The Power of Costumes

Camp Counselor Costume
Camp Director Costume

Don’t underestimate the power of a costume. It can be as simple as a hat or a carefully draped sheet, or as elaborate as a full-body pumpkin suit or complete ninja attire. Putting on something out of the ordinary— and the sillier the better —can be transformative. It can give you permission to express an aspect of your personality that’s ordinarily muted. Or, it can be a chance to experiment with a completely different character, like a pirate for example. A costume can act as a shield of sorts from what we perceive as social expectations. It can be an opportunity to be creative, perform and proudly participate more fully in a group event. Whether it’s changing your hairstyle, carrying a wooden sword all day, or borrowing those sparkly shoes from your cabin mate, for example, wearing a costume is inherently playful, and thereby fun.

Lifeguard Camp Costume
Ice Cream Olaf

These are the reasons we incorporate costumes into so many of our events at camp. We know that whatever we’re doing, wearing a costume will make it more fun. A good example was the “Winter Wonderland” theme we announced this morning at breakfast. When the campers arrived in the dining hall they found painted banners, decorative snowflakes suspended from the rafters, snow centerpieces on the tables, miniature characters from the movie “Frozen” (like Olaf the snowman), and some winter songs playing. With some inspiration from the counselors who already were dressed up, everyone was encouraged to dress up in any “winter-themed” costume they could imagine.

It was great to see later an ice princess lifeguarding at the lake, a polar bear in the Painting and Drawing class, and a life-sized Olaf snowman shooting archery. There were several girls dressed as snow queens, and for some wearing a snow hat was enough. Throughout the day the girls could make gingerbread houses, and something akin to snow (from corn starch, shaving cream, and glitter). The most popular event was the “Polar Express” ice cream party where the girls could enjoy a round of hand-dipped (thanks counselors!) cones on the hill. A variation on our tradition called the “Biltmore Train,” this party let the girls finish their ice cream, and as long as they still had some cone left, they could return for another scoop. Most of the girls ended up eating two or three scoops before their cone got too soggy. A real summertime treat.

Throughout the day, the costumes seemed to multiply and evolve, as if costume wearing was contagious. The silliness seemed to inspire others to join in, and be part of the fun. Winter-themed stickers appearing at lunch, temporary tattoos at dinner, our winter theme accelerated all day. Even during the “Twilight” drum and dance workshop with Billy Zanski, the girls stayed in costume, pounding the djembes and dancing around the hillside lodge.

Maybe there will be a chance to dress up tomorrow too. Even if we don’t announce a theme, I bet there will be several girls who sport some kind of costume… Just for the fun of it.

Girl Camp Friends

A Community of Fun

Girl and horse at equestrian camp

This is a time of camp when everyone seems to be settled in. After only these few days together we’re singing the songs louder and more confidently, taking on higher level activity challenges, and most importantly, happily greeting so many more new friends we see around camp. That’s the really cool thing; you can feel the whole community growing closer and caring for each other. And of course, knowing this many people this well, we all are having even more fun. There’s a friend around every corner, someone waiting to join you in whatever the next thing is. “Let’s go get changed for horseback riding!”

young camp girl learning to knit

One of the oldest buildings at Rockbrook is a 19th century log cabin called Curosty. Originally constructed in nearby, Rockbrook’s founder Nancy Carrier moved it here to serve initially as the camp’s office. Now it houses our fiber arts activities. Inside you’ll find girls learning to weave using all kinds of looms and techniques. They are weaving narrow belts and headbands on tabletop looms, wider and more complex fabrics on the floor looms, and simple designs on lap looms… All surrounded by the hand-hewed timbers of this 150-year-old cabin. On the back porch of Curosty, in the shade of the oaks and hemlocks and nearby a gurgling creek, our Needlecraft activity meets. This is another wonderful opportunity for our campers to step back in time and learn classic needlework crafts like knitting, cross stitch, and embroidery. Working with colorful threads and yarns, the girls are threading, twisting and knotting strands into beautiful designs. Different from some of the more physically active, thrilling activities, stepping into Curosty is calm and conversational.

