One of the fascinating points coloring the history of Rockbrook is the lineage of Nancy Carrier, the camp’s founder. Nancy was born in 1889, and before marrying Mr. Henry Nash Carrier in 1913, her full name was Nancy Barnum Clarke. Yes, Barnum: that Barnum, P.T. Barnum, the famed circus promoter and showman. Nancy’s mother was P.T. Barnum’s granddaughter, making the woman who founded Rockbrook Barnum’s great-granddaughter.
What better way to recognize and celebrate this lineage than to host a circus themed event? Plus, a circus combines so many of the elements that Rockbrook girls love: colorful costumes and make up, fun upbeat music, lots of action, a few special snacks or treats, and a heap of joyful enthusiasm. We kept all the plans a surprise for the girls, until, that is, a special announcement at dinner got everyone’s wide-eyed attention. A golden-winged, nine-foot tall (on stilts!), jester ducked into the dining hall and walked among the girls as they sat at their tables. With twists and turns, smiling mischievously, she invited everyone to come see her and her troupe, “Imagine Circus,” perform an acrobatics show in the gym!
Before the show, we spent the twilight time after dinner getting into the circus spirit by dressing up and playing games on the hill. We needed clowns! And soon, with enough face paint for everyone, we had dozens. While a few counselors made cotton candy cones, kept the popcorn machine hot with fresh kernels, and helped twist balloon animals, hula hoops and the slack line gave the campers more ways to feel a circus vibe. It was already becoming a fun evening, and as we played on the hill watching the sun begin to set behind the distant mountains, you could feel the girls getting more and more excited for the show.
Just for fun and to add to the already colorful evening, we gave everyone a glow stick necklace as they entered the gym. Inside, they were amazed immediately when they saw a 25-foot tall, pyramid-shape structure, silks, hoops, and other props, and three elaborately dressed female performers. As the campers and counselors sat around the perimeter, the women began an amazing show of ground and aerial acrobatics that included incredible feats of balance, strength and coordination. Accompanied by recorded music, they juggled while holding unbelievable tandem poses. They jumped and flipped using hoops, and perhaps showing the most amazing agility, performed multiple aerial silk maneuvers high above the gym floor. The campers clapped and whooped as the women twisted and spun using only the long silks as support. There was a point of audience participation in the show when a few campers were invited up to help with hula hooping, but the grand finale was truly amazing. The women set several props on fire (!) as they performed different flips and maneuvers. There was a flaming hoop, hand-held rings, and even a mask that supported a ring of fire above it. With the gym lights off, it was mesmerizing to watch the flames draw swirling patterns through the darkness as the performers danced and leaped about. Everyone was shocked and astonished during the whole show, cheering and at times gasping when yet another, seemingly impossible stunt was revealed. Such a great show! It was also neat to see the girls’ admiration for this all-female performance troupe, proving with real-life examples that girls/women too are strong and powerful. After seeing this kind of talent, there could be no doubt.
I think Nancy would be pleased.