A Multitude of Moments

Every session, I visit each age group’s lodge during a morning assembly to chat with the campers about what makes Rockbrook different from “the real world.”  Campers right away pipe up that people are kind, everyone is included, and that camp events are a lot of fun.  But when we delve deeper, we talk about how to ensure that people are kind, how it can be hard to be nice to people you live with after three weeks, what to do when we make mistakes, and how important it is to do the right thing, even if it is hard, and even if nobody is watching.

I’m always encouraged at the end of these visits, by the sincerity of the answers. And I love it when I see moments of these chats in action.  Like tonight in the dining hall, when I spotted a senior camper helping our youngest junior refill her serving bowl. Or the middler that I spotted cleaning up cups on the hill after a picnic yesterday.  Or the CA camper who walked a younger camper all the way back to the barn this morning because she forgot to leave her boots there. Each day at Rockbrook, there are a multitude of moments for campers to practice and to develop being a kind and caring person.

The program at Rockbrook is designed to give campers increasing independence. As they grow older, so do their responsibilities around camp, with each step helping the camp run smoothly.  Our leadership program for our 15-, 16-, and 17-year-old campers was developed many years ago, and it is still incredibly effective.  These oldest campers see the direct result of their efforts in the experience of the younger campers, from the silly campfire the Hi-Ups led on Monday night to the sparkling plates the CITs cleaned tonight to be ready for tomorrow’s breakfast.

A former Rockbrook counselor put it this way:

I like to think that we become our best selves at Rockbrook because the people around us believe that we can be our best selves.

One of my favorite things about Rockbrook is how much trust it places in the people who live here. We trust our juniors to get to activities on time, create fabulous skits each night, and even refill food from the kitchen. We trust our middlers to be kind to each other, be role models for the juniors, and to embrace the crazy adventures of camp. We trust the seniors to be real leaders, our CAs to plan an amazing banquet, and our HUPs to make sure we all wake up on time.

From ages six to sixteen, we believe in each other to laugh often, love kindly, and be there for one another. It’s no wonder we find it easier to be our best selves — when two hundred people believe that you can do it, we find ourselves proving them right.

We know the campers can do so much, and we depend on all of them to make each day run smoothly, to help take care of camp and each other. And they do!

summer camp teenage friends

As Rich as It Comes

It’s hard to overestimate the amount of activity that occurs in a single day at Rockbrook. It’s even a little mind boggling when you take a detailed look into how the activities, trips, special events, and ordinary moments around camp weave together. Perhaps this multi-layered complexity isn’t surprising when you consider the number of people involved— about 220 campers (almost a record!), 65 cabin counselors (a few more than normal), plus directors, adventure staff members, activity specialist instructors (horseback riding, ceramics, weaving, gymnastics, gardening, woodworking), and all of the support staff in the kitchen, health center, photography, housekeeping and maintenance crews. Every one of these people are engaged everyday, contributing to the community feel of camp, helping and being helped in countless ways.

Go anywhere in camp on any day and you’ll be amazed by the sustained action there. Naturally, the kitchen is buzzing all day long, from 6am when the baker arrives to begin work on the day’s surprise muffin flavor, until about 7:30pm when the evening crew finishes cleaning up and getting things ready for the next day. Likewise for the housekeeping and maintenance crews: they start early and go all day. It’s really true for most everyone at camp. Of course the campers are zipping from one thing to the next, and the staff are teaching and guiding throughout the day. We’re all busy almost all day, from waking up to laying down at night. Life at camp is full!

This life is not low-calorie; it’s as rich as it comes.

Recognizing this richness explains why our daily rest hour is so popular. You might expect some degree of resistance from campers who are asked to climb into their bunks for an hour each day, and when they first arrive at camp, there is a bit of that, but once we match the rhythms of camp, everyone yearns for that mid-day rest. Going up and down the hills of Rockbrook, back and forth to the cabin to change clothes (out of riding pants and into your swimsuit, for example), plus the physical aspects of many activities themselves— flipping in gymnastics, climbing the Alpine tower, paddling a canoe, whacking a tennis ball, or shooting a basketball, and so on —all add up to an active morning. After lunch, everyone needs a nap! Counselors and campers alike.

Today was something we call “Cabin Day.” This is when we take the afternoon and allow each cabin group to do something together. Ordinarily, each camper selects and individual schedule, scattering cabin makes across the many activity options. So cabin day is an opportunity for cabin group bonding, enjoying an afternoon together.