Campers-dressed counselors

Guess what happens when you let eight 2nd graders dress you in anything they want. That’s right; it can be pretty crazy, and that’s exactly what the Junior Line girls did tonight to their counselors.  For their evening program, and with all sorts of costume props at their disposal, the girls didn’t hold back as they added multiple layers and accessories. Hats, scarves, sunglasses, tiaras, dresses and skirts- nothing seemed out of bounds. The finale was a wild fashion show in the Junior Lodge, which had everyone rolling with laughter. It’s great for the girls to see their counselors be such good sports, throwing themselves into all this silliness, just letting go and enjoying themselves no matter who might be watching. After all, that’s exactly what “having fun” often means.

Also tonight all the Middlers and their counselors took a trip into the Pisgah Forest for a picnic dinner. Rick and his crew packed us yummy Burritos, chips and fruit to eat, and after a short drive we had the whole crew (92 people in all!) skipping and frolicking through the grass of our favorite secret spot. Back in the buses, we then headed to Sliding Rock for a few trips down the rock. A rain shower from earlier in the day had swollen the creek a bit, making it a slightly faster ride, but it had also warmed up the water temperature a bit (though I suspect the girls didn’t really notice!). Sliding Rock is a real mountain treat, and is something Rockbrook campers have enjoyed for generations. Finally, we made a stop at the famous “Dolly’s Dairy Bar,” located at the entrance to the forest. Everyone picked out their favorite flavor for a cup or cone, like “Rockbrook Chocolate Illusion,” to top off the evening.

Happy Girl Loving Camp
This is awesome!!

Don’t Forget to Write!

Girls receiving mail at summer camp

Receiving mail at camp is a huge deal to the campers. Everyday, someone from our office drives to the Brevard P.O. and wheels out a shopping cart full of cards and letters addressed to the girls at RBC. Even with our “no package” policy, there are usually a couple of hundred pieces per day! Then during lunch, we sort the mail and deliver it to the campers’ mailboxes so it will be ready once they’re dismissed from lunch. It’s always so exciting to check your box and see something there. Part of this excitement, I think, has something to do with the simple (mostly) technology-free living we enjoy at camp. Being away from screens and the external stimulation they provide, camp is more immediately interactive. It emphasizes real relationships and sensuous experiences, but is also completely “here and now” and relies very little on the outside world. Receiving mail reminds us of what’s going on outside in the “real world.” It provides some reassurance that everything is fine back home and it’s OK being at camp. Mail shows us that the folks back home are just as excited we are about us having this much fun at camp. Oh, and can you see why a real, hand-written letter is vastly superior to a “quick email?” Mail can really mean a lot!

Girls weaving baskets by the creek
Yoga Camp
girls eating muffins at summer camp

Today was a perfect summer day (warm, dry and sunny) for a perfect camp day (packed with action, plenty of giggles, and bright-eyed surprises). Clyde, Kristen and Abby took a group of Middlers out kayaking on the French Broad River. Jeff and Leslie took a big group of Juniors hiking to John Rock in the Pisgah National Forest. Thalia offered one of her very popular yoga classes to the seniors. Everyone paused for a cinnamon streusel muffin. And then it was back to weaving baskets in the creek near Curosty, working on backhands on the tennis courts, flips in gymnastics, and climbing to the top of Castle Rock. There always seems to be time to squeeze in a quick game of tetherball too. During the free swim time before dinner, the new water slide was running nonstop.

