skits and the CAs delivering platters of food from the kitchen, everyone was up and dancing. It was an explosion of joy at times with the entire camp jumping up and down to a favorite song. That’s the feeling of a banquet. It’s incredibly fun, with friends all around, loud singing and dancing, and enough food and treats to fuel the energy.

These girls have grown so close over their time together at camp, it’s completely natural now to celebrate like this together. Toward the end of the banquet, emotions rise and even a few tears get mixed with the non-stop hugging. This makes it the best kind of party— one that brings you closer to your friends attending. The girls loved this banquet. It’s easy to see why!

summer camp party kids

Room for Exploration

At Rockbrook, our goal is to create a space that encourages independence. One way we do this during ordinary camp days is to preserve blocks of free time for the girls. For example, there are two free swims when the lake is open— one before lunch and the second before dinner. Free time is also great for a quick game of gaga ball or tetherball, to join the Rockbrook runners, hang out on the hill enjoying the mountain view, or just to take a shower. Campers are free to wander around and decide what they’d like to do. These are our typical times of beloved unstructured time that fosters room for exploration.

Something new this summer is Free Choice Saturday! This is a unique Saturday schedule we plan for only certain weeks of the summer, like today when only our Third session campers are here. It begins with all of the campers and staff coming together for an Assembly on the Hill. This lets us introduce the fun activity options happening around camp later in the afternoon. We also explain to the campers that they are able to visit any of the activities and are free to stay for as long as they would like! We are granting them the freedom to explore the options, and spend the afternoon as they like.

How does this work? We make sure to involve all of our staff to create some REALLY fun and unique activity options. This excites our campers to want to do them all! We also try to include a variety of different types of activities— some that are outdoorsy, some sports related, and others crafty, for example.

This Saturday, campers had the option to:

  • Watercolor at the creek by Curosty – On a hot day, what better way to cool off and unleash your creative side by dipping your toes, and your paint brush, in the cool water of the creek?
  • Gaga with Gagas at Gaga – A silly spin on the much beloved game of gaga ball! To make things more interesting we played gaga ball, dressed as “gagas” or grandparents, and listened to Lady Gaga.
  • Coke dives at the lake – A classic game that campers and staff love. Did you know Coca Cola, or any other non-diet soda, sinks when thrown in water? Well, it does! And it makes quite the game when you throw 48 cans of soda to the bottom of the lake in order to fish them back out to enjoy.
  • Flower crowns – A popular choice we have been doing all summer! Campers stopped by the dining hall porch to make the flower crown of their dreams.
  • Rockbrook Biathlon – Ever heard of a biathlon? It’s an olympic sport involving snow skiing and riflery. We put a Rockbrook spin on the sport and had a group of campers running/walking our Rockbrook Runners Loop, while making pit stops at archery and riflery to enjoy some fun at the ranges, before finishing their lap.
  • Metalsmithing with Keri Zink – We brought in a local artist and metalsmith from Brevard for a metalsmith workshop. Campers went down to our woodshop and Keri helped teach them the art of metalsmithing by making bangle bracelets.

We also had two of our junior cabins visiting the wonderful Pucker Up Berry Farm, a cabin of middlers flying by on the zipline, and some friends finishing up glazing their pottery before the kilns were loaded last night.

We had so many fun options making it almost impossible to choose what to do!! Luckily, there wasn’t a wrong choice so everyone at camp got to partake in lots of Free Choice Saturday fun.

A Sunday in Candy Land

Sundays at Rockbrook slow down a bit. We paused our regular activity schedule to give us some time to reflect about camp life and to enjoy an afternoon all-camp event of some sort. It begins by letting everyone sleep an extra 30 minutes and come to breakfast in their pajamas. Cabin chores can be done later in the morning, so most everyone sleeps in and stumbles to breakfast in a warm sweatshirt over their pajamas.

camp theme ceremony about adventure

By mid-morning, everyone dresses in their camp uniform (white shirt and shorts with a red tie for campers) and assembles around the flagpole on the hill for a short flag raising ceremony conducted by the Hi-Ups. They raise the flag and we all recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Today the weather was threatening rain in the morning, so instead of walking to the Chapel area located past the end of the lower line, we made our way to the gym for the ceremony.