The variety of cabin day activities today was impressive. Groups took short hikes on the camp property to Rockbrook Falls for playing in the water, and Castle Rock for soaking in the long view of the French Broad valley. Some had played a series of relay games at the landsports field. Others devised complex protections for an egg drop game. There was a gagaball tournament, an archery clinic, and a diving board trick show. Other groups worked jewelry making into their time together.

summer camp tennis kids

A few Junior cabins took trips to a local farm to pick flowers and get up close to the resident bunnies and chickens. They also were happy to learn they would be stopping at Dolly’s Dairy bar on the way home, completing the outing.

All of the Mini session Middlers and Seniors spent their evening enjoying a classic mountain thrill: a trip to Sliding Rock. Almost 100 of us arrived ready to slide. With our lifeguards in place at the far end of the pool, the girls were thrilled to slide two-by-two down the 60-foot natural water slide. The water is 55 degrees, and with the sun setting behind the mountain, sliding was as exciting as it was chilly. These girls too made a visit to Dolly’s. There’s something about a rich ice cream treat that makes it the perfect way to end a night out of camp. Rich upon rich! We all love it.

Sliding rock grils screaming

Already Loving It

You may have heard of the special event at Rockbrook called the “Banquet.” This is an all-camp party held at the end of each main session. Our 9th grade campers— the “CAs” —plan and present the banquet, and since it is their project, they also decide what will be the event’s central theme. This is crucial because it is the focus of every part of the Banquet: the food, decorations, costumed performers, choreographed dances, and treats for the campers. Also, the theme is kept secret until the unveiling of the event. It’s just more fun to be surprised!

very silly camp kids

Today, this session’s CAs picked the theme for their Banquet. As you might guess, 23 girls can think of a lot of different themes, and that selecting one could be a challenge. To narrow down their list, we leave camp— for privacy —and then take a hike, discussing all their ideas, weighing what sounds best for the group. Today we began with about 50 different possible themes, but after an hour of walking and talking, one idea was the clear favorite. It was almost a unanimous decision with everyone pitching in ways to make the theme even better, and getting excited about how they’ll be involved in the preparations. What did they pick? You’ll find out in a few weeks!

Today was also the first full day of camp activities, with the girls fanning out across the camp to tack up horses, snap on a climbing helmet, take careful aim at an archery or riflery target, grip their tennis racket, shape hunks of clay, dip a paintbrush, twist a crochet hook, and so much more. We had the littlest Juniors flying through the trees on the zip line course. All 32 horse down at the barn had at least one rider today. Every craft area unleashed waves of creativity. The girls laughed and learned. They ate their first warm muffin (mint chocolate chip was today’s flavor.). They checked their mail after lunch and relaxed in their bunks during rest hour. This day was moving!

Tonight’s dinner was a picnic on the hill. Rick prepared a hotdog meal for us, including both beef and veggie dogs, buns, homemade coleslaw, pickles, baked beans, and all the condiments. For dessert, the kitchen baked delicious lemon bars. So good! The weather was perfect on the hill with bright sunshine, low humidity and a light breeze. Once the girls had their plates, they spread out to different areas of hill to sit and eat with groups of friends. It was a happy and relaxed scene.

summer camp campfire song

A little later, the Evening Program was a fun all-camp campfire. Here too, we announced a theme and invited everyone to come dressed in a costume. At camp, everyone knows that costumes make anything more fun. Tonight it was a Appalachian Mountain theme, something we call a “Jug Band.” Sarah came dressed as her alter ego “Sayree,” the fiddling, granny with a pet (rubber) rattlesnake named “Fish.” With a guitar, Ukelele, and fiddle playing along, the Hi-Ups helped lead everyone in a program of songs and skits. The campfire crackled and bathed us in wood smoke, while we laughed, clapped and sang into the evening under the big white oak trees nearby.

