Learning From Camp

silly camp girls in red white and blue costume

If you’ve been reading our posts over the years, you know that we believe summer camp is more than just fun. It’s certainly filled with laughter, smiles and exciting activities, but it’s also formative, truly educational in important ways.

For everyone at camp, life here teaches you things, really foundational things that stay with you long after you leave camp. The culture of Rockbrook, guided by its philosophy and values, drives this learning, creating the perfect context to explore, discover and grow… and along the way, to form incredibly meaningful friendships.

One place where this is especially clear is during the ceremonial campfire that closes each session, our “Spirit Fire.” This is a time when we sing traditional songs and listen to campers and staff members reflect a little on their time at camp. With the whole camp gathered, we hear about making best friends, being your true self, feeling “at home” here at Rockbrook, and also deep gratitude for the experience.

Here’s a great example.

This past summer, Liz Lydon, a longtime camper and now staff member, shared her thoughts on what Rockbrook means to her. Liz does a wonderful job describing how her Rockbrook experience has shaped her over the years. She writes:

Seven years ago I came to Rockbrook for the first time filled with excitement. Excitement for all of the fun activities, crafts, and trips that I would get to do here. Little did I know that I was coming to a place much more valuable than what the website could ever display. Little did I know, just how much I would fall in love with this wooded mountain, and how special it would be in my heart. Special enough for me to return time and time again, and even now, to return for the first time as a counselor.

There’s something in the air at camp that makes you feel so valued as a person and sparks a lot of personal growth. I give much credit to Rockbrook for shaping me into the woman I am today.

summer camp counselors
rockbrook young girls
camp slip and slide girls

Here at camp we all learn so many valuable lessons whether we realize it or not. So I ask all of you to reflect on three lessons that I’ve learned through my years at camp.

How to Live Free of Fear and Judgment

The first thing I learned at camp is how to live life free of fear and judgment. To make mistakes and grow from them rather than feel embarrassed. Ultimately, life is too short not to jump in the lake, or go down that rapid, or even just hop in the middle of a banquet dance circle. Rockbrook was my first safe space, and after years of revisiting camp and growing in confidence, Rockbrook taught me how to make a safe space within myself. It is so important for every one of you to understand that you are valued and loved and respected. Bring the confidence that you’ve learned while here at camp into the rest of life.

How to Be a Good Person

The second lesson I learned is that it feels good to be a good person. As you get older every year at camp, you pay closer attention to the songs, the prayers, and the history; and decide what it all means to you. They all teach lessons that we may forget while distracted by the real world and by social media. Rockbrook has maintained a culture at camp that encourages everyone to be the best human that they possibly can be.

Here, we remember the true value of being kind and having compassion. We know that it is much healthier to acknowledge the positivity in an individual rather than focus on what you might not like about them. We understand that every single person that you come into contact with can offer something valuable in your life.

How to be Myself

The third thing I’ve learned from Rockbrook, is how to learn about myself. It’s here at camp that you have the time to look inward and reflect on who you are. How would you define yourself based off of your actions, emotions, and your perspective on life. Are you proud of who you’ve become? And most importantly, think about who you would like to be. Identify that person and actively work towards it. I know that for me, the best person to be is, in fact, a Rockbrook camper.

I learned through the years that a Rockbrook camper is kind and creative. They are never afraid to get a little dirty and have a little fun. They’re the first to lend a helping hand and the last to run away from a challenge. It’s the little things that everyone does while here at camp that make Rockbrook so special. I’m so thankful that I found Rockbrook and I couldn’t imagine how my life would be without it.

At camp, you can’t help but learn these sorts of things. The environment, the support, the encouragement, the other people reflecting these same values, and yes the fun of it all —everything contributes to making camp life this rich and meaningful. It’s a wonder to witness and for everyone, a joy to experience.

camp girls candle ceremony

A Magical Banquet

Everyone looks forward to it. It’s a wonderful surprise. It’s a celebration. Some call it a “blow out.” It’s guaranteed to be unique, fantastic, incredible. It takes weeks of planning and hard work preparing. It’s loud and colorful, entertaining and enticing. It’s campy and creative. It makes everyone smile, laugh and dance. Here at camp, it’s a gathering of your very best friends. This is the banquet.

hogwarts camp girls

The theme for our third session 2022 banquet was focused on the characters and styling of the Harry Potter book and movie series. The CA girls (9th graders) and their counselors worked their incredible magic to transform the dining hall into the great hall of Hogwarts with its long tables and floating candles.