“Chapel” is not a religious ceremony at Rockbrook, despite its traditional name. Instead, we understand it as a time for us to recognize some of the important values and concepts we all hold as a community. We’ve started to understand “chapel,” for this reason, as an acronym standing for “Celebration of Happiness, Adventure, Peace, Earth and Love.” In addition to these, past chapel themes have been Friendship, Honesty, Compassion, and Community, to name a few. These are all experiences that we find at camp and we can endorse no matter what a camper’s religious upbringing. The different age groups take turns selecting the theme for Chapel, and then designing the program of songs and speeches that address the theme. Sarah always contributes a few thoughts on the theme too. She usually does this by reading a children’s book, and then commenting on how the book speaks to the theme.

Today, the Juniors presented their theme: “Adventure.” They sang a few Disney songs about adventure and the bravery it often requires. Sarah read The Fossil Girl, a story about Mary Anning, who lived in England and discovered the world’s first complete fossil of an Ichthyosaurus when she was just 10 years old. It’s a true story of a young girl whose persistence and daring makes her success possible.

The day’s highlight came after rest hour when we held a Candy land themed Carnival down on our grassy landsports field. This all-camp event featured 2 water based inflatables, silly games, upbeat music and special food. The girls came dressed in their swimsuits, and in the bright sun of the afternoon, climbed an inflatable waterslide to splash into the pool at the bottom. The other was a wild two-person race obstacle course that ended in another pool. We had a lawn sprinkler going too, so anyone could cool off if they wanted.

There were several carnival games to play as well: a life-sized Candy Land game that involved “rolling” a giant die, tossing an inflated donut challenge, a beanbag toss game, a dance competition game, and a strange game that challenged players to use only their feet to unwrap a giant ball of candy encased in plastic wrap. In all of the games, there were small candy treats and small toys to win.

For food, we had a special treat made by Jenny’s Mini Donuts, a local food truck. Each person from each cabin group got to choose between cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar mini donuts. They were a huge hit!

Bare-footed and excited, the campers zoomed from game to game, cooling off in the water events, eating the candy they won, and dancing with their friends to the music. The girls cheered for each other on the obstacle course and laughed with every splash at the bottom of the water slide. It was an exciting event, really an ideal way to spend the afternoon at camp.

summer camp carnival spray

Textures of Camp

If I had to define the gist of this blog, I’d say its goal is both to describe what happens at camp, and to explain why Rockbrook is what is, does what it does, and makes a difference for the people here. If you ask anyone who attends camp to convey what’s so special about it, they’re bound to struggle, and finally throw up their hands and say, “you just don’t get it.” I’ve been working at this task for almost 20 years, and I still feel there’s more to say. If discussing camp was a simple thing, you’d think I would have figured it out by now, but I haven’t! Sure, I have my theories, but they’re certainly incomplete.

Let me today interpret a few recent photos you’ve seen in the online gallery.

rockbrook camp muffin girl

Muffins! You may have heard of our famous muffin break, that special time between morning activity periods (around 11am) when we serve a freshly baked muffin to all the campers and staff members. When the bell rings to change morning activities, everyone detours toward the dining hall porch where the Hi-Ups pass out the day’s muffin. Everyday it’s a surprise flavor too! It could be “cherry white chocolate,” “pumpkin chocolate chip,” “funfetti sprinkles,” or classic “blueberry,” for example. The baker sometimes creates amazing unique flavors, like when she made “key lime pie” muffins, and the legendary “cookie dough” muffins that where topped with a small dollop of cookie dough. Realizing that the girls could use a mid-morning snack, and loving fresh baked goods herself, Sarah invented the idea of muffin break. Ever since, and probably forever more, we all enjoy muffins at Rockbrook.