This was a wonderful way to finish up our first full day together at Rockbrook. I can already tell this group of girls loves camp. There’s kindness and enthusiasm coloring everything. There’s a beautiful mix of familiarity and excitement for what might be new. There’s already a sense of community that, no doubt, will only grow stronger over the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned; this is going to be good!

summer camp silly costumes

Ineffable Power

At times I feel like I’m preaching to the choir when I write these blog posts about Rockbrook. I believe many of the people reading already know that there’s something special about camp, that the girls love it and look forward to it all year long. They already know about the priceless benefits of camp for the children lucky enough to experience it. For something that’s been around this long— more than 100 years! —there must be a power at work. But for the benefit of our new friends, let me preach a minute.

summer camp cheering kids

Today, as we opened our second session, this ineffable power appeared again. We could see it on the faces of arriving campers when they popped their heads through the open sunroof of their car. It was bubbling up when campers squirmed in the backseat, antsy to get out of the car and get started. It almost threw off sparks when two camp friends screamed and ran toward each other to hug after being apart since last summer. More subtly, new campers could sense this special power when they met their smiling counselor and immediately felt included in the cabin group. It took very little time for everyone to zip off with a group of friends, eager to catch up and begin exploring the camp.

This power springs from one thing really; it comes from the people at camp. It’s not the fun activities, the adventure trips, the amazing food, or the beautiful camp setting that creates all these feelings. No, camp boils down to the people, to the friendships and positive relationships that are fostered here, and to the Rockbrook philosophy guiding them. Many of the older campers realize this. We could change almost everything else about camp, and as long as our friends were with us, it would still be magical. They will tell you; what they most look forward to about camp is being with their friends.

using a camp chair as shelter from the rain

The first all-camp event provided even more proof of this. We gathered under the big walnut tree on the hill for a quick assembly. As we met some of the key people at camp, learned and sang a few camp songs, and were welcomed to Rockbrook by Sarah, the group seemed surprisingly comfortable and excited at the same time. They were quick to clap and cheer, to jump up and sing louder when their line song began. This session seems to already have that special enthusiasm for camp. And wow! It’s only getting started and is bound to get stronger.

The rest of the day was filled with a yummy homemade mac-n-cheese lunch, swimming demonstrations, name games, camp tours, activity skits, cabin meetings, and selecting activity schedules. It was a good full day. Tomorrow, we’ll launch into all the activities, get out of camp for some adventure trips, clap and sing over delicious scratch-made meals, and continue building the friendships that define this unique community.

It really is true: “There’s a power to camp.” We’re all very excited to dig in and show you what that means!

summer camp swimming girls

As Close as Possible

As we go about our days here at Rockbrook, having a blast with all the dress-up shenanigans, singing everyday multiple times, and finding ourselves laughing and smiling more than ever, it’s easy to forget the deep emotional undercurrent that fuels all this excitement. Spend a little time here, among these great girls, and you’ll soon sense there’s something special brewing, something much deeper and meaningful than the fun you see in the photo gallery. I believe it can all be traced to the power of kindness, caring, and generosity that defines our camp community. These positive vibes are what we mean by the “Spirit of Rockbrook.” They are a force that takes hold, brings us closer together, and makes life at camp the haven we all love.

summer camp buddies together
binded summer camp friends

This became especially clear tonight during our closing “Spirit Fire” campfire, the ceremony that’s closed every camp session at Rockbrook since its first in 1921. Dressed in our red and white uniforms, we gathered inside the Hillside Lodge instead of outside in the drizzly weather. We were able to all squeeze inside in front of the massive stone fireplace and its blazing fire, with the girls arm and arm, heads on shoulders, all as close as humanly possible.

The program alternated between singing traditional songs like “In the Heart of a Wooded Mountain,” and individuals standing to reflect aloud on their experience over the session. They poured their hearts out, talking about the friendships they’ve made and the newfound confidence they’ve discovered during their time at camp. One senior-aged camper described Rockbrook as the only place where she’s felt so much love from everyone around her. With emotion in her voice, soon many of us found ourselves choked up and in tears. The speeches all marveled at how good it feels to be at camp, how everyone here is kind and supportive, how you can be your true self without fear of being judged, and how friends made at camp are special.

Tears and softly checked crying became contagious as we thought about our camp days this summer ending and we realized we would soon have to say goodbye. This was our last night together.

camp candle ceremony

Sarah spoke last and expressed her hope that we would recall our time at camp throughout the coming year, that we could find ways to live the “Spirit of Rockbrook” at home— to be a little more kind, more brave, more silly, and an easy friend to those around us. She said she was proud of everyone and how much they’ve grown in the short time together at camp.

The program ends with everyone sharing part of the Spirit Fire 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. Ordinarily, everyone would circle the lake, but tonight the rain led us to make a circle of candlelight on the hill. With a little drizzle still falling, we sang a final song before heading to our cabins for the night.