They painted more than 100 panels depicting scenes from the books— portraits of Sirius Black, Harry Potter, Dumbledore, Dobby, and Nearly Headless Nick.

There were paintings of broom sticks, owls dropping letters, the flying car, Hagrid’s motor bike, wands, chocolate frogs, and Bertie Botts Beans. There was also the Mirror of Erised, Fluffy the 3-headed dog, Fawkes the phoenix, and Hedwig the owl.

They displayed detailed drawings of all four of the Hogwarts House crests: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin.

On the tables, each camper found a pair of Harry Potter glasses, a magical wand, and a Hogwarts Express train ticket. Spider ring and lightning bolt temporary tattoos were there too. Everyone also enjoyed a souvenir cup and of course fun candy treats to help amplify the mood between each course of the meal.

The CA costumes represented an amazing range of Harry Potter characters. The cast list included students from each house, but also some of the Hogwarts professors like Mad Eye Moody, Professor Snape, Professor McGonagall, even Professor Dolores Umbridge. One student dressed up as Dobby the house elf. There were two french Beauxbaton girls. There was also Rita Sceeter, Bellatrix Lestrange, and Hagrid roaming about the banquet.

These characters worked together to perform choreographed group dances to “Magic” by One Direction, “Black Magic” by Little Mix, and “Enchanted” by Taylor Swift. Between those performances, we all got up and danced to other pop songs. This was a dance party filled with a celebratory energy.

The food was magical too! The menu included: “Magic Wands and Potion Chips,” “Mrs. Weasley’s Chicken Tenders,” and “Troll Tater Tots.” The dessert was particularly creative— “Golden Snitches” made of cookie dough balls rolled in gold colored sugar. Each camper had a small can of soda to drink as well.

Whether the campers were familiar with the world of Harry Potter or not, there was a magical, other worldly quality to the whole event. The CA girls transformed the dining hall turning it into a unique, immersive experience like we’ve never encountered before. For some campers, this was their first banquet, and for others this was another great one to remember.

Like one of the main themes in the Harry Potter novels, this banquet was proof of the power of friendship. It was more than it could have been and was elevated above the ordinary because it happened at camp, a place where the girls already know each other, care for each other and feel accepted and encouraged. Smiling, singing and dancing, this banquet had great energy. A magical time together at camp.

harry potter party cast

Third Session Highlights Video – Part Two

We have another example of Robbie Francis working his filming and editing magic. Robbie was here again last week filming, and now we have this wonderful glimpse into life at camp. We think you’ll love seeing the sweet mood of camp… so much action, so much friendship, and so many happy, relaxed girls.

Be sure to watch it to the end to see a gorgeous drone shot from above camp.

Take a look, and let us know what you think.

P.S. If you missed last week’s video, here it is.

Individual Choice

Being able to choose your own activity schedule is one of the core experiences for campers at Rockbrook. For some, it is something they really appreciate and love about camp. Instead of being assigned a series of activities, or having your parents be involved in what you end up doing at camp, Rockbrook takes extra efforts to make sure the girls themselves select their activities.

summer camp archery aiming girl

This can be challenging to schedule and has a degree of uncertainty built into it, but we want the girls to have a say in how they spend their time at camp. We want them to make those decisions and feel empowered by that agency and self-direction. Sometimes it can be very interesting for a parent to find out what their child has chosen to do. You might not know a few things about her preferences. Maybe she doesn’t love tennis, or maybe does have an interest in knitting, for example. Plus, part of the fun of camp is being drawn into activities that you wouldn’t otherwise do. A girl might sign up for climbing the Alpine Tower, for example, simply because her camp friend wants to try it. She might ordinarily be a little intimidated by that kind of adventure, but with an encouraging comrade, she might feel extra support and try it. Bingo! New experience, greater self confidence, and sense of accomplishment. Picking activities at home before arriving would undermine that benefit for the girls.

