DIY Halloween Costumes Ideas

Are you still looking for Halloween costume ideas? Well, camp is one of the best sources of costume inspiration because as you know, we love dressing up at Rockbrook! Costumes make all of our theme special events come alive, but they are also something that makes every day, certainly every meal, and almost every moment just that extra bit special.

At camp, we foster a deep love for silliness and self-expression. You can see that in tutus, sparkly fairy hair, colorful face paint, and glitter (so much glitter!). This spirit of creativity and free flowing whimsy leads to some really great spur of the moment costumes at camp!

pac man costumes

Our camp banquets are a chance for 9th grade campers to really stretch their creative muscles! If you have some cardboard and paint laying around the house then you could make these amazing Pac-Mac and ghost costumes. This would be a simple and easy DIY costume for just one person or for a whole group of friends. Another amazing banquet inspiration is from “That 70’s Banquet.” I’m sure every camper has at least one tie-dye shirt in her closet. Grab that, some jeans (the more flare at the bottom the better) and make yourself a flower crown. You’ve got an instant 1970’s colorful classic.

Up for just a little shopping? Take a cue from some of our camp themes this summer! A great scientist (mad or otherwise) is simply a white coat, plastic gloves, and a pair of goggles away! Add a beaker and white wig for extra detail.

silly camp costume

Camp is a place where you can express yourself and know that the community will support you and celebrate you for exactly who you are. Sometimes that’s a peacock on the hill, or a mermaid at archery or just lots of smiles and shine and silly faces and glitter (oh, so much glitter!).

However that creative spark manifests in our campers, we want to encourage it. Silliness is brave. Rockbrook is full of brave, bold, silly and special girls!

“There’s power in looking silly and not caring that you do.”
—Amy Poehler

mad science costume
teen camp costumes

A Kind of Delirious Abandon

kid in canoe on camping trip

There’s a long history of Rockbrook girls spending time canoeing on the French Broad River.  We have photos from the 1930s of campers and their boats in the river. In fact, the camp has about 3/4 of a mile of shoreline on the French Broad not far from its true start in Rosman where two smaller streams come together. Once it passes Rockbrook, the French Broad flows north toward Asheville, continuing to form the Tennessee River, which feeds the Ohio River, finally becoming the Mississippi. In addition to beginner kayaking trips, Rockbrook takes girls canoeing on sections of the river, like for example last night when 12 girls and 2 staff members packed camping gear to paddle and then stop for the night part way through. As the river winds its way through valley farmlands, low trees and bushes line the banks revealing views of the nearby mountains from time to time. There are designated camping spots, usually grassy areas along the river, where groups can pull up their boats and pitch tents.  Our girls had a great time at their campsite playing games after dinner and watching a gorgeous sunset. The weather was likewise perfectly pleasant making the whole trip a grand time out.

The surprise muffin flavor today was mind boggling: chocolate chip cookie dough. It began with a regular chocolate chip muffin, baked to a perfect light brown with a moist crumb. That would have been delicious alone, but what pushed it over the top was the small chunk of cookie dough on top of each muffin. Needless to say, the whole camp was thrilled to bite into one these special treats.

tennis costume girl
Young horse rider at summer camp

One way the girls at Rockbrook express their enthusiasm, creativity and silly nature is by dressing up. Today was declared “Under the Sea Day,” so we had fun decorating the dining hall with ocean-related banners, searching the camp for a hidden “Nemo” and “Dori,” and creating costumes to wear all around the camp, to meals and activities. There was an octopus playing tennis, a shark lifeguard at the lake, and a scuba girl working at pottery.  It was another day proving that costumes really do make things more fun— funny and fun!

Shaving Cream Kids

The funniest event of the day, though, happened after dinner down on the sports field. It was a wild shaving cream fight for anyone brave enough to get this messy. Girls of all ages, yes even the teenagers, showed up wearing swimsuits ready to smear and be smeared. This kind of delirious abandon— running, squirting, laughing uncontrollably —is simply extraordinary. You’ve never seen girls so elated, and so many of them at once! We had a couple of hoses set up to rinse off a bit as necessary, like when some mischievous friend splatters a handful of the white stuff in your ear or some gets in your mouth. The slip and slide we had set up was also really fun when covered in the slippery foam. It doesn’t take long to empty 150 cans of shaving cream, but the fun doesn’t stop there. There are creative hairstyles to fashion, messages to write on your belly, and photos to take with friends.

