Say hello to Casey Blair, Rockbrook’s new Program Director!
Everyone at Rockbrook is thrilled to announce that Casey Blair will begin serving as the full-time Program Director at camp. If you’ve attended camp recently, you already know Casey because over five years she has been a cabin counselor, Line Head, lifeguard, and most recently the Staff Coordinator. In addition to joining the team of directors, she now will be planning and organizing camp activities and summer events, managing the equipment and supplies for activities, and assisting special program staff members.
Casey was born and raised in Louisville Kentucky. She attended Centre College in Danville, KY, where she received a Bachelors of Art, majoring in studio art with an emphasis on ceramics. After that, she did an internship at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, working with school groups. From there, she went to University of Louisville, where she received a Master’s in the Art of Teaching (MAT) degree, becoming certified to teach elementary school grades K-5. She did her student teaching at Farmer Elementary and worked with 1st and 4th graders.
Casey is very excited to work at camp year round. She is eager to start planning for next summer, and “getting to talk about camp everyday.” She explained, “the campers keep me coming back— getting to know them, seeing what they have learned at camp and watching how much they have grown throughout the school year is always fun.”
When asked what she loves about camp, she said, “It’s the people. I really love the kind of community that we cultivate here. It is open, welcoming, and encouraging. And of course, I love the North Carolina mountains.”
We closed our third session of camp by gathering around the “Spirit Fire,” our traditional campfire that we have held every summer since the founding of Rockbrook in 1921. Many Rockbrook alumnae talk about the spirit of Rockbrook, but what is that exactly? What is this spirit that camp girls refer to, that we write songs about, and that we feel so intently while here.
If we think of spirit as the defining element of a group, then perhaps Rockbrook spirit is a healthy combination of acceptance and adventure.
Rockbrook girls often stand up at the Spirit Fire and declare that they can be their true selves at camp, that they don’t need to hide behind a facade that is like all of their friends.
At this session’s Spirit Fire, one girl declared that Rockbrook is a place where calling someone “weird” is a compliment. Campers love the fact that they can wear a costume if they choose to and nobody seems to blink an eye. In our most recent chapel program on “individuality,” the campers enjoyed the story of “The Big Orange Splot,” in which a neighborhood all decides to make the most of a mistaken spilled can of paint on a house by transforming each house into the home of their dreams.
This celebration of being creative and accepted is just one feature of the spirit of Rockbrook, but it also seems the other is a sense of daring and adventure. Campers are exposed to so many options of new things to try at camp, and, with their friends by their side to laugh with them, girls are encouraged to try these new things, to go beyond what’s merely comfortable and familiar to them.
It is also fascinating for our current Rockbrook girls to learn more about their predecessors, the campers who came before them. Being our 98th summer, we have been starting to look back and learn more about the women who are the foundation on which our camp began. It is so interesting to learn that those early campers were possibly even more adventurous than our current girls, starting each day with a dip in the lake and setting up exercises before breakfast. They also went on many trips, including the famous three-day canoe trip to Asheville in the old wooden canoes that now decorate our dining hall.
At this session’s Spirit Fire, Sarah read a first-hand account from a camper who attended in the 1930s. It was clear even that many years ago that this Spirit of Rockbrook, of acceptance and adventure, was already a deep part of who the camp was and continues to be. As we look around the campfire at the girls of 2019 who share this same spirit, it is exciting to imagine what they will do with those qualities.
People say you never forget your first banquet at Rockbrook. It’s simply like no other party experience, and for a girl who’s spent time at camp, it’s an incredible cap to the fun of the session. Many girls will tell you it’s their favorite event at camp, something they look forward to, and during the days leading up to it, they can hardly contain their excitement.
Understanding why the banquet is such a memorable and important experience for Rockbrook girls is not too difficult. It’s first of all a sensory overload. The CA campers (9th graders) work hard all session long to accomplish this. They select their secret theme on the first day of their session, and then transform the interior of the dining hall into a new environment using painted banners, lights, balloons, streamers, table decorations, and props. A real opportunity for creativity! These girls then dress in costumes taking on different personalities or roles. They create a playlist of music to complement the theme, and ask the kitchen to cook special foods and snacks to serve.
All of this creates the scene of the party, but what makes it fun is having all your camp friends attending, all the people of camp excited to celebrate their session together, with music, dancing, great food, entertainment, and sweet treats. When friends this close get together, it’s an especially fun event.