Last year when we were grappling more with COVID and were concerned about a possible infection spreading through our residential community, we created a system of cohorts that assigned activities separate from other cohorts. Each cabin group did activities together, effectively eliminating individual choice. Some camps do this routinely— rotating activities by cabin group. While this made our camp logistics easier, it made the girls miss tailoring their activity schedule to their own interests. They missed switching gears mid week, and they missed being able to do things directly with girls from other cabins. This was yet another reason why we were happy to return to our system of individual choice this summer.

The same is true for our off-camp trips. They are selected individually. A camper signs up for a trip only if she wants to try out a canoeing and camping trip, a backpacking trip, whitewater rafting, kayaking trip, day hike, or ride through the zipline course, for example. Here too, some girls sign up for these adventure trips every chance they get, while others are satisfied with just the zipline or rafting (the 2 most popular options), or neither. Going on trips means having to miss your scheduled activities, so that can sometimes dissuade a camper from signing up. Choosing one thing, necessarily means neglecting all the others. And if you’re excited about riflery, for example, you might be inclined to turn down a trip opportunity if it means you skipping that activity you’ve been looking forward to trying. It’s another decision to make, and another great example of how the girls at camp are allowed to shape their own experience… and grow in the process.

It’s often astounding to see these girls take charge of their days at camp. They’re selecting their own activities, but also deciding how to spend their free time. They’re initiating conversations, creating their own entertainment with others, and navigating the strange environment of camp— all without the guiding hand/opinion of their parents. As a result, they learn they can handle things. They can do things. They can lean into new situations and be OK. Yes, even the tiniest kids can do this. It might be a little messy at times (like when they decide to wear the same shirt too many days in a row…!), but it’s worth it to see them empowered, truly themselves, and absolutely jubilant too. Totally worth it.

camp rafting splash

Third Session Highlights Video

We know that it’s very difficult to understand what it feels like to be a camper at Rockbrook, especially if you’re not here to take it all in. There’s just too much happening in too many places. The online photo gallery helps, but there’s always more to see.

Luckily, we have some video as well. We’re thrilled to again have Robbie Francis of FrancisFilmworks working with us this summer to produce occasional short videos.  He came to camp yesterday, and now has this short video ready for you to see.

Take a look! I think you’ll find it fascinating.


Their Ibasho

Jumping off the diving board at the Rockbrook lake really appeals to some kids. Some like to simply run off the end and land in the water, and others like to really bend it down and spring high into the air. Either way, there’s enough airtime to do a trick or strike a pose before splashing into the water. During the second free swim period yesterday (before dinner), a set of girls decided they could contort themselves in the air and form letters. And with one of the photographers coincidentally there, they decided to take photos of themselves spelling R-O-C-K-B-R-O-O-K. Here are some sample shots. Can you tell what the letters are? It was just a little silly camp fun before dinner.

It’s an example of the kind of silliness that naturally percolates up when girls find themselves in a safe place where they are comfortable enough to relax and be their true selves. Rockbrook is exactly that sort of place. Our philosophy and emphasis on kindness and community make it a place where girls feel included. It’s a place of belonging for everyone who is here, free from social judgment and competition for rewards. Kids here support each other, cheer for each other, and laugh together. It’s a little surprising compared to the outside world, and can take some time to realize it, but camp is a special kind of environment. Once you find the courage to embrace the community, it can be literally life changing.

camp campfire roasting marshmellows

The other day I was talking with a Senior camper who has been coming to Rockbrook for several years and she put it like this: “Camp is a place where I can finally be part of something that makes you feel so much gratitude and love and connection to the people, the earth and to yourself. Here I can be my true self, the person I have always wanted to be.”

