Summer 2021! Rockbrook’s 100th birthday! It’s hard not to be excited about the coming camp season, but at the same time to wonder what the ongoing Covid-19 health crisis will mean for camp. While there is some good news on the horizon as vaccines become increasingly available, we know the coronavirus will most likely still be a concern this summer, and our planning must include specific steps to maintain the health and safety of our entire camp community.
As we consider additional protocols and how we might modify our current procedures to address these concerns, we’re fortunate to have several sources of expert advice and guidance. Our national accrediting organization, the American Camp Association (ACA), has worked with the CDC and an expert panel of health professionals to publish a “Field Guide for Camps.” Written with input from State Health Departments across the country as well, including North Carolina, this is an ever-updating summary of information and best practices for camps. This Field Guide is excellent, and Rockbrook will use it extensively as we plan for the summer of 2021.
We realize too that the effects of the pandemic and the country’s response to it are still changing, and that therefore our plans must remain flexible as new information becomes clear. We hope you can be patient as we learn more and slowly crystalize the details of our plans. Most importantly, yes, we are actively planning to hold camp at Rockbrook this coming summer.
So how will camp be different in summer 2021? With all of the current health and safety concerns, recognized best practices and Covid-19 information for camps, and a degree of provisionality in mind, we do expect a few changes. For example, to minimize the risk of spreading any infection, we will wear masks when appropriate, change how we gather in large groups, how we schedule our activities, and how we eat our meals.
Here are a few other points of action we are considering in our plans:
Utilize Covid-19 testing for all staff and campers, both as a pre-arrival screening and on-going assessment.
Define cohort groupings: cabins as “families” and larger “neighborhoods.”
Wear masks when appropriate (e.g. when within 6 feet of different cohorts).
Eat meals mostly outside with greater outdoor, covered eating areas.
Enhance our sanitation procedures and emphasize hand washing.
Expand our on-site medical staff and Health Hut procedures.
Alter our opening and closing day procedures to limit contact.
Emphasize outdoor activity whenever possible.
Limit exposure to “non-camp” population generally.
It is likely we will be able to offer most of our core programming for in-camp activities (including rock climbing, ziplining and hiking), as well as most off-site adventure trips.
Again, like us, we hope you will remain flexible as we work to create a safe camp environment. We’re committed to keeping everyone informed as we move toward that goal.
While camp will be different in some ways, we know there will still be the kind of authentic friendship, daily experience with nature, opportunities for creativity and adventure, and the kind of carefree fun the Rockbrook community always provides. More than ever, it seems, we all need camp, so we’re extremely excited about this coming summer at Rockbrook.
Thank you once again for your overwhelming support and encouragement over this past year. It’s been a real comfort to know our camp families love Rockbrook as we do, and a true joy to feel that camp spirit in anticipation of our next summer together.
Meanwhile, if you have any questions about next summer, give us a shout. We are always happy to hear from you!
Sarah and Jeff announce their decision about the 2020 camp sessions amid the CoVid-19 pandemic.
Dear Rockbrook Families,
Thank you for all the encouragement, support and patience you’ve shown us as we have been grappling with the complexities of how camp might operate during the unfolding of the CoVid-19 pandemic.
After weeks of consideration, gathering expert advice and guidance from various state and national authorities, it is still unclear how to bring campers and staff members together for camp, while at the same time keeping everyone healthy.
The recent set of rules given by our state health department define so many restrictions, that taken together, really make it impossible for us to gather as a community, and to recreate what we know and love about Rockbrook.
We are very sorry to say it, but we have made the difficult decision to suspend all of the Rockbrook sessions this summer.
It is very hard for us to give you this news because we know how much everyone has been looking forward to returning to camp, seeing friends, and just being at Rockbrook. We have been looking forward to it too! We all need to get outside, and breathe in the mountain air. We need to dress up and sing, laugh and dance with our friends arm-in-arm. We need to ditch our screens and return to what’s real… our real friends, our real selves, and the real love we feel at camp.
We hope that you will work to re-create some of that camp magic wherever you are this summer – reach out to others you don’t know well, try out a new skill without expecting perfection, and let the silly, carefree side of you out.
We know this is a hard thing. It’s hard for us. It’s hard for everyone. But we also know that you are strong, resilient Rockbrook girls.
Most importantly, we want to stay in touch with all of you this summer as we all work through this crazy time. Next summer will be Rockbrook’s 100th Birthday, and we very much hope to see all of you here. We will be in touch more about that in the coming months. We would love to connect with each of you soon to discuss your individual situation.
We can’t wait to see every one of you again. You’ll always have place here in the “heart of the wooded mountain,” just as Rockbrook will always have a place in your heart.
