Birthday Celebrations at Rockbrook

Each summer we have campers who get to spend their special day at the best place on Earth – Rockbrook Camp! Having a birthday at camp is something unique and only applies to a handful of girls. At Rockbrook, we try to make each birthday special! First, counselors spend time creating a banner to be hung in the dining hall right next to the birthday girl. The birthday girl will walk in, see her special birthday banner, and her face will immediately light up with excitement. The banner also lets all of camp know it’s a special day! Along with the banner, cabin mates usually create a birthday card and sometimes even craft gifts from various activities to give to the birthday girl.

camp counselor floating in lake
Hi-Up counselors Mia (at left) and Grace enjoying the lake for Mia’s birthday!

The next step of the birthday celebration is for the kitchen to bake the birthday girl a cake! Counselors then take the time to put icing and candy on their camper’s cake. At either lunch or dinner, the Hi-Ups will ring their song bell as the counselors walk out with the birthday cake in hand. The dining hall then breaks into a beautiful chorus of “Happy Birthday.” Once the counselors reach the birthday girl she can blow out her candles and make a wish as the dining hall chants “stand up, stand up, stand up!” As the birthday girl stands, the campers chant “tell us when to stop” and then they begin counting. When the campers count up to the birthday girl’s age she will wave her hands signaling them to stop! We then all cheer and the birthday girl and her cabin mates get to enjoy the delicious homemade birthday cake!

Felix the Camp Dog
Camp dog Felix celebrated his 2nd birthday with an agility demonstration and a dog birthday cake!

Today is July 8th, and we happened to have two special birthday celebrations! First was to celebrate one of our fabulous Hi-Up counselors! Mia turned 22 today and was celebrated with a three layered cake covered in candy, along with a dance break at lunch where we all got to dance to Taylor Swift’s song “22.” This evening we celebrated the second birthday of our beloved camp dog Felix! During twilight, Felix showed us all of his wonderful tricks he learned at doggy school. He rolled over, gave high fives, and even jumped over a hurdle and through a hula hoop! The crowed cheered and continued the camp tradition of singing “Happy Birthday.” Felix then got a dog-friendly cake of his own – he really enjoyed licking the icing! We ended Felix’s birthday celebration by eating dog-shaped cookies the kitchen staff so kindly made for dessert!

We are so lucky to live in such a joyful and supportive community here at Rockbrook, where we can celebrate occasions large and small. Whether you hit a certain number of bullseyes, swam a specific number of mermaid laps, or you are having a birthday at camp, there are always fun and exciting celebrations in store.

Celebrating the Small (And Wonderful)

Dolly (Dolly Mama) Herron
Camp Mom

Bear Hug?

The dictionary defines the word “celebrate” in this way: “To observe (a day or event) with ceremonies of respect, festivity, or rejoicing.” In life we celebrate birthdays, holidays, weddings, the freedom of our country…the list goes on and on. These celebrations typically hold a special place in our hearts, and on our calendars.

It is no different here at camp. There may be no better place on earth to mark the transition to being one year older. The entire camp celebrates your birth with the fervor and enthusiasm for which Rockbrook girls are known. There are banners, cakes, and singing. You are queen for the day. On the Fourth of July, campers wake up to horses galloping up the line and riders shouting, “The British are coming!” Red, white, and blue are the colors of the day, and that is abundantly clear in the creative attire of the entire camp. When the sun goes down, the music comes on and fireworks rain down on the mountain. Girls of all ages dance and weave intricate designs in the air with neon glow-sticks. It is hard to tell what is more beautiful: the fireworks, or the pure and utter joy of the dancing.

Inchworm Investigation

The momentous occasions that are celebrated in life are certainly celebrated here, but what makes our time at camp extraordinary is the celebration of the ordinary. Away from the often harried and hurried demands of school and “real life,” we are able to slow down and live in the moment. We begin to notice the little things that make life interesting and beautiful. And we stop. And we celebrate them.

Maybe it is an inchworm that made it safely down the thin thread that it spun, from the top of the tree to the green grass below. Some days it is the muffin break and sinking our teeth into the newest, most delicious flavor yet. The constant sound of water rushing down the mountain is reason to be grateful, especially when it sings a lullaby at bedtime. The slant of light in the early evening blankets the camp in gold. And we celebrate.

An America Fan
Celebrating Friendship

One day was spontaneously proclaimed “flower day.” As each hour ticked by, more and more people adorned themselves with flowers. We were head-to-toe bouquets of color. Why? To celebrate flowers.