What a lovely sentiment! And a great testament to the beauty of the camp community and what it means to so many of the girls here. Camp feels uniquely good. Being accepted for who you really are is a relief compared to the worry that often accompanies school environments. Camp feels good because it opens up a welcoming space for girls to let their true selves shine, and because it’s also supportive and encouraging, it provides tremendous opportunities to grow as well. When you’re not worried what someone might say, and you know you don’t have to hide behind something fake, it’s liberating, and the next thing you know, you’re being a little more silly and having more fun. It’s magical!

It reminds me of the Japanese word “Ibasho.” Popular in the 1990s, this word describes a “place where one feels at ease, safe and comfortable.” It’s a place of “refuge and empowerment,” as this paper puts it. Ibasho is a place where “you feel at home being yourself.” See the connection? Appropriate for most supportive communities, I think ibasho aligns perfectly with the haven we aim to create here at Rockbrook. For the girls here, Rockbrook is their ibasho. It too has this special character to encourage authenticity, to be comfortable and empowering.

I think this helps explain the feelings “camp people” have when they say things like: “I would not be who I am if it wasn’t for camp,” or “at camp I feel at home.” They’ve discovered their ibasho, a special place where they feel most at home being their true selves. It’s the central power of the camp experience.

There’s more to learn from this concept of ibasho. Questions come to mind about how to create and strengthen an ibasho community, and why ordinarily that is so rarely accomplished. From what I’ve seen at camp, kids thrive in such a community. It seems to me that everyone would benefit from finding their ibasho.

summer camp craft teens

Want to Join Us?

Our first set of whitewater rafting trips for this camp session happened today. Bus and van loads of Middlers and Seniors, 60 in all, made the trek over to the Nantahala River to take a wet and wild ride. It’s now a deep tradition for Rockbrook girls to raft this popular river, one that we started way back in the 1980s. Rockbrook is fortunate to have a forest service permit allowing us to run trips without outside help, using our own gear and our own hand-picked guides. That makes a big difference to maintain the upbeat, friendly vibe of Rockbrook on these trips.

Of course rafting is exciting and fun— wearing the cool gear, riding in the raft with your friends, the shock of the “freezing” cold water, goofing around for the camera at different points along the trip, and the thrill of bumping and splashing through the rapids. We were lucky today to have excellent weather, warm and sunny skies keeping everything bright all day. This is the kind of outdoor adventure we love at Rockbrook— thrilling, funny, and packed with friends. Perfect!

camp 0% club poster

Here’s something I spotted on the bulletin board outside the dining hall. Can you tell what it is? It’s a flier announcing one of the many camper-led clubs at Rockbrook. Starting a club is something that’s caught on this summer for some reason. Anyone can start their own club. All you need is 2 or more people with a common interest, and then a time and place to meet. So far this session, girls have announced about a dozen of these clubs, each designed to invite others to join. During the announcements after meals, club members can come up and pitch the details of their club.

The 0% club is one of my favorites. It’s a club that invites people to show up with any kind of fear, and then working together, they reduce that fear to zero. “We will fix that !! 🙂 ” Isn’t that amazing!? Another is the “Finding Things” club. This one meets at the dining hall, and you can show up if you need to find a lost item. The members of the club team up and help you find it. This club fixes things too. Other clubs celebrate certain individuals, for example the “Sofie Society” and the “Ismini Club.” There’s a “Lima Bean” club for all those (and their like-minded allies) who “love lima beans.” There’s a “Space Club” for anyone who “cares about space.” There are clubs devoted to different book series like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, as well. We can only imagine the conversations that happen in each of these clubs.

I love the spirit of this club-creating phenomenon! It shows how the girls here understand the value of joining a group of people, of being open and accepting of new friends, and belonging to something with a shared interest or concern. They may not be able to tell you a deep reason why they are forming their club or why they enjoy doing so, but I think it’s a wonderful expression of our camp culture— enthusiastic, positive, inclusive, social, and little zany too.

I feel like all of us would benefit from joining the 0% club… but that’s another discussion.