Sending Rockbrook love,
Sarah and Jeff
These are a few of the questions many of you are asking right now. We hope you find the answers helpful.
Rockbrook is foremost a close-knit community, a place where we do everything together. Our camp spirit is literally fueled by the close relationships between the friends we make here. This summer, given the real health concerns of CoVid-19 infection, we would have to follow so many distancing requirements, group size limitations, and other program changes, we simply would not be able to revive that camp spirit we all expect. There are many factors that led to this decision— too many to mention here —but for Rockbrook, it’s currently impossible to offer a healthy, positive camp experience during this unfolding pandemic.
What happens next?
This is very difficult for all of us, but especially for your children. We hope first that you will take time to reassure them, and empathize with their feelings of loss. For many, Rockbrook is a true home, something deeply meaningful and essential that can’t be replaced. Listen a lot. Answer your child’s questions about CoVid-19. Without trying to “fix” the situation, offer whatever comfort you can. Reassure them that Rockbrook will still be here next year.
What about the tuition paid for this summer?
We hope you will look forward to next summer and apply your camp fees to a 2021 session. This will be a huge help to Rockbrook as we consider the reality of surviving for two years on one summer of income. If you do roll your paid tuition forward, you will still be eligible for a full refund before February 1, 2021. We are likewise committed to giving you the option of a full refund, if you choose.
Why do you prefer families roll their tuition forward to 2021?
Since September last year, Rockbrook has been relying on tuition deposits to maintain and improve its facilities, support its full-time leadership team, and prepare for this summer. Refunding 2020 tuition would be a significant financial burden for Rockbrook, while choosing to roll your paid tuition forward to 2021 will allow us to manage our cash and expenses as we look toward next summer. We certainly recognize this may not be feasible for all families, and we respect everyone’s individual choice to chose a refund instead.
How will I indicate my preference with respect to tuition paid?
We ask that you submit an online form to indicate your preference. Login to your CampMinder account using your email and password, then select the “Forms and Documents” Icon. You will find several options listed, along with an opportunity to ask questions and offer comments. You can also indicate which 2021 session you prefer. Please note that you must complete this form for each child. If you would like to discuss the options listed, or if you need assistance completing the form, please contact us. Even if you have already communicated with us about your preference, we ask that everyone complete this form before July 1.
What are the dates for next summer?
First Session: Sunday, June 6 – Thursday, June 24 June Mini Session: Sunday, June 13 – Thursday, June 24 Second Session: Sunday, June 27 – Thursday, July 22 July Mini Session I: Sunday, June 27 – Thursday, July 8 July Mini Session II: Sunday, July 11 – Thursday, July 22 Third Session: Sunday, July 25 – Thursday, August 12 August Mini Session: Sunday, August 1 – Thursday, August 12 July Kayak Camp: Friday: July 23 — Saturday, July 31 July Horse Camp: Sunday: July 25 — Saturday, July 31
What about CA and Hi-Up campers?
We know how disappointed our senior campers are to miss out on these special Rockbrook experiences this summer. While we can’t recreate this year for them, we are already working to expand our opportunities for Rockbrook girls as they move through our leadership program. For now, we hope all our 2020 CAs will apply to be Hi-Ups next summer and all our 2020 Hi-Ups will apply to be CITs. There will be more details about that process in the coming months.
What if my camper was on a waitlist?
We will reach out later in the summer to provide you an opportunity to register before we open to new 2021 camper applications.
Can I make a donation to help Rockbrook?
Yes! Many parents have already asked if they can donate the fees they have paid, either as a tax deductible contribution to our scholarship fund, the “Redbird Endowment,” or as a direct contribution to the Rockbrook operating budget. Both will help Rockbrook during this challenging time. The online preference form mentioned above will allow you to indicate if you wish to donate all or a portion of your tuition to either fund.
Will you be offering some kind of “virtual” camp this summer?
We will be working on ways to connect with camp and with camp friends over the summer. We hope to sustain our camp community for both our campers and staff. You can also see us on Instagram (@rockbrookcamp) and Facebook (Rockbrook Camp).
If this mess clears up during the summer, will you reconsider this decision?
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely. While we can’t predict how the CoVid-19 pandemic will unfold, gathering the resources and staff to operate camp later will be too difficult.
Can I come visit this summer?
Yes! We are always happy to offer tours of camp. An appointment will be required for tours, but we can accommodate just about any day or time.
How else can I help Rockbrook?
Keep being awesome Rockbrook families! We’re so grateful for all the caring messages of trust and support you’ve been sending, the encouragement during this difficult decision-making process, and the confidence you’ve shown about camp being a place for your children in the future. Thank you! Next summer will be Rockbrook’s 100th anniversary and we’re planning lots of special surprises. Help us spread the word!
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!