Opening Camp Renaissance Style

Girls arrive at summer camp

Welcome August Mini Session campers; welcome to Rockbrook! For girls returning after already knowing camp and for those who were arriving for the very first time, this was the big day they had been waiting for. Now with a fervent mix of excitement and likely a dash of anxiety, both intensified by the months of anticipation they’d been tolerating, their time at camp could finally begin. What a relief! The check in process— meeting the office folks, browsing the latest Rockbrook logo gear, consulting with the nurses, and stopping for a quick “hair appointment” —went very smoothly, and in no time the girls arriving had met their fabulous counselors and the new bunk mates they’ll be getting to know so well over the next 12 days. Right away, after a couple get-to-know-you games and simply having the first of many, many conversations, I could tell we’re going to have really tight cabin groups this session. It’s neat to see camp friendships forming so quickly.

Right before lunch, the whole camp gathered on the grassy hill overlooking the mountains for a quick assembly of introductions, a silly skit performed by several counselors, a few songs led by the Hi-Up campers, and a demonstration of our lightning warning system (it sounds a very loud horn warning the whole camp to go inside whenever it detects lighting, or the possibility of lightning, within a several mile wide radius.). Part of the assembly included assigning the “Mop Awards” to the cabin group from each line that had the highest overall inspection scores for the previous week. This session the awards, which are actual mops, where decorated as board games… again, just for the fun of it. The winning cabins from each age group get to keep the awards to display in their cabins, like a trophy, until the following week when a new cabin will more than likely take the title.

During rest hour, which happens right after lunch, Chelsea and her team of lifeguards opened the lake for all the newly arrived mini session girls. She took this time to orient the girls to the lake, explaining the safety rules there and asking everyone to demonstrate their swimming ability so she could assign them buddy tags. The chilly mountain water feeding our lake can be a shock, even for returning campers, but today’s bright, warm, sunny weather made the water feel even better.

Festival Kids in Costume
Festival jousting inflatable
Festival Face Painting

The rest of the afternoon became the main event of the day, an amazing Rennaissance Festival held on the grassy lawn of the Clarke-Carrier House in the center of camp. Built between 1895 and 1889 by H.P. Clarke, the father of Rockbrook’s founder Nancy Carrier, this house was designed by noted Asheville architect Richard Sharp Smith. The campers walk past it on their way to the tunnel that leads to the stables for horseback riding. The house has winged porches on each side and a terraced lawn circled by ancient boxwood bushes. Our festival took place all around the house, including the nearby paths through the woods.

water balloon catapult
Festival Hair Styling with flowers
Girls Festival Costumes

Like so many events and parties at Rockbrook, we began with costumes, encouraging the girls to be creative as they dressed up for the fair. Masks, dresses, jester hats, ribbons, feathers and flowered headbands, all added color to the festivities. We invited our friend Billy Zanski back to set up a drum circle and play for the girls as they arrived at the event. Right in the center of the lawn an inflatable jousting game was set up, while spread around it were different activities the girls could sample: face painting, a water balloon catapult, a jello toss, and a silly “photo booth” featuring Renaissance-themed props (scepters, masks and crowns, for example). Of course we had plenty of fun snacks too: cotton candy, popcorn, snow cones, and roasted chicken legs to go around. Down one path a fortune teller was reading palms. Another path led to a story teller, and the most popular led to a magical fairy garden revealing small shiny treasures, bubbles, and twinkling lights. One area had counselors braiding hair using flowers, rainbow colored tinsel, and ribbons, while nearby others were offering temporary tattoo designs using henna. Renaissance music played, and a juggler wandered around entertaining. There was so much to do! All this, combined with all these excited, happy girls, dressed up and silly in the best ways, made the whole event a spectacular success. It’s the kind of day we love around here.

Cabin inspection award

A True Festival

Camper Song Clapping

We welcomed our 2nd July Mini session campers to Rockbrook this morning, some returning to camp after one or more previous summers, and some for their very first time. For all 103 of them however, all the waiting and anticipation could finally bubble up as excitement, “smiles and pep” like one song puts it. Today, the gorgeous, cool yet sunny weather added even more energy throughout the check in process— greeting the office folks, checking out the latest RBC gear (green seems to be a color this year…), chatting with the nurses, enjoying a quick “hair appointment” (all clear there), but most importantly, meeting the fantastic counselors and new cabin mates they’ll live with for the next 12 days. It’s normal for this busy excited process to include a little anxiety as well, as campers and parents feel nervous about being apart or unsure about “how it will go,” but there didn’t seem to be much of that today as the enthusiastic, optimistic spirit of all the great people here carried the mood. By about 12:30 we had everyone settled in their cabins, groups get-to-know-you games happening, and tours of the camp finding their way to every activity area.

Just before lunch, we assembled all the campers and counselors on the grassy hill beneath the old walnut tree for a few songs, introductions, announcements and skits. Like most gatherings at camp, it included costumes, lots of clapping and singing, and plenty of volume throughout. The three Line Heads (who are veteran counselors supervising each age group) entertained everyone with poems announcing the “Mop Awards” given to the cabin with the highest inspection scores for the week. It’s an exciting honor to win, and then to keep the award, a decorated mop, in their cabin for the coming week.