two camp kids in woodworking shop

Woodworking! It’s our newest activity addition at Rockbrook and is quickly becoming one of the most popular. In the wood shop, located behind the lower pottery studio, the girls are measuring, cutting, shaping, gluing, drilling and sanding pieces of wood. They’re learning these basic woodworking skills while they make wooden journal covers, cutting boards, sculpted candle holders, or secret boxes. Along the way, they are using true woodworking tools like pull saws, block planes, chisels, rasps, tape measures, drills, and clamps. This is an activity that really empowers the girls and gives them a great sense of accomplishment when they have a finished project to take home. It’s a great example of camp proving to them they are more powerful than they think. No wonder it’s popular!

summer camp kid playing gagaball

Gaga ball! You may not have heard of this group game, but it’s always a big attraction at camp. During any block of free time, there’ll be a dozen or more girls crowded around our gaga ball “pit.” The game is a form of dodgeball and was invented in Israel in the 1970s. All of the players start in the pit and then swat a small rubber ball around trying to hit other players with the ball. If hit, a player is “out” and must hop out and over the wall to wait until the game is over— when only one player remains. Each game only takes a few minutes to play, so even if you’re out, you’ll be back in to play another game shortly. One variation allows players who are out to reach over the wall and hit the ball. If they hit it and get someone else out of the game, they get to go back in. Gaga ball is a fast paced game that’s easy to learn and fun to play, especially with a large group.

summer camp girl standing with horse

Horseback riding! Rockbrook is known for its riding program and, as you might guess, attracts girls who love riding. This is why we have so much of it going on. During the 4 activity periods each day, we’ll have up to 6 different mounted lessons occurring simultaneously— girls on horses learning to walk their horse through a course, to find the right posting rhythm while trotting their horse, and to canter over cross rails and jumps. There are lessons for all skill levels. The girls learn to tack up their horses and how to take care of their stalls. For those really excited about horses, there is our “stable club” which gives girls a chance to work even more with the Rockbrook horses— washing them, feeding and watering them, and taking care of their feet. With 32 horses currently at the riding center, there’s always plenty to do…. and usually plenty of girls eager to help.

rain storm at summer camp

Rain! This afternoon, like many afternoons around here, we had a brief thunderstorm pass over camp. In a way, these are welcome breaks from the heat, but they can also include lightning. To help us be safe during these storms, we have a lightning warning system that automatically sends out a loud horn-like sound whenever lightning is detected near camp. The campers and staff know that when they hear this sound, they should immediately take shelter in a building. The lifeguards clear the lake. Riders dismount from their horses. Tennis players, and everyone outside, moves inside. This lightning system continually monitors the storm, and when there has been no additional lightning in the area for 20 minutes, sounds an “all clear” horn signaling everyone that it’s now OK to resume their regular activities. The system works great, usually giving us plenty of notice before a rainstorm is upon us. Today that storm lasted about 45 minutes, just long enough to play a quick card game in the dining hall or ballgame the gym before heading back out.

Camp is so many things. These blog posts can only give a hint as to its depth, just like the photo gallery can only capture a handful of brief moments among millions each day. There’s cool grey fog in the mornings and golden sunsets at dusk, but in between there are Rockbrook girls woven into the textures of camp life. It’s a full life, rich with new experiences, a good life, for sure.

camp girls making hearts on sunset

A Rich Way to Be

Today we proved once again that Rockbrook girls love to go whitewater rafting, as we spent the day over at the Nantahala River. It was back in the early 1980s when Rockbrook received a Forest Service permit to run rafting trips on the Nantahala. Rockbrook is still the only girls camp to have this type of permit. This allows us to take everyone who might wish to go (though only Middlers and Seniors are old enough), use our own equipment, train our own guides, and take trips at our convenience. Over the years, whitewater rafting has become the most popular adventure trip we offer. I’d say 95% of the girls eligible to go will sign up for one of the trips. Today 71 people rafted the Nantahala in two groups, with half going in the morning and the other half after lunch— two trips in one day.