It’s no surprise these Rockbrook girls are quick to say, “I love camp!”

Girls covered in shaving cream and I love camp

Deeply Satisfying

welcome to rockbrook

This was an exciting Sunday morning because it marked the beginning of our second July mini session. It meant the arrival of about 90 campers eager to start their camp experience. The staff woke early to be ready, so when the cars began driving up the gravel driveway we had an absolute mob of enthusiastic counselors cheering and greeting each car. It was a quick check-in process —office, riding interview, nurse check, swag store, and hair exam— and by 10:30am, we had most of the new session girls settled in their cabins. For several, there was time to visit Rockbrook Falls, one of the waterfalls on the camp property. It’s only about half a mile from the center of camp, and the trail leading there is pleasantly flat (mostly!) and a beautiful, meandering walk through the forest. Visiting this waterfall is a perfect first activity after arriving at camp. It gives girls a chance to soak in the environment a bit, shake out a few jitters, and get to know the other people hiking with them. It’s also an magnificent destination.

Around noon, the entire camp assembled under the walnut tree on the hill for a program of introductions, songs, awards, and skits. We sang the line songs, awarded cabin groups with the excellent inspection scores, and recognized girls with extraordinary camp spirit. Casey and Audrey performed a short skit about going to sleep in a camp cabin and the importance of staying quiet a night. Lunch was again deeply satisfying: tray after tray of Rick’s homemade mac-n-cheese, salad and fresh fruit. With no less than 4 types of cheese, and baked to that perfect gooey center and crunchy top layer, it’s always a huge hit.

mad scientist campers

Our all-camp afternoon event turned to science for its inspiration: a “Mad Science” Fair of experiments, games, and challenges. Counselors and Hi-Ups led the different activity stations. There was a “Green Team Quiz” game, a challenge to make a parachute, a chance to concoct sticky “Oobleck,” and a return of the “watermelon explosion” rubber band challenge. One of the more popular options was the Buoyancy test. The girls had to build a boat, something that floats, using only aluminum foil. Then they tested each person’s buoyant craft by adding fishing weights until it sank. The winner was able to hold 26 weights! With snacks and music, and plenty of lab coats, goggles and mustaches, the girls zipped between activity stations having fun and learning a little science along the way.

Before dinner there was time for everyone to visit the lake for a swim if they desired. There are two of these “free swim” periods most days: one before lunch and the other before dinner. After being active around camp, zipping, riding, climbing, hiking, or shooting for example, the cool water of the lake is also a deeply satisfying experience. Swim, float, jump off the diving board, or shoot down the water slide— there’s a way to set your own pace at the lake.

This is going to be an excellent week of camp.  Stay tuned!

swimming girls camp

Rockbrook Girls are Out of This World!

Way down in Brevard, we are lucky enough to be located in the mountains and away from bright city lights, allowing us to have a wonderful view of the stars on clear nights. Today, however, the campers had a chance to see and be stars during the daytime on Out of this World day! This full Saturday was jam-packed with special events, crafts, food, and costumes all related to the Out of this World theme.

inflated planetarium
planetarium entrance
campers inside planetarium

The first special part of our weekend was an all-day visit from the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute’s (PARI) Portable Planetarium. A former NASA research facility, PARI now hosts a Learning Center to inspire and educate people about science and technology. Today the Portable Planetarium came to Rockbrook for 6 viewings of their All About Space show, which included learning about the Greek mythology behind the names of planets and their moons, watching a meteor shower, and looking at all the Zodiac constellations. Entering the Portable Planetarium was like falling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland–campers and staff crawled through a dark tunnel into the planetarium dome that was then filled with the beautiful Milky Way.

zodiac camp birthday party

Our space-tacular Saturday continued at dinner with Zodiac birthday night. Campers with summer birthdays always get a special celebration at camp, but we also have a birthday night in order to celebrate everyone! Tonight, campers and staff sat with their fellow Sagittarians, Leos, and Capricorns in order to revel in their special identity and eat birthday cake. Not only does birthday night allow campers to celebrate themselves, it also allows them to sit at a meal with people of different ages they might not normally share a meal with. After dinner, the fun continued with an optional constellation kaleidoscope craft, and finally an all-camp favorite–a girls dance, replete with glow sticks!

