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.

A Sparkling Blast

horse camp wake up

As you can see, this was no ordinary morning, in fact no ordinary day, because it was the 4th of July! Instead of our regular bell, some of the riding staff rode horses up into camp to wake up the campers. With the staff dressed in red, white and blue, and with the horses also decorated in American flag patterned ribbons and paint, the campers woke to the sounds of hoof beats and shouts of “The British are coming! The British are coming!” up and down the cabin lines. Somewhat sleepy-eyed, the girls made their way through the morning fog to the hill to assemble around the flagpole for the Hi-Ups to raise the flag, and everyone to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and sing “America the Beautiful.”

Camp Kids on 4th of july

Of course, horses were not the only thing decorated in red, white and blue today. You could see it everywhere around camp! In the dining hall on table decorations, on hats, headbands, beaded necklaces, t-shirts and other things people were wearing, some of the food we ate today (Oh, those brownie cakes!), and the body paint that seemed to become more prevalent as the day progressed. Similarly, the girls sang their favorite patriotic songs at meals— “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” for example —adding to the normal lively Rockbrook songs. There was no doubt these girls were ready to celebrate!

It also being Thursday, we decided to keep our regular activity schedule throughout the day. The difference, again, was the addition of those patriotic colors. There were American flags flapping in the wind as girls zipped through the woods, stars and stripes on the backs of archers, proudly worn by potters, weavers, tennis players and climbers alike. Campers carried the colors on a hike to Rockbrook Falls, to the top of Castle Rock while climbing on belay, and down to the barns for their riding lessons.

A group of girls enjoyed a relaxing morning in the “nest,” our hammock campsite located just below Castle Rock. Part of the fun is figuring out how and where to hang their hammocks among the rock anchors, but it is also a nice way to spend time with friends. Later, two other groups hiked to Stick Biscuit Falls to make actual stick biscuits. This waterfall, which is located in the woods up behind the office, has a dry area behind where the water cascades down from the rock above, creating a natural umbrella of sorts. The staff built a fire in this area making it possible for the girls to roast their biscuits (dough wrapped tightly on the end of stick) while the water crashed right nearby.

Dinner tonight took advantage of our well-loved charcoal grill, as we pulled out an all-American cookout of hot dogs (beef and veggie), homemade coleslaw, potato chips, freshly sliced watermelon (more than we could eat!) and a can of Cheerwine soda chilled in the stream for everyone. A playlist of America-themed music helped set the mood, and as the girls enjoyed their dinner together, they played and danced with their friends on the hill.

Camp Sponge Relay

Dividing up into three multi-age teams —yep, a red, a white, and a blue team —we all stayed on the hill for a few fun relays. Girls raced to fill buckets with water squeezed from a sponge. They carefully tossed water balloons stepping gradually further apart after each toss. They competed for the longest hula-hooping session. They struggled to thaw a frozen t-shirt as quickly as possible, and took turns bending their backs in an exciting limbo line. Naturally, as some girls participated in these games, their teammates cheered them on, sang and danced to the music.

As darkness fell, the spectacular finish for our day was our own Rockbrook fireworks show. We pulled out glow sticks for all the girls and were ready with more pop music to blast during the show. For the next 40 minutes or so, we all enjoyed another sing-along dance party, the girls twirling their glow sticks and cheering with every sparkling blast in the air. It was an exciting, special finish to a full camp day.

Banquet of Games

Tonight our ninth grade campers, known at camp as our “CAs,” unveiled the surprise theme for their party to celebrate the session. They’ve been planning since the first day of camp when the group selected this theme, carefully keeping everything a secret from the other campers (and most of the staff!) at camp. From the food, music, costumes, choreographed group dance performances, brief skits, to a truly amazing array of decorations, these girls considered every detail. We call this party at the end of the session, this over-the-top dance party, the “banquet.”