The whole evening was a beautiful celebration of the session, and the joy we felt being here at camp together. Everyone has grown a little and we hope has deepened their Rockbrook Spirit. I think you’ll see it in your girls, and you’ll be proud too.

summer camp closing ceremony

A Knight to Remember

It’s the night I’d say everyone at camp looks forward to. It’s the kind of once-in-a-lifetime event that can’t be recreated and is remembered by some for the rest of their lives. It’s a community celebration, a culmination of detailed plans, and a recognition of the many friendships formed over the course of the session. It’s banquet night, the unveiling of the surprise party and themed dinner presented by our 9th grade “CA” campers.

This session’s banquet theme gathered Renaissance characters and scenes transforming the dining hall into a fairyland of woodland folk, royalty, and city folk. The girls went all out decorating every inch of the walls in the dining hall with painted scenes. They strung ivy and small lights overhead in the rafters, along with streamers and stars. They arranged the dining hall to make a wide open dance floor in the center where they could perform skits and choreographed dances.

girl surprised by camp party

One of the most exciting moments comes when the campers enter the dining hall and first see the CA girls dressed in their costumes. With fun, upbeat music playing, the counselors enter first, followed by the campers from oldest to youngest. The CA girls create two cheering lines and welcome everyone to the banquet in character. Unveiling the surprise, the costumed characters, plus the elaborate decorations filling the dining hall, makes for an amazing entrance. Everyone smiles, and can’t believe their eyes. Especially for the youngest girls, it’s a wonder-ful thrill to be met like this. And with a theme like this, it was truly magical.

In the banquet we found a King and Queen, crowned and robed. Dressed in long gowns, there were seven princesses, complete with tiaras and glitter. Woodland nymphs with pointed ears and flower headbands, plus four colorful fairies roamed about. There was a Satyr with horns too. From the town we met a jester, 3 milkmaids, a witch, bards, and knights. We watched a plot unfold where a princess was eaten by a dragon, the knights on a mission to save her, the witch helping with spells, and a dance battle to defeat the dragon. Later with the help of the fairies, they were able to return home. Each act of the plot included fun dances performed by the characters.

The fare served also aligned with the theme. They presented “Jousting Sticks” (fruit kabobs, mini corndogs, and mozzarella sticks). The main course was “Dragon Legs” (chicken legs) with “Dragon’s Blood” (gravy), “Medieval Mash” (mashed potatoes) and “Victorious Veg” (peas and carrots). For dessert, there were “Kings Chalice” drinks (root beer floats) and “Fairy Wands” (cake pops). With some candies added as table decorations, this was a feast.

Throughout the evening, between each act of the skits, and while the meal courses were being served, everyone enjoyed dancing and singing along to favorite pop songs. This was a chance to sing as loud as possible and dance with complete freedom with your camp friends. Smiling and laughing like never before, mostly because everyone by now feels so at ease at camp, this was pure exuberance. Whenever a new song came on, the whole dining hall jumped up and danced. It was about as much fun as you can imagine. Banquets are like that, and this was a fantastic example.

rockbrook camp renaissance

Deep Childhood Joy

Let’s talk about a shaving cream fight. This is a special event that brings all the campers together, no matter what their age. It’s equally popular with all age groups too. So when we announced that there would be a shaving cream fight tonight during our “twilight” time, the girls roared with excitement. At the sound of the camp bell, everyone interested in joining in the messy fun would meet down at the landsports field dressed in their swimsuits.

We were ready when the girls started to arrive— about 150 cans of plain shaving cream, a couple of water hoses, some fun pop music pumping, and a big sheet of plastic for a slip-n-slide (because that’s fun too when you’re already slippery!).

The point of a shaving cream fight is not complicated, and the girls somehow know instinctively how to go— spray the contents of your can of the white slippery foam both on others and on yourself. Then race around smearing, wiping, splattering and rubbing the shaving cream into everyone’s hair, on their backs, and ultimately everywhere. Beyond that, the goal is to have fun, be silly and enjoy the wild mess of it all. It’s as simple as that.

There are no teams, and this is not a competition where we pick a winner at the end like some games. So it’s not much of a “fight” really. It’s more of a group event, almost like a dance, since it’s just as much fun to be attacked as it is to splatter others. Part of the fun is surprising someone, sneaking up to them and planting a blob right on their back, shoulder or leg… as you race away grinning, and secretly hoping, but also looking out for, someone who will do the same to you. There’s no score: just the fun of playing the game.