Camp is a place where costumes are expected and celebrated. It’s common, in fact, for at least someone to be wearing something that transforms their look. It might be as simple as a pair of goofy sunglasses or hat with cat ears, or it can be a whole body banana suit, both of which I spotted earlier this week. We know that wearing a costume provides a special freedom of sorts. It allows a person to let an otherwise hidden aspect of their personality show. It’s a chance to parade something of yourself, or perhaps to expose your creativity, all just for the fun of it. Sometimes, we’ll dedicate an entire day to a costume theme, like today’s theme of “grannies.” All around camp, you could bump into folks who were more hunched over than usual, who seemed a little grey or who had a raspy sounding voice. People were wearing nightgowns, using walking canes, and a few seemed to have wigs. Many campers adopted names of their old lady personas. You could meet an Ethel, a Gertrude, and a Nellie today at camp.

Tonight’s evening program continued this theme by gathering everyone back in the dining hall for a rousing bingo tournament! Like all expert bingo players, the girls kept multiple cards up to date as Casey and Marston, our Bingo Matrons, spun the basket of labeled pingpong balls and announced the letter/number of each ball that emerged. We played Frank Sinatra, danced a bit, and had a grand time slowly filling our cards until someone shouted BINGO! That won a prize of some sort for the entire cabin group playing— cookies and milk, popcorn, or popsicles, for example. It was another example of Rockbrook girls being a little silly, playing a game together, laughing (a lot!), and enjoying the feeling camp.

First Feelings

The first day of activities at camp, what we might call a “regular day,” is definitely not regular for the girls who just arrived at camp. For the girls new to Rockbrook this is even more so. It’s the first day of experiencing some of the special aspects of camp life. It’s waking up in your cabin a little chilly (temps in the upper 60s) but to the sounds of chirping birds. It’s sitting in the dining hall with your cabin mates, eating a warm bowl of oatmeal with dried fruits, nuts, and granola. It’s heading to your first camp activity, one of the almost 30 options you selected. It’s finding out the surprise flavor of today’s freshly baked muffin served at “muffin break” (it was “funfetti.”). It’s encountering a surprisingly large bug on the fence at archery. It’s smelling the wood smoke at the campfire in WHOA, the outdoor skills activity. It’s learning the parts of a loom and giving weaving a try.

summer camp girl weaving

This is the first day when you can take a ride down the waterslide during the “Free Swim” period before lunch. And ride it again, and again. It’s the first day when you decide for yourself how to spend your free time… maybe playing tetherball with a few other girls from your line. It’s a regular day of other activities to try, so all over camp today there were girls happily climbing, tumbling, swimming, paddling, shooting arrows or rifles, hitting tennis balls and of course riding horses. Groups were riding the ziplines, tying and dying t-shirts, and just lounging in their crazy creek chairs on the hill. It’s a regular day that balances being active and being artistic, having free time and lots of things to choose to do. There’s time for rest and for play. It’s a day filled with laughter and friends. It’s very different from home, and packed with new, fun experiences all day long.

Because it’s so different from home though— different food, different sleeping setup, no parents, no electronic entertainment, for example —today can also at times be a day when a wave of homesickness hits. Especially during rest hour, that quiet time after lunch when girls often write letters home, their thoughts of home can become overwhelming and they can feel sad. It’s very common for campers to miss their family when they are away from home. Even seasoned campers feel a twinge of homesickness now and then.

It’s completely natural and healthy to miss home, just as it’s natural for parents to miss their children while they’re away at camp. But of course, being away at camp is full of rewards too, so the secret to recovering from homesickness is to lean into camp life, to get busy, and begin to experience some of its benefits. As campers adjust to camp life, finding themselves being even more excited to try new activities, spending more time with their camp friends, being more regularly engaged with the camp community, those waves of homesickness become smaller and less frequent. Being at camp over several days inspires greater courage to overcome the challenges that make camp a place to grow.

The caring and supportive community of Rockbrook make it a wonderful place to work through feelings of homesickness, too. More than likely, with time and some encouragement, girls refocus on the fun of camp and begin to enjoy their newfound independence and confidence. It can take time, but it’s amazing to see that transformation arise!