Game night party decoration

The banquet theme for this first session of 2019 was “Game Night.” They focused on board games, card games, and a few electronic games to select their characters, food and of course the entire dining hall’s decorations.  Using mostly paint on paper and cardboard, we saw posters and props for Checkers, Clue, Chutes and Ladders, Boggle, Parcheesi, Stratego, Rummi-Kub, Operation, Monopoly, Blokus, Uno, Barrel of Monkeys, Connect 4, Twister, Apples to Apples, Candyland, Spot it, and Pictionary, as well as Tetris, Pac-man, and Just Dance. With this many games represented, it was amazing to see the variety of designs, and colorful drawings that covered literally every inch of wall space in the dining hall. In every direction, the girls saw larger-than-life depictions of their favorite games.

This session has a record number of CA campers, 28 in all, so this was a wonderful theme to accommodate lots of characters. For example, from the game CandyLand we saw Queen Frostine, Miss Mint, Princess Lolly, Grandma Nutt and even Plumpy. There were characters from the game Clue: Professor Plum, Colonel Mustard, Miss Peacock, Miss Scarlet, Mr. Green and a Detective. Mario and Princess Peach were portrayed. The Queen of Hearts, the Monopoly Man, the Operation Man, Just Dance characters, Pac-man and his pursuing ghosts also made an appearance, while all of the counselors transformed themselves into different color dice. What a crowd!

summer camp party girls

The food included “game piece” fruit kabobs, “puzzle” chicken nuggets, “pizza spinners,” and checkerboard brownie/blondie cakes for dessert. The program included several dance performances, alternating with the entire camp jumping up to dance and shout to popular songs.  Just imagine 300 people all singing (as loud as they can, by the way) “shake it off,” “party in the USA,” or “meet me in the middle!” Now imagine all those people packed into a room, with even more excitement and exuberance bubbling up from the friendships strengthened over a couple of weeks together.  Add to that, loud music, eye-popping colorful decorations and costumes, and the kind of party food and snacks (i.e. sweet stuff!) kids love, and you have a REALLY fun party. I asked one camper between dancing how she liked the banquet, and without a split second of hesitation, she threw her arms up and yelled, “It’s awesome!”  There’s no doubt about it.

The Badquet Banquet

camp party dancing
cabin group party pose

Tonight was the biggest celebration of the whole session. After weeks of planning and preparation, our 9th graders finally revealed their surprise theme for the end of session banquet, and this was a good one. They called it “Badquet” because the theme was “villains,” a fun mashup of odious characters from different television shows and movies.  It turns out, there are a lot of “bad guys” to include, so the girls not only painted many well-known characters, they dressed as different characters too.

Here are just a few: Swiper, Lord Farquaad, Scar, Moriarty, Maleficent, Dr. Doofenshmertz, The White Witch, the Wicked Witch of the West, Medusa, Cruella de Vil, and Mother Gothel.

The theme tied all these characters together by imagining that they all were “Lost in Space” and encountered several green, 3-eyed aliens, played by the girls’ counselors.  Soon there was a heated “dance battle” between the aliens and the villainous ones. It wasn’t clear who “won” the battle, though soon the entire dining hall was up dancing together. In between serving the different courses of the meal, the characters entertained the rest of the camp with several choreographed dance numbers.

Camp party girls

The food was classic  banquet fare with inventive names: Moonbeam mozzarella sticks, Meteor Mac-n-cheese, Saturn’s onion rings, Alien chicken fingers, killer fruit kabobs, and cosmic brownies for dessert.

Everyone agreed the decorations were some of the best ever shown at a banquet. Each painted panel had fantastic details and very realistic proportions and colors. Many of the live action characters were also represented on the panels, like James and Jessie of Team Rocket for example.

The final part of the banquet is a tradition where the 9th grade girls (CAs) sing a song to their counselors thanking them and expressing their connection with each other. The counselors likewise sing a song back to the campers. The 10th grade girls and their counselors follow with the same. A few of the girls were a bit teary at times and laughing with big smiles at others during the songs. These girls been through a lot together, working side-by-side painting almost 90 paper panels and implementing all the details of their special surprise party.