By the way, have you ever noticed how not keeping score makes playing a game more fun. That matches up perfectly with our camp philosophy.

The whole event is absolutely hilarious! Once the spraying begins, you can’t hear anything except shrieks of delight and laughter. We all (yes, counselors and directors too!) quickly begin to look pretty funny, our hair sticking up, with white beards and mustaches, if not completely foamy. There was one little Junior tonight whose entire head was one blob of shaving cream!

camp shaving cream play

A shaving cream fight feels liberating too. It’s a little mischievous and outrageous, but still sanctioned, even celebrated at camp. It’s a harmless way to go a little crazy, while at the same time laugh and play with your friends. Outside of camp, you’ll never see girls having this kind of deep, affirming fun, the kind of laughter that makes you pause to take a breath. A shaving cream fight like this taps into the deepest kind of childhood joy. Among friends, there’s nothing like it. Just ask your camper when you get a chance.

Is there something to learn from a shaving cream fight? Perhaps. It’s certainly proof that letting loose with your friends feels really good— laughing with abandon, not caring how silly you look, embracing the energy of it all.

Here we know each other so well, it’s easy for these Rockbrook girls to relax into who they really are. This community of support and encouragement opens up a quality of experience that’s hard to match. Even in something as simple as a shaving cream fight, that connection makes a real difference. No wonder this feels so great.

shaving cream fight at summer camp

Waffle Hunting

We began today with another chilly misty morning as campers and staff made their way to the dining hall for breakfast. Excitement soon filled the air as we saw what was for breakfast….waffles!! Some also noticed a banner on the wall, a few tables and chairs missing, and even a kayaking paddle where the missing table should have been. It seems the Hi-Ups had pranked the CAs. Here at Rockbrook we have a few rules about pranking. The first, along with everything else at Rockbrook, is that it must be kind. Second, the prank must be something that can be undone (e.g. nothing broken or ruined). And third, the group who pulls the prank must be willing to help undo it. In this case, the Hi-Ups moved the CA’s dining hall tables and chairs to the lake! When the CAs arrived, they were surprised to see their breakfast was being served waterside! Lots of waffle hunting and laughter ensued.

three girls holding their finished tie dye t-shirts
summer camp flower children

Morning activities kicked right into high gear as campers and staff walked to their first period activities ready to finish out the three-day rotation. Later this evening they’ll be signing up for their next set of activities. A couple of lucky cabins took a tour on our zipline and high ropes courses. They all had a wonderful time going across all three ziplines while shrieking with happiness! Today’s muffin flavor was blueberry chocolate chip. While most enjoyed the combo, a few picked out their blueberries to have a classic chocolate chip muffin.

At lunch, we announced several special trips: Sliding Rock, Dolly’s Dairy Bar, and Pucker Up Berry Farm. Cabins roared with cheers as they heard their cabins being called for some of these fun adventures. Lunch ended with mailboxes being emptied, cabin photos being taken, and the start of a relaxing Rest Hour.

Cabin Day is usually an activity done together as a cabin and is planned out by the counselors. Today, the Senior Line (our 7th-9th graders) did something a little different; they had a line-wide cabin day! The counselors worked hard prepping a unique game that mixed the campers, dividing them into 12 different groups that would compete in the game.

The game was a battle of sorts where each group had “tools” they could use to score points against others. These “tools” were sections of pantyhose filled with flour! Tied into small balls, there were black pantyhose balls and white ones too, each worth different points. A team would score points whenever they hit someone on an opposing team with one of the balls. Needless to say, the girls enjoyed firing these balls at each other on the hill. And since they were all dressed in dark colors, the white flour left a mark when hitting someone. The prize awarded the group with the most points was an ice cream treat.

In addition to trying to cover one another in flour, teams walked around camp to find counselors who had special tasks for them to complete in order to earn other candy treats. Some of the tasks included answering trivia questions, building a human pyramid, and various hula hooping challenges. The Seniors roamed all over camp making new friends from other cabins and having a grand afternoon.

Meanwhile, we had cabins watercoloring at Rockbrook Falls, down at the archery range playing games, climbing the alpine tower, and tie dying some t-shirts. By the end of cabin day, everyone looked happy to have spent time with their cabin mates. After dinner, another large group of campers and staff headed off for a chilly evening sliding down the rock— at Sliding Rock, that is! Dressed in swimsuits and ready to slide, the girls sat down in the stream at the top and slid the 60 feet into the pool at the bottom. It’s a classic summertime mountain thrill, and these Rockbrook girls loved it! And of course, Dolly’s was the final stop of the evening. Another action-packed, happy fun day at camp!