Take a look at the online photo gallery of today’s rafting and you’ll see right away that the girls had a fantastic day on the river. Something about rafting inspires even more silliness, more laughter, and more frolicking. While rafting, they’re posing for the camera, making “high fives” with their paddles, “playing dead,” and recreating movie scenes, for example. Even though they have to paddle the boats now and then, the splashing water and bumps from the rapids keeps things playful and exciting.

summer camp rafting thrills

Today’s weather was ideal for rafting too— hot and sunny, which is nice when combined with the chilly 50-degree water of the Nantahala. The 9-mile section of the river takes us about 2 hours to raft. It’s a series of calm floating sections and wild whitewater rapids with names like “The Bump,” “Patton’s Run,” “Delbar’s Rock,” and “Surfer’s Rapid.” Like most things at camp, a big part of the fun of rafting comes from the fact that you’re doing it with friends. This makes every surprising bump hilarious, especially when someone falls out of the raft and needs a pull to get back in, or when “riding the bull” on the front of the raft ends up in a fall backwards into the boat, feet waving in the air. The final rapid of the trip is the Nantahala Falls, a class-III, double drop rapid that is powerful and fun. It never fails to get everyone screaming, and at the bottom, to create feelings of celebration after making it through. It’s the perfect highlight ending for a day of adventure.

Back at camp in time for dinner… well actually about 20 minutes late, which meant we joined the meal already in motion, the girls were surprised to find the dining hall tables rearranged and everyone sitting in different places (not in their cabin groups as usual). There were 12 large tables, one for each month, because it was “birthday night!” Everyone was seated according to their birth month. Plus, there were some amazing costumes on display. It was a “not so scary Halloween” costume dinner, with wild hats, wigs, sunglasses, colorful shirts and dresses. Each month had its own decorated cake to share as well. With funny halloween-themed music playing, it was s party!

costumed summer camp girls

Keeping the costume theme going, our evening program was an all-camp dance in the gym. Our friend and local DJ, DJ Marcus, was set up with his sound and light equipment when the girls arrived in waves. Soon the gym was packed with girls jumping and singing along to their favorite pop songs. I’m always impressed how Marcus will mix in a few group dances like the “Cha Cha Slide” to encourage everyone, even the more reserved girls, to join in the moves.

Walking up the hill after the dance, one of the girls who had also gone rafting said to me she felt “pretty tired, in a good way.” “Me too,” I thought. Camp life is generally full of action, keeping us moving throughout the day. All the chatting, smiling and laughing, plus the intensely stimulating things we do— climbing, riding, creating, rafting, dancing, etc. —makes this a rich way be. We’re not zoning out in front of a glowing screen. We’re actively engaged with real world textures and sensations, bolstered by an incredibly enthusiastic and supportive group of people. There’s really nothing, nothing this good, quite like it !

Kids Being Kids

There’s a certain power to kids being kids. Especially when together and when fully involved with some kind of real world activity, when actually doing something physical with other kids. You might just call that “play,” but it can be more than that. Today at camp was rife with that power. It was our first full day of camp activities and we saw it everywhere.

silly camp zipline crew

After a yummy breakfast of Rick’s homemade oatmeal, fresh cut fruit, granola, yogurts and cereal, everyone at camp fanned out all over to get started with the whole range of camp activities. Each camper had chosen their activity schedule the night before, and now it was time to begin with the first of the four today.

All ten of the craft activities sprang to life. Girls were soon weaving colorful yarns on looms in Curosty with Lucy. They were pinching and rolling clay in one of the 2 pottery studios. They were learning to tie special knots to make their first friendship bracelet. They were twisting t-shirts and dripping dye on them, sticking scraps of paper to “memory boxes,” weaving wet reeds to make baskets, sewing pillows, dipping brushes into watercolor paints, and carefully measuring thin planks of wood before making their first cuts in woodworking. Many art projects had begun!