One CA told me that this was her favorite year of camp so far, and since she’s been a Rockbrook girl for 7 years, that’s an incredible endorsement of what came from this group effort. The collective focus on this one complex project brought the girls even closer together and, as we saw tonight, had beautiful, really fun, results.

full cast badquet

A Colorful Extravaganza

It’s the 4th of July! As the sun rose behind the hill and the morning fog begin to lift, the girls were surprised to hear, “The British are coming! The British are coming!” yelled from the riding staff while on horseback. That staff woke and decorated their horses for this fun tradition of riding down the cabin lines for a unique wake up call. The whole camp then assembled around the flag pole to raise the colors, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and sing “America the Beautiful.” The Hi-Ups had decorated the dining hall with all sorts of banners, streamers, and other red, white and blue decorations. The campers were ready with their own colorful outfits as well, so when we gathered for breakfast, it was a multi-layered extravaganza of those three colors.

horses in camp morning
Camp girls 3-legged relay race
newspaper swimming relay race

After a regular set of activities in the morning, which were made even more fun and colorful given all the red, white and blue being worn, our 4th of July celebration kicked into an all-camp series of contests and relays. We first squared off for a pie eating contest, with campers and counselors from each age group trying to be the first to gobble up a small apple of cherry pie.

All the girls next took turns racing to be first in relays at the lake and in the gym. There was the crab walk, the wheel barrow, and the three-legged race relays, dizzy-lizzy bat relay, a hula hooping challenge, and a hilarious egg toss. Another funny relay was the costume race where each team had to put on several articles of clothing and then race to let another team member remove and wear those same clothes.

At the lake, the athleticism and spirit of the day continued with more relays.  There was a classic swimming relay, and another where the girls used kickboards and kicking to move through the water.  We had to have a greased watermelon race also. There was the sponge relay across the water and another fun challenge that got the girls swimming with one arm as they held up a newspaper to keep it dry. All this action meant the snow cone machine ran constantly as we all cheered for our lines.

You can see from this last photo that another part of the event was a chance for very elaborate face painting, again using those three familiar colors. Legs and arms (and in some cases both!), as well as faces were their canvases. As the afternoon rolled on, it was hard to find someone without some kind of red, white and blue proudly displayed.

Dinner was out of this world good!  Rick had spent the last three days slow roasting beef brisket to make barbecue sandwiches.  He had corn on the cob, fresh cool watermelon, homemade coleslaw to round out the plate.  Following and old RBC tradition, he also served cans of Cheerwine chilled in the creek near Curosty. For dessert they brought out “spirit pies,” small, individual pies of whipped cream, a strawberry, and blueberries decorating the top. Light and delicious!

The finale of the day came after dark when all the campers brought their Crazy Creek chairs out to the hill for a dance party and fireworks show.  Chase passed out glow sticks for everyone, and with fun, dance music pumping, the 30 minutes of amazing fireworks really topped the day.

camp girls with faces painted

Stranded at the Drive-In

Final banquet girls friends

Ask any of the older campers at Rockbrook if they remember their first banquet, and they’re bound to answer with a wholehearted “yes!” A Rockbrook “banquet” is an all-camp party held at the end of each session. It always has a surprise theme selected by our CA (9th grade) campers, who also design, plan and implement the details of the party.  The banquet is a huge celebration that combines amazing decorations, special fun foods, performers in costumes (the CA girls and their counselors), skits, music and dancing— all revolving around the theme.  Usually, there are about 20 CA campers working on this over the course of the session, so you can imagine how elaborate it can all become.