—Casey Blair

North Carolina Sliding Rock kids

Doing the Monster Mash

Today began with a group of girls getting up early because they were heading to the Nantahala River for a day of whitewater rafting. With their towels, water bottles and change of clothes packed, we had a simple breakfast of cereal, yogurt and fruit before loading the three buses and vans and taking the 2-hour drive to the river. Midway, we stopped for a bathroom break and a quick muffins snack.

girls camp rafting trip

It was another fabulous day of weather for rafting— sunny, low humidity, and warming temps throughout the day. Each of our rafts holds between five and 8 people plus one guide who sits in the back navigating past the different river obstacles. The rapids in the Nantahala all have names and unique characteristics that make them a fun challenge. There’s Patton’s Run, Delbar’s Rock, The Bump, and the finale, the Nantahala Falls. The fun of rafting comes from combining special adventure safety gear like the helmet and PFD, the power and intensity of fast moving whitewater, the surprising jolt that comes from bumping into rocks along the way, and the invigorating shock of the cold water splashing. But perhaps the biggest reason rafting is so much fun comes from doing it with your friends. It’s the social aspects of rafting, the hilarity of being splashed together, and screaming with delight when the boat hits a wave. This all adds up to the kind of fun that’s uniquely thrilling and memorable.

Meanwhile back at camp, campers were enjoying the whole range of activities, from zip lining to weaving, from shooting archery to playing tennis. In the WHOA activity, which stands for Wilderness Hiking Outdoor Adventure, the girls were learning about fire building and then roasting marshmallows over the fire. In pottery, campers were shaping their coils and slabs of clay, while some worked on centering on the potters wheel. Here too, the beautiful weather inspired everyone to enjoy walking around camp, for example to the dining hall for muffin break.

After dinner it was time for some dancing! We held an all-Rockbrook camp dance in our gym, a special event that brought all the campers from every line together—Juniors, Middlers and Seniors. It’s always super high energy and the campers get really into belting out their favorite songs. Music and dance is universal, and I feel that these dances really unify our Rockbrook community.

camp costumes in blue

Tonight’s particular dance was aptly titled “Monster Mash,” going along with the theme of the day, “Not So Scary Halloween.” At Rockbrook we love any opportunity to dress up in a costume, so for the entire day campers were able to dress as they would on Halloween – a “Summerween”, if you will. There were a variety of costumes, the ones that caught my eye being: a banana, a friendly ghost, and Uncle Fester, the bald, kooky uncle with the pale skin and dark eyes from the Addams Family.

The dance was a magical scene: faeries dancing with witches dancing with princesses; red, green, and white lights sparkling across the gym floor, Brevard’s own DJ Dogg playing a mix of Outkast’s “Hey Ya!”, Justin Bieber’s “Baby”, and many songs by the ever popular Taylor Swift.

One thing I love about Rockbrook dances is witnessing younger campers dancing with their older peers. Several times throughout the evening campers of all ages formed into a dance circle, campers taking turns to rush to the center to show off their best dance moves, the onlookers clapping and cheering words of encouragement to their brave counterparts. The Rockbrook spirit of support never wanes! I personally enjoyed getting to dance with various campers and counselors, in particular with my friend Emma who was dressed just like me as Wednesday Addams, another character from the Addams Family who is known for wearing all long black braids and black clothing, and an ever present dour expression.

camp conga line dance

It’s not a Rockbrook dance without a conga line! I watched from the sidelines as it formed, growing longer with every second as one by one campers joined in. It was hard to resist myself and I quickly latched my hands on to the shoulders of a counselor. Those hesitant to jump into the sprightly formation were given the opportunity to join, the dance line pausing for a moment as campers were happily let in. There were other moments of campers participating in group dances, for example to hits like the “Cupid Shuffle” and “Soulja Boy.” At one point DJ Dogg stepped out from behind his DJ deck to lead the camp in a dance and song that recently went viral called “The Git Up.” Some of the moves included two stepping, sliding to the left and right, dropping down low, spinning, and shoulder shimmying. Towards the end DJ Dogg returned to his turntables and handed it off to the campers to take the lead. I was very impressed by how quickly they were able to do it! My personal favorite group dance is the “Cha Cha Slide”, which I have done at many dances. It also includes sliding to the left and the right, as well as stomping your feet, clapping your hands, and hopping.