One camper decided that chocolate chip cookies deserved a place in the limelight. She came to breakfast in her cookie costume, and she wore it proudly.

At dinner one evening, it become apparent that banana pudding would be served for dessert. People started singing, chanting, and pontificating the glories of banana pudding.

Countless times a day, one friend will see another, throw her arms around that friend, and love her out loud. It’s not because they haven’t seen each other for a long time. It isn’t because the friend did something extraordinary. It is simply friendship, and that is worth celebrating.

The funny thing about gratitude is that it multiplies exponentially when you acknowledge it. The more you honor the many gifts that are offered up to you daily, the more you have to honor.

Twilight Over the Mountains

Happy and Excited

Camp girl makes her pancake
Outdoor Pancake Surprise

Ordinarily at camp the wake up bell rings at 8am giving the girls time to dress and do a few cabin chores before the breakfast bell at 8:30am. Today though, we surprised everyone with a special pancake breakfast held in each Line’s stone lodge. The kitchen gave us a head start by making a few hundred pancakes, but then teams of counselors, armed with griddles and huge bowls of batter, poured and flipped hot pancakes starting around 8. When the breakfast bell rang, the girls went to their lodges and found sausage and pancakes, milk and juice, but also a pancake toppings station loaded with all kinds of yummy sweet syrups, chocolate chips, marshmallow spread, butter, blueberries and cut strawberries. The girls spilled out into the sunshine around the lodges, sat in their crazy creek chairs, or lined up in the red porch rockers chatting while they watched the fog lift from the mountains in the distance. It was a lovely morning, and a big hit with the campers.

Lunch today turned toward the deep south with Rick and his team in the kitchen frying up sliced green tomatoes for everyone to make sandwiches. With a dab of his homemade rémoulade sauce, or a slice of cheese for the truly bold, this made a delicious sandwich. As a side, Rick prepared several pans of summer squash casserole made with a perfect balance of breadcrumbs, fried onions, cheddar cheese and butter. Cut cantaloupe, strawberries and grapes balanced out the table. Of course, the super-stocked salad bars saw plenty of action too, as did the peanut butter and jelly station.

Cabin Toenail Painting
Birthday Cake at Camp

When it’s your birthday at camp, as it was for Frances today, it’s a big deal. Before breakfast begins, the counselors will secretly decorate your cabin’s table with a colorful painted banner— Happy Brithday Frances! —to surprise everyone about your special day.  Then at lunch, we interrupt the meal to carry out one of Katie’s (Rockbrook’s fabulous baker) delicious cakes, highly decorated for the occasion and lit with candles. The whole camp, which is close to 280 people, then sings a big boisterous version of “Happy Birthday” followed by chanting “Tell us when to stop!” Clapping in unison, one clap for each year old, everyone counts out until the birthday girl waves us off at the right number. Also, for birthdays we happily make an exception to our “No Packages” policy, making it even more exciting to receive a few presents from home.  Sharing your birthday (and your cake!) with so many friends, is really a special experience.

This afternoon, as is the case most Wednesdays, we paused our regularly scheduled individual activity periods and enjoyed special all-cabin and whole-line trips. It’s our “Cabin Day” (Have you seen this glossary of camp terms?) Some cabins were having “Paint and Polish Parties” where fingers and toes gained fresh color. Others had letter writing projects, cabin name plaques to paint, or had plans to hike the steep climb up to Castle Rock. The Juniors had a silly costume fashion show in the Hillside Lodge. The photos of that event are hilarious!

Late in the afternoon, all the Middlers and their counselors took a ride into the Forest for a picnic, a few chilly rides down sliding rock, and a frozen ice cream treat at Dolly’s. The girls had a great time playing groups games in the grassy field after our dinner of hotdogs, chips and fruit. The “I’m a Rockbrook Girl” game seemed to be the most popular as it got everyone dashing across the huge circle a group this size (about 85) required. Our timing at sliding rock was again ideal because we found the place deserted, leaving us free to slide as much as we wanted. The water is cold enough, and by now it was late enough, that most girls slid 2 or 3 times, even as a handful braved the plunge 8 times. Good fun. And an extra large scoop of Dolly’s ice cream made the evening complete. A little chilled, but happy and excited to sing on the bus, we made our way back to camp in the dark and called it “another wonderful day” at camp.

Girls Sliding Down the Rock
Cold Mountain Water Slide