That’s why banquets are so memorable.  There’s the element of surprise, and the sheer amazement arising when the girls finally enter the dining hall to see how it has been transformed according to the theme. It’s a transformation that changes almost every interior surface: painted posters covering all four walls, tablecloths and table decorations, lights, streamers and balloons on the ceiling, and even posters decorating the floor at times! With characters dressing in full costumes dancing about, the music combines with the decorations to create a whole new environment. It can be almost mind-blowing for young children when they first see it. Then, between skits and choreographed dances performed by the CAs, it’s a loud, excited dance party for everyone. Soon, we’re all hot and sweaty, thrilled to be having this kind of high energy party with all of our camp friends.

campers dressed to perform at banquet

Tonight’s banquet, our first session 2018 banquet, was entitled “Stranded at the Drive-in.” Essentially a movie theme, the girls selected favorite movies and dressed as specific characters as they presented music and dances from particular films. We saw characters from Grease, Clueless, Shrek, Mean Girls, Monsters, Inc., Annie, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Incredibles. Take a look at the photo below to see all the CAs in their costumes. They were so well done! The tables had red movie ticket stubs scattered about. The wall posters were colorful detailed representations of other films like Moana, Up, Tangled, Cars, Inside Out, Wonder Woman, Finding Nemo and Gone with the Wind. …films that most of the other campers would know. With the theme, the girls decided to serve movie popcorn, along with chicken nuggets, mozzarella sticks, corn dogs, and fresh fruit on the side… ice cream and brownies for dessert.

What a great banquet! Dancing and singing together at the top of our lungs, I’m sure every single person had a complete blast.  It will probably take some work to wash all the glitter out of our hair, but I suspect this banquet will be unforgettable.

CA group for drive in banquet

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

Celebrating the 4th

Campers at Rockbrook on 4th of July

This morning we all paused to say goodbye to our July mini session campers. Leaving camp is hard enough on ordinary sessions when everyone departs at the same time, when the fun of camp comes to a close and new, now deep-rooted friends have to part ways. It’s even more sad on a day like today when the mini session campers leave the full session campers behind at camp. Separating this amazing community we’ve built and strengthened over the last couple of weeks, is simply tough on everyone. Of course, our consolation is knowing that we all can return next summer and meanwhile stay in touch. Thanks mini session girls for being with us. It was a great session and we’ll miss you.

The full session girls spent their morning in a new set of activities. They selected these the night before, so many were excited to finally take pottery and learn to throw a pot on the wheel, or to join a huge game of dodgeball in the gym. The instructors in Curosty had the looms warped and ready for new weavers, and the wax for making candles in Hobby Nook was melted and ready to go.

Eating Pie on 4th of July
Orange carry relay race
Girl with pie on her
White team wins and celebrates

Dinner began our 4th of July celebration. First of all, Rick served us a fantastic meal of barbeque chicken, corn on the cob, his homemade coleslaw, and probably too much watermelon… an all-American classic meal. Katie, our baker had been hard at work with a special dessert too: red velvet cupcakes, with blue icing, topped with a marshmallow and a little American flag poking out the top. Amazing and so yummy too. Several counselors had decorated the dining hall (a building that sees almost constant redecoration for special events) with all manner of red, white and blue. Combined with the girls’ costumes, streamers, balloons, shiny stars and flags jumped out in all direction. They had also selected an all-American playlist of music— “Murican Music” they called it —and soon the whole dining hall erupted into a spontaneous dance party with girls singing, dancing and posing for photos with each new song. These girls were excited!

The night’s activity was even more thrilling because it was a 3-team, relay challenge. All the girls divided into red, white or blue teams, dressed in their color, painted their faces, and arrived at the gym ready to shout their team spirit. Representatives from each team bobbed for apples, ran a 3-legged race, tossed an egg back and forth, thawed a frozen t-shirt, raced to fill a bucket with a sponge, carried an orange without using hands, threw a pie at a counselor, and ate a pie as fast as possible. Throughout all these relays, the roar of the cheering team members was almost deafening as the girls jumped and shouted from the sidelines. Wow!

Camp girls are Best Friends Forever at Rockbrook Camp