Tonight’s evening program marked the return of Auction, a special all-camp event we haven’t had in a few years. This session we went traditional and decided to make it a “Western” themed event. This meant all the girls came dressed in their best western garb… cowboy hats, boots, overalls, hair bows, bandanas and plenty of plaid. Each cabin sat together in the dining hall and was given a handful of RBC bucks to make bids on mystery prizes. Jerry, our Director Emeritus, ran the event as the auctioneer. Some of the prizes were sweet, like a cake or ice cream treat, while others were a little less exciting, like a tray of veggies or new toothbrushes. There’s plenty of suspense once a cabin won a bid, and just as much laughter and cheers when the prize was revealed. It’s funny how there were enough prizes for every cabin to win both a yummy and a silly prize… 😉  Good fun.

Auction game dressed in western garb

We Swim, Dress Up and Slide

It’s hard to say which flavor of muffin is most popular at camp. With Liz, our baker, creating so many new varieties from scratch— not to mention the traditional kinds— there are too many to choose from. There’s blueberry, but also key lime muffins, cranberry walnut, but also chocolate chip, and sprinkles, and white chocolate almond! Liz arrives at 6:30am each morning and gets to work right away to have the muffins baked and cooled by the mid-morning muffin break. Since there are more than 300 people (campers and staff members), that’s a lot of muffin trays, papers and individual dollops of batter to prepare! The muffins are always so good the girls literally run to the dining hall when they hear the bell announcing “Muffin Break.” For everyone at camp, Liz is a hero!

In fact, the entire kitchen crew are heroes at camp. Rick and his crew are really working hard to create great balanced meals for us, and this isn’t “camp food,” pre-processed, frozen, nuggets of whatnot fried and served with ketchup. Nope. All the main dishes are homemade, from the pizza dough, to the pancakes, to the chicken and dumplings. Rick puts together every meal’s menu, so for dinner yesterday we had baked tilapia, wild rice and a spinach salad. Each tilapia fillet was spiced individually, and the salad included a homemade sesame salad dressing. It’s also amazing how Rick takes time to make special vegetarian options. So for example, he made vegetarian dumplings combining green tomatoes, goat cheese and a light sauce with the dumpling dough. It was a pleasantly surprising combination, and with a big green salad, made a great meal. Sorry to talk so much about the food at camp, but after being away for a couple of nights camping, it’s hard not to!

Junior camp girls play dress up game
Middler camps go to sliding rock trip
camps senior girls go on swimming trip

Wednesday we took cabin photos before lunch and during rest hour. Gathering everyone in each cabin, dressed in their camp uniforms, and taking their photograph is a long tradition at Rockbrook. Part of the fun is that each cabin gets to select where it would like the photo taken and how to arrange each person. There are so many different places at camp to pose— on one of the many huge rocks, down by the lake, standing in a creek, or on a porch or set of steps. It’s fun for campers to keep their copy of their cabin photo and to collect them over the years in a scrapbook or camp photo album.

For Wednesday afternoon’s cabin day activities, the three lines split up. A few junior cabins went on short hikes to Castle Rock and Rockbrook Falls, but one stayed to put on a dress up fashion show in the Junior Lodge. Silly, silly stuff. Meanwhile, several cabins of seniors took a quick trip into the Pisgah Forest to take a dip in a swimming hole. The water was pretty chilly (like all the creeks and streams in these mountains), so it took a while for most of the girls to get wet. After dinner, all of the mini session Middlers took a trip up to Sliding Rock. Many of the girls had never been to Sliding Rock before, so it was particularly fun to see them zip down the rock and funny to hear them scream when they plunged into the cold water below. There are lots of photos of this in the RBC gallery. Naturally, on the way home, we had to stop at Dolly’s for a cone, a yummy sweet treat of some kind. Being all things chocolate, the Rockbrook camp flavor is still one of the most popular. It was a little bit of a late night for these Middlers by the time we got back to camp settled down, but we all enjoyed ourselves in true RBC fashion.