It’s so exciting when it’s time to enter the dining hall (which has been hidden all day by sheets hung over the windows while the CAs decorate and prepare). All the campers and staff members, dressed in their camp t-shirts, crawl through the porch to emerge into a line of the dressed CAs and the wildly transformed dining hall. It’s such a great feeling to be surprised like that!
Tonight’s banquet had the title, “Welcome to the Wild West.” It featured girls dressed in black with bandanas hiding their faces— definitely “robbers.” There were two girls dressed as sheriffs on the hunt for those robbers. Cowboys dressed in boots and hats, and square dancers dressed in frilly skirts, performed skits, pausing at times for choreographed dance numbers also. The CA counselors dressed as green desert cacti and performed a dance number as well.
The music was “wild west” related too: “Cotton Eyed Joe,” “These Boot are Made for Walkin’,” and of course, “Old Town Road” were all included, along with a great mix of popular dance hits. Likewise for the food: “tumble tots” (Tater Tots), “sugar cubes” (apple cubes), “cacti” (green beans), “hay bales” (cornbread), really delicious barbecue chicken, and blackberry cobbler for dessert.
We ended the banquet like we have for decades at camp: singing the song “Rockbrook Camp Forever.” The girls stood, arm-in-arm, singing as loudly as they could, “friends true and faithful.” Filled with emotion, the girls ended up singing the song multiple times (with no claps at the end)! Thank you CA girls for a wonderful banquet. The whole camp had a fabulous time.
Saturday is a great day to dig deeper into the activities at camp. It’s the final day of the current 3-day rotation of activities, and at this point in the session, the girls are showing not only a greater interest in what’s happening in each activity area, but also more competence. For example, in the two ceramics studios, it’s been a glazing party. The girls are taking their pottery pieces and carefully painting on different colored glazed, the sculptures, hand-built and wheel-thrown vessels all receiving a coat of glaze. The pottery instructors will fire the kilns tonight, turning the dull glazes into shiny, brightly colored works of art. It will be exciting to open up the kilns tomorrow afternoon and see how all the pieces have turned out.
In the fiber arts cabin, Curosty, many projects were likewise finishing up today. The instructors were helping girls tie off their loom weaving, sew borders on needlepoint pieces, and gather the ends of knitting projects. The large wall weaving on the outside of the cabin is almost filled to the top, and later this week many hands will help embroider details on it.
During the first free swim period today before lunch, the water slide was open to blast girls down into the lake at the bottom. Swimmers were clocking laps, some girls basking in the sun while floating in a tube, while others took turns doing tricks off the diving board. The bright, sunny, warm afternoon made the lake feel really good.
After a passing thunderstorm in the mid-afternoon, which by the way brought out a different beauty of camp, we all enjoyed a picnic dinner on the hill. The kitchen had the grill going all afternoon smoking and cooking hot dogs for everyone. Along with homemade coleslaw, freshly cut watermelon and “blondies” for dessert, we had an amazing meal watching the sun recede toward the mountains.
One of the most anticipated events of the session also happened today: the Camp Carolina Dance. Our Juniors and Middlers stayed here at Rockbrook to welcome the younger boys to our gym where our friend DJ Marcus was ready with his sound and light system to entertain everyone. With the counselors leading the way, the kids jumped and bopped to familiar pop songs as well as the well-known line dances like Cotton Eyed Joe. When things got too hot dancing, folks could take a break outside, and play gaga ball or tetherball instead. Part way through the dance we served everyone a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. They were delicious!
Meanwhile across town, our Senior girls and the Hi-Ups were showing off their moves in the Camp Carolina dining hall. With glitter on their faces, and some dressed in Hawaiian shirts, the girls brought an amazing power to the dance, I think surprising the boys a little. This may have been because the girls outnumbered the boys, but I think these Rockbrook girls were just fully excited to dance. Jumping for two hours, stopping only briefly for a drink of water now and then, it was a sweaty and equally thrilling night. On the ride home several girls remarked that it was “so hot in there, but also really fun,” and “way better than last year!”
Back at camp, it took everyone a little longer than usual to settle down for night, chatting about the dance, cooling off from all the activity, laughing and telling stories about the day. With days like this, that’s to be expected!