Sports too! The campers shot rifles and bows with .22 caliber bullets and arrows hitting their paper targets. They balanced on the beam after stretching in the gymnastics area of the gym. The tennis courts saw various tennis drills and short games. The gaga ball pit also was stirred up by game after game, with girls jumping and swatting as the ball bounced in their direction. For something more relaxed, there were yoga classes being held in the hillside lodge. Of course the lake, which (after to the dining hall!) is probably the most popular place in camp, was humming with fun as the girls zipped down the water slide, invented silly poses while jumping off the diving board, and just played around on different floating toys. As the weather was perfectly warm and sunny throughout the day, the lake was a great place to be.

The first riding lessons also took place today, with the campers who wanted to ride meeting new horses. There were riders in every ring walking, trotting and cantering their way around. The outdoor adventure staff offered climbing on the Alpine tower, trips through the zip line course here at camp, a hiking trip to High Falls in the Dupont State Forest, and chances to begin learning the basics of whitewater kayaking down at the lake.

old time jug band campfire

Dinner was a hotdog picnic on the hill— dogs (and veggie dogs), buns and regular “fixins,” homemade coleslaw, salad and potato chips. We also had freshly baked cookie bars for dessert. With ideal, almost cool, evening weather, we all enjoyed a breezy feeling dinner that was just the right balance of hanging out and silliness.

Tonight’s evening program was an all-camp campfire we call “Jug Band.” This is a silly program of traditional Appalachian songs and stories that the counselors, Hi-Ups and other directors present. Sarah dresses up like an old woman named “Sayree” and brings her fiddle to play. Tonight a guitar and ukelele joined in to play “She’ll be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountian,” “Mountain Dew,” and “Little Cabin in the Woods,” which were clear favorites with the campers. This was classic camp fun, and an excellent way to end the day.

It was wonderful to feel the energy of kids being kids at camp. Everyone seemed happy and excited, and nicely settled in. These camper are already feeling comfortable and enjoying camp life. My hunch is that it’ll soon be even better!

completely goofy kids at camp

About One Minute

On a day like this, it takes about one minute around here for signs of camp to appear. Today was the opening day of our Third and August Mini sessions, a day when we welcomed a new group of girls to Rockbrook. For some of these girls, this was the first time they had ever seen the camp in person. They may have studied our website and watched a few of the videos there, but they had not yet experienced camp life. Others were returning to camp, eager to see camp friends and relive what they love about Rockbrook. For everyone this was the start, the day they’d been anticipating for months.

excited camp staff jumping

It may have been the start, but from the very first moment we had smiling girls, excited counselors, and easy friendships forming. Out of every arriving car stepped a camper itching to get started. There was also some jitteriness, but that too seemed par for something this new and exciting. Right away campers were meeting other girls, greeting their counselor, and learning the names of everyone. In some cases friends would recognize each other and run toward each other screaming with delight ready for a long awaited reunion hug.

Immediately, girls were playing games and joining others on the hill to take a turn smacking the tetherball. They were unfolding their crazy creek chairs, side by side, to have a conversation. They were gathering their things and, together with their bunkmates, tackling the task of making their beds, stringing fairy lights, and arranging everyone’s trunks in their cabins. The girls were wearing their wood-chip nametags and their Rockbrook t-shirts. They were already walking with a buddy, sometimes holding hands, confidently making their way around. In their first moments at camp, these girls were off!

summer camp introduction game

Right before lunch, the whole camp assembled in the shade of the big walnut tree on the hill for a few songs and introductions. All the directors said hello, as well as the group of 10th grade Hi-Ups. Even Felix, the camp dog, made an appearance, happily the focus of many petting hands.