Today was a day filled with first feelings, a complex array of real world experiences, thrills and adventures. You should be proud of your girls! They are doing great at camp, and I predict they’ll continue to grow more comfortable and confident as the session unfolds.

summer kids art class

Ready is the Word

Today was the day when the girls attending our third session of the summer could finally begin their long awaited time at Rockbrook. Beginning at 8:15 am or so and continuing throughout the morning, girls and their parents (and sometimes their dogs too) lined up and drove through our check-in sequence patiently tolerating each step of the process. It was obvious to me that this last bit of waiting in line was torturous for the girls given how long they’d had already been waiting for this day, some waiting for months or even a whole year for this. Thankfully the line kept steadily moving and soon the girls were meeting their counselors on the hill.

summer camp friends arrival

It’s a big deal to get ready for camp. There’s all the health forms, the covid testing and protocols (Thank you for doing that!), the packing, and the travel —all of these take a lot of planning and effort. Meanwhile, the campers have visions of camp in their heads —all the new people they’ll meet, the different activities they’re looking forward to trying, and the surprise events they know are coming. There’s a lot to be excited about, especially when it’s been building all summer long.

No wonder we saw girls literally vibrating with excitement, sometimes nervous excitement, but clearly jittery, wide-eyed and happy this day had arrived. These girls were ready! They were ready to get all this preliminary stuff out of the way, to stop just thinking about camp, and to finally get started doing it.

When they met their counselors at the last stop of the arrival process, each camper received a name tag made from a slice of mountain laurel and strung on a piece of lanyard. It starts out simple, but we encourage the girls to personalize their name tags adding nicknames, beads and other decorations that they might desire. Some can get quite elaborate! This summer the campers also receive a purple lanyard and clip so they can keep a mask handy. Especially at the beginning of the session, we are asking everyone to wear a mask when they are inside a building (except in their own sleeping cabin where masks aren’t necessary). We’re hopeful that our pre-camp COVID screening has been successful keeping the virus out of camp, but in case we were not 100% successful, masking like this will help minimize the spread of an infection if one should crop up. We hope to be able to relax these standards as the session unfolds.

summer camp swimming dive

After a fantastic comfort food lunch (homemade mac-n-cheese, salad and cool fresh watermelon), the age groups took turns touring the camp, meeting with their Lineheads, and heading to the lake for the “swim demos.” The tours are especially fun for the new campers because they learn about the major buildings in camp (dining hall, health hut, gym, office, etc.) as well as the different activity areas (archery and riflery ranges, climbing tower, tennis courts, nature nook, etc.). For the returning campers, the tours are another chance to chat and get to know the other girls in the cabin, and really to begin to settle down into the rhythm of camp.

It being so hot and sunny today (not record heat for us, but still close to 90 degrees), most everyone was happy to have a chance to jump in the lake this afternoon. Our “swim demos” are our introduction to the lake, and when the lifeguards assess how comfortable each camper is swimming in our chilly mountain lake. Showing you can jump off the dock, go under water, swim confidently and tread water for a minute are what we ask each camper to do for the swim demo. Campers who can’t do all of this comfortably can still enjoy using the lake, but we will limit access to the certain parts of the lake or ask they wear a lifejacket as appropriate. These are the summer days when the lake is very popular. For everyone!

Summer camp teens sitting on a rock

This photo helps summarize the feeling of camp at the moment. It shows a cabin group hanging out after the swim demo, chatting and getting to know each other. I think it shows a little bit of awkwardness, but also the beginnings of friendships. This makes good sense for a group that’s been here only a few hours. I’ve found it can sometimes take a little time for the girls to loosen up and relax, both new and returning campers alike. Coming to camp is a big change from life at home, and it simply can take a little getting used to. It can take some time to dig into the activities (we’ll launch right into that tomorrow), to understand that folks at camp are genuine and nice (no posing necessary), to realize that this is a place where it’s easy to be included. It often takes a few days to understand the rhythms of camp and to become more confident away from parents.