The recent streak of days with perfect summertime weather continued today as we woke to a foggy cool morning. As the camp begins to stir and the girls make their way to the dining hall for breakfast, it’s common to wear long pants and a sweatshirt or fleece. The temperature today was about 64 when we woke, so it felt great to cozy up like that. Then as the sun burned off the fog, we soon felt warm and comfortable under bright blue skies and clear sunshine. The temperature climbed to about 83, but with relatively low humidity it again felt really good to be outside. Since we essentially spend all of our time outside —even the cabins are open-air, screened buildings— this kind of weather is inspiring. It makes everything we’re doing pop with more vibrant colors, perhaps a little more pep, and an extraordinary freshness. Yes, it was ideal camp weather.
“Cinnamon Apple” was the surprise muffin flavor today. The bakers in the kitchen start about 7am to be ready for this mid-morning snack. Mixing, scooping, and baking 300 individual muffins takes some time. Having a freshly baked treat like this, though, is definitely a highlight of most everyone’s morning. The muffins are so delicious, it’s challenging to have to limit yourself to just one!
Rockbrook girls know that wearing a costume adds to whatever we’re doing, making things funnier and more fun. That’s why we’ll occasionally declare a costume theme for the day, like today’s “Under the Sea” theme. It was fun to see how the girls and staff members interpreted that theme. They mixed things up with beach attire (Hawaiian shirts, sunglasses, hats), shark and octopus hats, seaweed skirts, and colorful coral leggings. The Hi-Ups and several counselors decorated the dining hall with streamers and painted banners, and an “ocean-related” playlist of music was queued up for all three meals.
There have been a flurry of adventure trips going out this week too. We went rafting on Tuesday, but today Clyde took an excited bunch of girls out to Looking Glass Rock in the Pisgah Forest for an all-day rock climbing adventure. They left early in the morning to reach the south side of the rock face in time to jump on a couple of popular climbs, one called “B52” and another called “Fly By.” Leland and Sarah took a few advanced kayakers to run the rapids of section nine on the French Broad River north of Asheville. Meanwhile, Jayne and Sam offered an overnight camping and canoeing trip on a different section of the French Broad. All of these trips were offered to the girls as options they could choose, switching up their schedule as they like. So many options all on the same day!
We presented another fun option to the girls during dinner when we announced that tonight’s twilight activity would be a shaving cream fight and slip-n-slide held down on the grassy sports field. This is an event of exuberant play. Girls of all ages, and counselors too, dress in their swimsuits, arm themselves with cans of white foam, and proceed to spray wildly being as mischievous as possible splattering unsuspecting friends. Soon, there are wild hairstyles, messages written on bellies, and even some girls completely covered in shaving cream. As you might expect, this makes the slip-n-slide an extra slick ride. Be sure to visit the photo gallery to see some of the wild messy fun of the evening.
It’s been another full camp day, one with plenty of adventure, creativity, and fun with friends. We couldn’t have asked for a better combination of cheerful campers, enthusiastic staff members, weather and camp activities. Life is very good here at Rockbrook!
Today we welcomed another group of eager, excited girls to Rockbrook as we opened the August Mini session. There’s something really special about driving into Rockbrook, early in the morning at the start of a camp session. It’s a reveal of sorts. The gravel driveway slowly winds up the hill from the main road, and then suddenly there’s cool stuff to see: the archery field to the left, the lake to the right with the green and blue water slide on the far end, stacks of colorful kayaks and canoes, and at the crest the hill, a mob of cheering enthusiastic counselors. It feels like you’ve entered another world, and in many ways you have. So many things are inviting and intriguing right away, but it’s obvious also that the people here are good folks. The returning campers already know it, but the energy of camp— friendly, supportive, adventurous, with a huge helping of goofy —is definitely special. These campers have been waiting all year (and all summer) to experience this energetic fun, so finally we can all start. Finally!
While these new girls were arriving, the full session campers began their day like other Sunday mornings with a late breakfast (egg and sausage burritos, yogurts, cereals, and freshly delivered Krispy Kreme doughnuts), our traditional flag raising ceremony (led by the 10-grade campers), and chapel program (this time discussing the theme of “Gratitude”). Afterwards, these girls also had a “choice period,” an opportunity to sign up for a hiking trip to Castle Rock or Rockbrook Falls, a flower picking expedition in the garden, or time in the jewelry-making activity area.