Somehow it’s become a tradition of sorts to serve Rick’s homemade mac-n-cheese for lunch on opening days. It’s probably because it’s such good comfort food and the girls love it. It’s got three or four different kinds of cheese and a crunchy breadcrumb topping that makes it delicious. Sautéed fresh vegetables and cut juicy watermelon rounded out the meal.

summer camp lake waterfront

Camp tours came next with every cabin group eventually making it down to the lake for our “swimming demonstrations.” This is a chance to learn about the waterfront area, our tag system and all the opportunities to swim each day at camp. Each girl took turns jumping off the dock, swimming and treading water to demonstrate how comfortable she is in the chilly mountain water. With the lifeguards in the water for encouragement, most everyone did well and received a blue tag for the tag board.

Later this afternoon, the counselors took turns performing brief skits as a way to advertise the different activity options to the campers. Using costumes, songs, and dances, and they gave the campers a chance to learn about the activities and to see who will be teaching. It will be helpful for the campers to know this when they select their first schedule of activities later this evening.

It’s been a beautiful day to get the session started. Camp life is appearing all around, and with the start of activities tomorrow, we’ll see it truly blossom. I can already tell these girls are going to jump right in.

rockbrook felix hello

The Surprise of Camp

After the excitement and intense celebration of the banquet last night, the mood shifted for our closing campfire. This “Spirit Fire” has been a tradition at Rockbrook for its more than 100 year long history. It is a special time to celebrate each session by gathering around a campfire to reflect a little about camp, to sing a few special songs, and to mark our time together with a shared candlelight ceremony. With everyone dressed in their red and white uniforms, complete with red ties for campers, we fan out across the low wooden benches around the campfire area near the lake. All of the campers, counselors and directors fit snuggly in that space, shoulder to shoulder, all focused on the great fire lit up front.

girl camp true friends

The program features several traditional songs that are perhaps a little less silly or raucous and a little more serious or significant. We sing “In the Heart of a Wooded Mountain,” for example, which we call the “camp song.” It describes Rockbrook as a “fairyland of beauty where friendships so true are born.” We sing “How Did We Come to Meet Pal,” a song that reminds us that camp teaches “the meaning of the real worth of friendship born to last.” Another favorite song we sing at Spirit Fire is called “The Streams and the Mountains.” It has a nice waltz beat and cheerful melody as it evokes the feeling of camp, “a special place for which we yearn.”

The most interesting part of the event is the speeches given by campers of all ages and a few staff members. These short reflections about camp weave between songs, and are interesting because they reveal how the speakers feel about camp, funny details of their experience and what Rockbrook means to them.

girl camp best friends

Tonight I noticed a theme of sorts running through several of the Spirit Fire speeches. One camper described how she was at first very nervous coming to camp, especially not knowing anyone already attending. After a few days, though, she was surprised how quickly she began to make friends and feel comfortable. Another camper said she was surprised to find Rockbrook people so “friendly and nice.” A first-time counselor found herself surprised how much fun she was having at her summer job. Several campers described how their camp friends were surprisingly closer than their friends at home. One 4-week camper said she was surprised how quickly her session went by.

All of these speakers, you see, talked about being surprised by some aspect of their camp experience. They were pleasantly surprised by Rockbrook. Their worries turned out to be unfounded. They actually made friends easily, were comfortable at camp, found nice people, and had plenty of fun. They found that initial jitters didn’t last, and hiccups were only temporary. It’s hard to believe that camp can be this different, this much better than their non-camp lives, but it is. Surprise!

campers on their final night at camp

Again, many of us found ourselves sniffling and choking up a bit during the speeches, especially when the speakers themselves became emotional. Each reminder that this was our last night together this session made those emotions even more powerful. Each time someone said Rockbrook felt like home, we would hear echoes of soft whimpers.

The Spirit Fire program ends with everyone sharing part of the campfire by lighting a small white candle. Sarah and the other directors first light their candle from the fire, and then pass it along to each camper’s and staff member’s candle. Everyone then forms a circle around the lake facing the water. It’s a beautiful moment to see how strong the spirit of Rockbrook is among everyone there.