While costumes, dancing, and learning happen every day at camp, Out of this World day allowed all the elements of Rockbrook to come together in such a way that campers were able to unlock their imaginations and explore new paths they might not otherwise take if it was just a “regular” day. With a theme, normal camp activities have a unique twist, a regular dinner becomes a huge birthday celebration, and a typical free swim becomes a time to lay with your friends in a planetarium and watch the stars. We can’t wait for the next special camp theme to take us to infinity and beyond!

girl camp dance

Celebrating the Silly

Rafting Camp Girls

Rafting, rafting rafting! Today Rockbrook girls took to the Nantahala River for a day of whitewater rafting. Two groups of girls, each made up of about 28 Middlers and Seniors, signed up to go on the adventure.  Rockbrook is known as the “rafting camp” since we take so many girls down the Nantahala (every camper interested who is 5th grade or older… an age/weight restriction imposed by our USFS permit) making us a weekly sight to behold on the river… dozens of Rockbrook girls all decked out in their colorful PFDs and white helmets, happily singing and screaming as their boats bump and splash over the rapids.

Today the weather was perfect in every way— warm and sunny, low humidity, blue skies and a very light breeze.  This made both the morning and afternoon rafting trips extraordinarily fun. The girls enjoyed splashing each other, taking turns “riding the bull” (sitting on the front of the raft), and even taking brief swims during calm sections of the river. Cold river water just feels good on this kind of warm, bright day. It’s really hard to imagine a better day of rafting.

girls sunglasses
girls silly headbands

Meanwhile back at camp, a surprise was brewing. It started at breakfast when all of the camp directors arrived wearing the craziest of fashion accessories. The camp mom wore a hamburger hat, our Program Director an all out 70s hippie outfit, and our Staff Director chose pins featuring pictures of all of her leadership staff. Soon enough, the girls heard the announcement explaining that today was declared CRAZY ACCESSORIES DAY!

Cheers erupted in the dining hall, and not even ten minutes later the whole camp was decorated in the wildest accessories girls could find and make up. One girl carried around a clear umbrella with blue and purple streamers to embody a jellyfish. Another camper picked up twigs to maneuver throughout her ponytail. Many girls were sporting tutus, colorful and crazy hats, headbands, sunglasses, and bright vests that could be seen from across the dining hall. It was fun and silly, in the best camp way!

For years now, Rockbrook girls have proved that everything is made better when there are costumes involved. Wearing a costume always adds an element of playfulness. It’s an opportunity for creativity. It can serve as a social glue bringing together girls to share a unique dress up idea. Costumes are inspiring, helping girls be less shy and perform a little more than they would otherwise. Costumes are genuinely liberating in this way. In a community that celebrates the silly, like Rockbrook, all this is even more true, and even more fun.

Finally, you’ll probably enjoy reading this short article in the New York Times, by Jeff Giles: “Goodbye Muddah, Goodbye Fadduh: Vintage photos of joy, adventure and homesickness at summer camp.” It’s a wonderful testament to the power of camp, how it evokes so much passion, and why it makes a huge difference in the lives of campers and staff members alike.

whitewater raft group

The Best Day of the Year

Excitement rippled up and down the Rockbrook hill all morning. We had seen this lunch being prepared for days, and now it was finally here. This would not be just any lunch; it would be a lunch so good that, upon entering the dining hall, people looked at the table and said, “This is the best day of the year!” It was tamale day.