The first event involving the whole camp was an “assembly on the hill,” as we call it. This gathering under the walnut tree on the hill is a chance for everyone to sing a few songs, watch a skit or two, meet the various directors at camp, and hear announcements. The Hi-Ups led everyone in learning a canoeing song, complete with hand motions. The Line Heads awarded, “bend-a-back,” camp spirit, and manners beads, and also announced which cabins would be recognized for having the highest overall inspection scores (winning the “mop award”). For the benefit of the new campers primarily, Sarah also reminded everyone of the boundaries of camp and how our lightning warning system works. Rick’s amazing homemade mac-n-cheese for lunch fueled us up for the swimming demonstrations, quick camp tours, and cabin meetings that came afterwards in the early afternoon.
The main event of the day was an all-camp festival that tapped into different science-related activities, experiments, challenges and games. We held the event right in the center of camp with the different activity stations positioned about, and counselors and Hi-Ups staffing each spot. One challenge was to make a working parachute from a large coffee filter. Another was to build different organic molecules using toothpicks and tiny marshmallows. At a different station, the girls were challenged to build a boat (or anything that floats) using aluminum foil and popsicle sticks. Another group made green sticky “Oobleck” with corn starch and white glue.
A particularly fun challenge was to use only rubber bands to crack open a watermelon. The girls would stretch rubber bands, one by one, around the middle of the melon, gradually adding more pressure. As a couple of cracks began to form after approximately 200 bands wrapped the melon, the group of girls huddled around screamed with delight when the melon suddenly exploded into bits leaving a sticky ball of rubber bands behind.
Of course, a “mad science” event would be incomplete without eccentric costumes— wild teased hair (or wigs!), lab coats, safety goggles, beakers and lab notebooks. Snacks and music helped keep the mood festive while the girls zipped among the activity options. The event was a nice opportunity to play outside together, be a little silly, and perhaps learn a little science along the way.
Tomorrow, we’ll have all the activities filled with enthusiastic campers, ready to give everything a try. It will be a full day of action. Stay tuned!
Many of the inventions of modern society are made, in part, to shield us from the natural sensory experiences of the world. Our climate-controlled homes keep us from having to bundle up on a particularly chilly morning, our insulated cars keep us from experiencing the smells (good and bad) of the city as we commute to work, our many electronic screens train our eyes to stay focused on them, so we end up hardly seeing what happens right in front of us. A hot meal is delivered to us by the click of a button on an app, our headphones keep us from having to engage with others on a crowded elevator. We are “comfortable.”
These inventions are not, on their face, bad. Many have incredible value when it comes to meeting basic needs in an increasingly stressful world where our time is at a premium. And, of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking advantage of some of the luxuries available when you want them. However, as they slowly but surely become accepted as the new normal in our society, the gap between ourselves and the natural world to which we belong also inevitably widens.
At camp, as we intentionally move away from many of the comforts we may take for granted in our lives at home, we begin to gain a new awareness for our senses. Colors quite literally appear brighter and more vivid once our eyes adjust to life without a flickering screen two feet from our faces half the day. Uneven terrain starts to feel comfortable and familiar under our feet after we trek up and down the Rockbrook hill enough times. Dolly’s Ice Cream starts to take on a whole new taste….. well, who are we kidding? Dolly’s always tastes amazing!
Admittedly, even at Rockbrook today we have more modern comforts in place than our great-grandmothers did in 1921. (Nowhere can this be seen more clearly the look on a camper’s face who has just stepped in to the air-conditioned office to ask a question). But, in a world increasingly committed to sanitizing and streamlining our existence for the sake of convenience and efficiency, camp gets us back in touch with the physical world and reminds us of our innate connection to it. Instead of grabbing a bite “because it’s lunchtime,” lunchtime happens because we’re genuinely hungry and ready to eat. Instead of going to sleep “because it’s bedtime,” by the end of the day we’ve used all our energy and are ready to rest. This re-framing allows for a more authentic connection and understanding of ourselves and our place in the world.
Our senses can be the source of many of our greatest discomforts, but also our greatest pleasures. If you aren’t willing to catch a whiff of a skunk every once and a while, you may never get to inhale that first whiff of campfire smoke or fresh mountain air on top of Castle Rock. In our opinion, it’s a trade-off well worth making.