Now we have to say goodbye until next summer. We leave a little stronger and more confident, more comfortable at camp, and knowing that this haven in the “heart of a wooded mountain” will always be our home. It’s been an amazing session, one that we will all remember fondly.

summer camp candle ceremony

Rockbrook County Fair

It started way back on the first day of camp this session, the day all of the 9th grade girls, our “CAs,” began talking about the party they’d be planning. To be fair, many of these girls probably had been thinking about this party for months prior to camp. Some even began talking about how they’d throw this party last summer. Of course, I’m referring to the “Banquet,” the end-of-session blow out party everyone at camp looks forward to. Ask anyone and you’ll quickly learn that the Banquet is a big deal at Rockbrook.

girl singer wearing gold dress

That first day weeks ago is when the CAs took a hike out of camp where they could brainstorm ideas privately and narrow down options to a single theme for their party. This group started with about 60 different ideas, but by the end of the hike had landed on the idea of a county fair. They wanted a country aesthetic with farm animals, boots and hats, but also the festivities of a fair. Ultimately, they settled on the title, “Rockbrook County Fair.”

But this was no ordinary county fair. It had folks dressed in western wear like flannel shirts, jeans, cowboy boots and hats, but also attending were quite a few world famous celebrities. It’s hard to say who was more popular, but we had both Taylor Swift and Dolly Parton at the Rockbrook fair, each dressed up and ready to perform. Also attending was Hannah Montana and Miley Stewart.

Of course, there were also plenty of animals, including Jessie the cow, Gary the goat, Rufus the dog, Fried the chicken, and Betty the black sheep. There was a particularly pink prize pig, too.

Attending the fair, there was granny Meemaw and old man Peepaw. All of these characters were played by the CA girls. Their costumes were fantastic! They also made a fun sticker shaped like a fair entrance ticket, and gave one to all of the campers.

summer camp party decor

They also had the entire interior of the dining hall decorated with scenes from a county fair. There were signs for county fair games, fair food, and song lyrics. They painted large colorful scenes on paper that covered every inch of the dining hall walls. With streamers and strings of lights strung in the rafters, it was a a fun, festive scene. They had arranged the tables to leave a large area open in the middle of the floor, which quickly became a dance floor whenever a new song was played. On the tables was a colorful program, plus a surprise treat of some candy and a variety of sodas.

The CA campers, in between dance numbers, served county fair food too, things like fresh watermelon slices, “Farmer Toby’s Tots,” Meemaw’s mac and cheese, with Peepaw’s Fried chicken, and homemade apple crumble with real whipped cream for dessert.

skit of bandits and sheriffs

There was plenty of dancing, but suddenly a plot began to unfold. During the auctioning of a pig, a bidding war broke out between Taylor Swift and the other celebrities, rapidly increasing the price to more than a million dollars! Just when everyone thought Taylor had won the pig, two robbers burst in and stole the pig! Soon there were two sheriffs on the hunt to recover the stolen pig. With the help of others, they searched for the pig.

While the sheriffs and others were looking for the pig, others in the ensemble performed the “Hoedown Throwdown,” “Our Song,” and finally “9 to 5” as a dance showdown to determine who got the pig. Eventually, the missing pig was located and the entire cast celebrated with more dancing and singing.

Overall this banquet was another huge success because it combined all these fun elements— unique decorations, elaborate costumes, entertaining choreographed dances and skits, party food and treats, plus plenty of opportunities to get up and dance with friends. It was such a unique camp event and a great way to celebrate our time together this session. Singing at the top of their lungs, dancing in big groups, hair bouncing and flying about, this was a party to remember. Everyone seemed to comfortable and happy, excited just to be a part of it. Take a look at the photo gallery, and you’ll see it was an evening of non-stop smiles. Camp is simply great like that!

summer camp country girls
summer camp costume girls party