But I can tell we’re off to a great start, and whatever awkwardness is lingering at the moment will certainly fade. There are more stories to be shared, natural wonders to explore, new activities to try, and fun surprises to experience this session. There are more smiles on the way!

Fun Like Nothing Else

It’s a question you’ll here around camp, and one that girls have asked me probably every year. “What’s your favorite banquet?” Usually, I try to answer in a way that doesn’t commit to any single favorite. I’ll say something like, “I’ve seen so many good ones!” Which is true, since over the years I’ve been to more than 40 different banquets. Of course a few are more memorable because they are exceptionally well done— elaborate costumes, detailed wall decorations, great music, and entertaining dance numbers and skits. Generally though, all banquets, these end of session parties, are really fun events that everyone at camp looks forward to.

summer camp costume teens

This session’s banquet was no different, but I have to say, it ranks up there as one of the best. The CA campers (9th graders) and their counselors created a one of kind experience for the whole camp that I think everyone will remember as amazing. Their surprise theme was the 1980s. They called it “Retro Rewind,” and it featured colorful characters, images and popular styling from the decade. Naturally, music from the 80s was a big part of the party, with familiar pop songs lined up in the playlist.

The sounds of Madonna, Michael Jackson, The Cure, Hall & Oats, Billy Idol, Whitney Houston, Cindy Lauper and more got everyone up and dancing, and singing along. Most banquets mix into their music selections contemporary pop songs. Not this one. They had more than enough upbeat, fun dance songs to play, songs that despite being 30 to 40 years old, were familiar to the campers and staff.

We could say something similar about the painted panel decorations that lined all the walls. They showed an incredible variety of 80s references, from music, movies, television shows, and celebrities. There were panels featuring, Star Wars, the Outsiders, Pac Man, MTV, Dirty Dancing, Ghost Busters, Top Gun (the original!), Raiders of the Lost Ark, Back to the Future, and Footloose to name a few.

summer camp thriller dance

The CA girls all dressed as different 80s characters. With 29 CAs and 6 counselors, there were a lot of costumes! We had smurfs, jazzersize instructors, Care Bears, Star Wars characters like Princess Leia and Darth Vader, Ghost Busters, Jurassic Park characters (including a T-Rex!), Scooby Doo and Velma, Maverick and Goose from Top Gun, Stevie Nicks, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, and others

The dance numbers were fantastic! The version of Thriller, led by Michael Jackson, brought the whole camp to its feet cheering. Madonna’s performance of “Material Girl” was just as exciting. “The Time of Our Lives” from Dirty Dancing included some incredible acrobatic dance spins. The whole camp loved seeing the performances.

The campers wore their camp t-shirts to the banquet. This year’s yellow shirt fit right into the theme. They sat at tables grouped by their lines (age groups) to eat their meal and to watch the CAs perform. We ate “Tetris Tots,” “Marty McMelon Balls,” “Time Travel Tenders” “Super Sonic Salad,” and “Retro Rockbrookies” for dessert. Half the time, everyone wasn’t sitting; they were up and dancing, jumping and spinning to the 80s music.

80s breezy camp fun

The vibe of this 80s banquet was incredibly upbeat and joyful. All of the elements amplified the celebration— the costumes, the party favors, the candy, the black light and mirrored ball, the neon color scheme, the pumping music, the sheer exuberance of the campers singing and screaming with delight. You’ve probably never seen this many girls having this much high energy fun. It’s an experience that can’t be recreated anywhere except at camp. That’s probably an important reason why Rockbrook girls all love the banquet. They get to experience it only once a year.

But I think they also love it because it’s fun like nothing else, and that I think comes from the friendships that form the base of it all. The special bond they feel with their camp friends makes this party special as well. Knowing each other this well, caring for each other this deeply, feeling accepted and encouraged this fully, empowers the girls to let loose a little more, maybe dance with more gusto. The smiles, the singing, the dancing arm-in-arm, the energy of it all— it’s electrifying. Truly a blast.

This was a terrific banquet. Just ask anyone who was there. They’ll probably admit it’s one of their favorites.

80s costume girls