Tamales coming from the steamer

These were authentic homemade tamales, expertly prepared by Rick and our friends in the kitchen. Finely ground corn flour, oil, lime and stock combines to make a paste called “masa,” which is then spread into a softened corn husk, filled with chicken, peppers, vegetables and/or cheese, and then rolled/folded to make each tamale. Cooking and shredding the chicken, soaking the corn husks in water, preparing the Guajillo pepper sauce, and mixing the masa all take time, not to mention the effort required to assemble the tamales, one by one. The last step is to steam the tamales in large pots (one holding 20 gallons!). Can you see why this took three days, especially when a little more than 1000 tamales needed to be made?

We sat down to eat, and the room was filled with joyous gratitude. The freshly steamed tamales, homemade guacamole, salsa, sour cream and salad made a delicious meal. This day is legendary around camp, and only happens once throughout the entire summer. It felt special today that it was happening second session this year, and there was a pure kind of contentment about being together with this wonderful food.

Campers enjoying Mariachi music
Rockbrook girl fiesta fun

BUT THEN our day got even better! The dining hall doors opened and in came a mariachi band! When they began to play, dressed in their amazing costumes, the entire dining hall erupted with elation and excitement. Everyone was full of pure joy. One counselor was so excited, her campers remarked that it was “as though she had just gotten a new puppy.” They played classics like “Canta y no llores” and “La Cucaracha,” and other songs like “Despacito” and “La Bamba.” The dining hall broke out in dancing, with girls jumping up and down, counselors spinning them around; a conga line even began. The performers had such joy and excitement in their eyes, which was reflected back to them by every girl. The amount of bliss in the dining hall today was truly unparalleled.  Here, take a look!

If you were to take a snapshot of the best of Rockbrook, you might choose this meal, this moment. It included so many of the best things about camp that we have come to love. It was delicious food made with love, it was a surprise that sparked pure happiness, it was spontaneous dancing and singing, and enjoying all of this together. Even as it was happening, everyone knew that this was going to be a time to remember, a time that makes us step back and remember that, at camp, a meal can be magical.

Rockbrook mariachi musicians

Simple Pleasures

camp teens on mountain

It was a full day of high altitude adventure for a group of 13 seniors who signed up for a special trip today. Lukas and Gabby, two of our outdoor staff members, planned and led the trip. Leaving after breakfast with muffins for a snack break, and a pack of sandwiches for lunch, they drove up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, making it all the way to the edge of the Shining Rock Wilderness area where they parked and set out on the Art Loeb Trail. This trail leaves the parking lot and follows the ridge line over several of the highest mountains in North Carolina, Black Balsam and Tennent Mountain being the most prominent. You can see from this photo that these peaks, which are over 6000ft high, are grassy, treeless knobs that provide amazing distant views when the weather is good, like it was today. Perfect places to enjoy the pleasure of a homemade muffin baked at camp!

Spending the whole day out allowed the girls next to make a fun stop at a popular swimming hole known as “Skinny-dip Falls.” They had come prepared with swimsuits and towels, and with their packed lunch, the sunny afternoon swimming and sunbathing on the boulders below the falls was wonderful.  They took turns leaping from the “jump rock” and posing for photos.   The leisurely pace, plenty of time to soak in the surrounding forest (big trees now!), and the delightfully cold mountain water created a special experience.

female camp counselor and girl

Back at camp, we deemed today “Red and White Day.” Essentially, we created a simple theme for creative costumes or dressing up. In some cases it was a simple as wearing a red t-shirt or a headband, and since Rockbrook’s colors are red and white, just about everybody had something they could wear. Sarah went all out, though. She has Rockbrook gear going back to the corduroy RBC hat, Rockbrook socks, hair ties, t-shirt, shorts, and fleece tied around here waist.  Rockbrook red and white in all ways. It’s neat how the pleasure of a simple dress up theme adds to the fun of a zany community like Rockbrook.

After dinner during our “Twilight” time, Chase organized an all-camp game of “Counselor Hunt.” As you can imagine this involves the counselors hiding and the campers, as cabin groups, scouring the camp looking for them.  We randomly assign point values to the counselors so that when found points can be added up to award prizes in the end.  A few counselors successfully hid throughout the search period (I suspect covered in leaves), while others were found almost immediately. The whole event is really fast paced as the cabin groups race around trying to be the first to find any particular counselor. Here too, something simple— in this case “hide and seek” —made for exciting all-camp fun.