So Much Fun at Camp

playing a game of tennis at summer camp

When writing these blog posts, and mentioning special events for the most part, it’s easy to forget all of the “regular” activities that are going on at camp.  Everyone selects four different activities for their daily schedule, so throughout the day you can find all kinds of arts and crafts, horseback riding, sports, and outdoor adventure going on.  Kathleen our main photographer spends part of her day wandering around camp taking pictures of these activities, but it’s impossible for her to capture it all.  She might spend time at the tennis courts, for example, but she’ll be missing the action at the Alpine Tower and the riding down at the barn.

Teen camp girls at waterfall

Jeff took the Hi-Ups, our oldest campers (10th graders), on a fun outing Thursday afternoon. Dressed in bathing suits and with towels in hand, we made our way to High Falls in the Dupont State Forest. It was one of those perfect summer days. The unstable, moist air of the last few days had cleared to leave wonderful blue skies, sunshine and a few white clouds. High Falls is a spectacular waterfall formed as the Little River drops about 150 feet over exposed granite. Depending on the water level, there are different sections varying in strength from a gentle sloping flow to a raging drop. We found it just right today to swim in the pool at the bottom of one section. There’s also a part forming a “sliding rock” of sorts. It was a little bumpy going down, but very fun nonetheless. On the way home, there was just enough time to swing by Dolly’s. Yum.

Camp counselor dressed as draco malfoy

For dinner, we held another special meal, Restaurant Night, but to mix things up a bit, we turned it into “Harry Potter and the Night of the Restaurant.”  A group of the counselors decorated the dining hall like the great hall of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter novels, and everyone was invited to dress up as a character from the books or in simply “magical” attire.  The tables were rearranged and the counselors served the campers… roast beef, peas, potatoes and toffee bars for desert. We saw Draco Malfoy, several Harry Potters (complete with lightning bolt scar) and even Sarah dressed up as Bellatrix Lestrange to do the announcements after the meal. Music, food, costumes and skits: all just a regular part of the fun at camp.

Hilarious Horse

hilarious camp horse

Isn’t that the funniest picture you’ve ever seen!? You just never know what kind of silliness will burst out down at the Rockbrook stables. Certainly making the horses “look good” is a part of it!

We love this photo also because it so beautifully represents the feeling of the riding program at Rockbrook. It shows that the girls are not only learning a lot about riding, improving their horsemanship skills and experience, but also having a great time. Being together at the barn is for some girls, their absolute favorite part of camp life. Rockbrook is well known for its riding program because it does an amazing job balancing things like this.

The 10 best ways to dress up at Camp

Summer Camp Dressing Up Fun

What are the best ways to dress up at summer camp? Dressing up is one of the best things about going to an all girls summer camp. There seems to always be a chance to put on something funny, become a character, or create an alter ego of some sort. Parties, skits, shows! The zanier the better too. Thinking of Rockbrook, here are the top 10 fun dress up themes we love at camp.

  • 10. Crazy Hats
  • 9. Pajamas
  • 8. Super Heroes
  • 7. Backwards Clothes
  • 6. Fairies
  • 5. 70’s Disco Divas (or some other decade)
  • 4. Pirates
  • 3. Survivors
  • 2. Crazy Hair Styles
  • 1. Grannies

What’s your favorite?

A Crazy Camp of Grannies

Summer camp Girls Dressed as Grannies

A bathrobe
A wig
A couple of hair curlers
Lots of powder for all over
Glasses, preferably small ones on the end of your nose
Pillows or other stuffing for certain areas 😉
A walking cane
Loose, baggy nylon stockings
Big puffy slippers
Really red, and a little messy, lipstick
A scratchy or frail sounding voice

“Put them altogether, and you’ve got a Rockbrook…” Well, a granny of course! And not just one, but a couple of hundred! It’s one of our favorite special evening programs at camp— to get dressed up like old ladies and play bingo. “Granny Bingo.” The thrill of the game, the awesome prizes, the costumes, and all the laughing. Sure it’s silly, it’s crazy, it’s goofy, but it’s also excellent fun.