There was just as much fun happening outside the gym as there was inside. There were campers enjoying a friendly game of tetherball, some peacefully reading on the steps of the gym, and quite a lot gathered around the gaga pit to witness a fierce round of the dodgeball like game where players aim to strike each other out with the gaga ball in hopes to be the last one standing. I also witnessed a few junior campers chasing a camper fully covered in a green and white sheet, her costume being a bush. Rockbrook campers are very creative!

—Naomi Penner

girls camp dance

A Candy Land Carnival

Today the June mini campers arrived. Wide-eyed with anticipation and excitement literally bursting through the sunroofs of some cars, it was clear these girls were eager to start their summer at camp. Our drive-thru check in process unfolded smoothly with each stop only taking a couple of minutes. Driving around the lake and finally reaching the top of the hill, the counselors jumped and cheered, adding to the festive atmosphere of the day. The full-session girls carried on with their Sunday morning schedule of flag raising and Chapel gathering, but they too were excited to see more camp friends arriving. By noon, a brief spot of rain came through, so instead of out on the hill, we gathered in the gym for a quick assembly. This was a chance to welcome everyone, have a few introductions, and sing a couple of songs.

I asked a few of the arriving campers how they felt, and while most said they were excited, several also said they were nervous. I tried to reassure them that being a little nervous on opening day was very common, even for seasoned, returning campers. Like the start of anything, there’s uncertainty involved, and if you care how something will go, it’s just natural to feel some nerves. Being nervous is just that, so once we get going and begin to dissipate the uncertainty that came before, everyone begins to feel better. At camp, feelings of nervousness fade fast as soon as we begin— finding our penpal, meeting our counselors, setting up your bunk, getting a sense of how kind everyone is at camp, seeing that there are all kinds of girls here and that it’ll be easy to fit in, hearing the enthusiasm in the camp songs, even tasting something yummy and familiar, like the mac-n-cheese we had for lunch.

homemade camp donuts

The main event of the day happened after rest hour, just as the rain stopped. It was a Candy Land Carnival down on our grassy landsports field featuring two large inflatables, games, music and special food.

First the food. It was an excellent treat of freshly made mini donuts for each camper. Our local donut-making food truck, Jenny’s Mini Donuts, had come and was busy pumping out the treats. The campers took turns by cabin groups coming up the pink truck and deciding if they preferred cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar on their donuts. As you might imagine it took quite a while to make donuts for 200 campers and 60 staff members! But they were delicious, and definitely worth the wait.

Meanwhile, the carnival games and inflatables entertained everyone. Both of the inflatables involved a pool of water. The girls had come dressed in their swimsuits, and since the sun had come out, the afternoon heat made the final splashes feel great. One inflatable was a steep slide into a pool about a foot deep, and the other was a side-by-side obstacle course where two people raced through the course to the pool at the end. This was a little challenging, but doing it with another person made it more fun, and more entertaining to watch.

For both inflatables, crowds of girls gathered around to cheer for each person as they splashed into the pools at the bottom. Campers raced campers; counselors raced other counselors. Everyone got in on the fun. I’m certain lots of girls jumped back in line multiple times! A little messy and a little wet, they raced and raced.

One of the candy-related games was a life-sized Candy Land game spread across the grass. Teams of girls would “roll” a giant inflated die and move along a colorful trail of rubber mats. Like the board game, certain squares had effects whenever a team landed on them. For example, if you landed on Gramma Nutt’s square, you would have go back 5 squares. But if you landed on Missy Lolly’s square, everyone won a lollypop. The first team to reach the end of the squares also won a small candy treat.

Another of the games challenged the girls to toss inflated donuts onto a cone, which ended up being much more difficult than it sounds. Luckily, the girls could try as many times as they liked until they succeed to land a toss. Similarly, one game involved tossing beanbags at a target trying to get a toss through a small hole. That one too took some practice to conquer.

Throughout the event, the girls sang and danced along to some fun pop music with a few candy-related songs mixed in. “I Want Candy” by Bow Wow Wow, and “Lollipop” by the Chordettes made a appearance, for example.

Under the sun, with friends, great food and music, games to play and treats to win, it was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon, and an even better way to launch our June Mini session.

summer camp carnival kids