Don’t you just love this last photo? It’s a gorgeous example of another simple pleasure of life at Rockbrook. Different than the fast-paced, competitive, technology-fueled, pressure (even anxiety) of our kids’ ordinarily lives, camp opens up space for girls to explore, play freely, imagine and create. …like right here in this photo where all of that is happening spontaneously beneath a hydrangea bush.  The best word for it might be “joy.”  There’s a contentment, something additional and deeper, that makes camp “fun” more affecting. Sometimes it takes a while for girls to realize they can be themselves like this at camp, but once they experience it, everyone will tell you they love it.  They know “There’s no place like camp.”

camp child playing in garden

The Adventure of Rafting and Dancing

Whitewater raft filled

Rafting is always a big deal at Rockbrook, and we proved it again today as we brought another 70 people down the Nantahala River for a thrilling whitewater trip. Ever since the early 1980s when Rockbrook received one of the few rafting permits awarded organizations (We’re still the only girls camp with a Nantahala rafting permit.), our camp girls have paddled the Nantahala. Over these years, it has become THE outdoor adventure trip most girls sign up for during their camp session, and while only Middlers and Seniors can go due to a Forest Service restriction, probably 90% of these eligible girls chose to go rafting.

We took two trips down the river with two different groups. The first drove over on Monday afternoon to our outpost campsite located just a short drive east of the river’s put in. The outpost has tent platforms, a small bathhouse, dining hall, and campfire ring. After arriving and setting up their sleeping platform arrangements (who “gets to” sleep by the door), the girls enjoyed a quick dinner of quesadillas, refried beans, salsa and chips, while saving room for roasting marshmallows and making a s’more around the campfire. Wood smoke, crispy toasted sugar, and the cool air of a cloudless night sky of stars combined beautifully. As the girls finished their goodnight circle song, everyone appeared happy and content heading to bed.

The next morning a quick breakfast of bagels, cream cheese and fruit charged us up before hitting the water around 10am. With our Rockbrook adventure staff guiding the boats, the morning group enjoyed a beautiful sunny trip down the river.  The whole run lasted about two hours, which was just enough time to bump, splash and laugh through the rapids without getting too cold in the 53-degree water.

The final rapid of the trip is a Class-III drop called the Nantahala Falls. It’s quite narrow and has two sections that can make it challenging to run, so it’s guaranteed to the best rapid of the day. Click on these photos to see what I mean.

rafting splash on rapid
camp girls on rafting trip

The second trip of the day also had excellent weather as they paddled, floating and singing down the river. Rafting is a fun mix of physical activity, goofing around with friends in the boat, moments of scream-inducing fear, and plenty of shocking cold— feet-numbing cold —water. No wonder it’s popular!

dancing camp girls

Arriving back at camp in time for a picnic dinner on the hill, everyone was surprised to learn that tonight’s evening program was a camp dance with the boys of Camp Carolina. Here too, we created two groups with the Senior girls traveling by bus over to Camp Carolina, and their younger boys coming to Rockbrook to meet our Middlers and Juniors. Having two simultaneous dances makes managing about 450 children a lot easier, and more fun for both age groups. At Rockbrook, DJ Marcus kept everyone moving by playing pop songs and well-known group dancing songs. The girls happily formed conga lines, danced all over the gym, and had no trouble stopping to pose for photos with their friends and counselors. Camp Carolina also played mostly “radio hits” popular with the girls while keeping the lights low to show off their mirrored disco ball spinning near the ceiling.

I guess we could say, like rafting, there’s a bit of adventure involved in camp dances as well. Dances often require a special location (dance floor), equipment (amplified music), and clothing (the clean things). There’s a certain amount of skill, both physical and social, involved at camp dances. Also though, there’s excitement mixed in, the thrill of interacting with the opposite gender, especially for the older girls. It’s that kind of adventure that makes for memorable fun.

It’s been a very full day for these Rockbrook girls. They’ve done extremely well, enjoying themselves every step of the way.

line of dancing kids
kids camp dance