I don’t talk about our camp food very much in these blogs, but I could, because it’s awesome! Rick and his dedicated crew in the kitchen, for 6 years now, have been consistently serving healthy, made-from-scratch meals keeping all of us happily fed. Considering the baked goods (muffins, breads, cakes, cookies!), the fresh guacamole, pasta salads, soups, salad dressings, and international dishes, including vegetarian and gluten-free entrees, and so on, this kitchen cooks! Here’s a fun fact; in one week the Rockbrook girls typically eat 500 lbs of apples, 300 pounds of bananas, 4 bushels of peaches, 4 bushels of oranges, and multiple gallons of blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries. Yikes, that’s a lot of fruit! Partly this is because we keep a table on the dining hall porch stocked with fresh fruit all day so the campers can cruise by and grab a snack, but it’s also because Rick likes to include at least one fruit and a vegetable on his lunch and dinner menus. Today’s lunch was a good example— Rick’s homemade Mac-n-Cheese, baked with three kinds of cheese, steamed green beans, with sliced pineapple and blueberries… A perfect first meal at camp. For dinner, Rick served his famous homemade barbeque. He roasted 12 massive pork butts, rubbed down thoroughly with a complicated blend of peppers, coffee, and other spices. He made his own vinegar-based sauce, and completed the menu with fresh coleslaw, buns, blackberries, and Rice Krispie treats for dessert. I could go on and on about how well we eat at Rockbrook. It’s just that good!

Costume Camp Teens
Inflatable Jousting
Girls face painting

After a brief rest hour, during which the Mini Session girls squeezed in their “swim demos,” the whole camp dressed up for a special event to be held on the grassy lawn of the Clarke-Carrier House in the center of camp. Built between 1895 and 1889 by H.P. Clarke, the father of Rockbrook’s founder Nancy Carrier, this house was designed by noted Asheville architect Richard Sharp Smith. The campers walk past the house on their way to the Rockbrook Stables for horseback riding, but today it was the scene of a spectacular Renaissance Fair.

Lady Mary on horseback
Renaissance Headband
Silly girls eating turkey legs

First, we announced the event so the campers could dress for the occasion… colorful dresses, ribbons, jester hats, flowered headbands, and hairstyles. Drummer Billy Zanski set up a drum circle and played while the girls arrived, and they found more than 10 different activities, renaissance music playing, and several different snacks. There was a catapult that launched water balloons, a “photo booth” complete with a variety of Renaissance-themed props (crowns and scepters, for example), a juggler wandering around (me!) and an inflated jousting game. Nearby, counselors were braiding flowers and ribbons into hair, painting colorful designs on faces, and offering simple henna temporary tattoos. One path led to a fairy garden with twinkling lights and bubbles, while another gathered girls around a story teller. There were roasted turkey legs to go around, lemonade to drink, popcorn, cotton candy and snow cones to enjoy too. There was so much to do, the girls had a blast wandering around sampling everything.  It was a true festival, made extraordinary by the crowd of happy girls, the music and historic camp setting. Good camp fun, right out of the gate!

Winning Camp Girls Cabin

Renaissance Fair Opening Day

Opening Day Arriving CamperWe opened our June mini session this morning and welcomed 70 more campers to Rockbrook, joining the full session girls who arrived last week. About half of these were first-time Rockbrook girls, so for them today brought a particularly energizing mix of new faces, and waves of new sensations— the babble of the streams, earthy smells of the forest, and the whoops and cheers of the counselors. For the returning campers too, opening day is full of delight. You can feel the excitement all morning long, partly because it’s been pent-up for months now (in some cases all year!), but also because it’s so deeply felt. This is camp, and these girls are ready! Now with the dining hall full, and every camper and counselor charged with energy to spare, we have a powerful Rockbrook session underway.

As the mini session girls arrived, the full session campers and their counselors held a brief “Chapel” program focused on the theme of “Encouragement.” The Senior Line campers wrote and led the program. It included songs, like “Lean on Me”and “You’ve got a Friend in Me,” as well as quotes from Henry James about being kind, Maya Angelou, and others. It was a nice opportunity to think about why encouragement is so important and why it’s so valued here at Rockbrook for its role in forming a close community of people. Encouragement is simply a part of our camp culture.

After lunch and a brief break for Rest Hour, the whole camp enjoyed a very special afternoon event held on the lawn of the Clarke-Carrier House in the center of camp. This house, which predates the camp, was the childhood home of Rockbrook’s founder, Nancy Barnum Clark Carrier. Also known as the “Rockbrook House,” you can see its location on the camp map, and read more about its history, but it has a wonderful terraced lawn that was perfect for our event: a Renaissance Fair.

Renaissance Queen Kid Renaissance Fairies Renaissance Throne Kid

The event was amazing. It had more than 11 different activities for the girls, music, food, and thanks to everyone’s creativity, very cool costumes to bring the scene to life. There was an inflated jousting game, a water balloon catapult, a “photo booth” filled with Renaissance-inspired props, crowns to decorate, and wax candles to make. Down the path a little ways, there was a fairy garden, complete with bubbles and twinkling lights. There the girls could join a drum circle. Also nearby, counselors were painting faces, and braiding hair with flowers, leaves, and ribbons for decoration. A fortune teller offered to give advice and a henna tattoo artist decorated campers’ hands with small designs. There was plenty of food to enjoy as well, including roasted turkey legs, hunks of baguettes, popcorn, cotton candy, snow cones and cups of ginger ale. With so many options available, the campers had a blast going from one area to next. Some carried giant turkey legs, while others nibbled cotton candy. The costumes, face painting and decorations, plus the music and the backdrop of 100-year-old boxwood bushes and the historic camp house, all added up to make the afternoon unforgettable.

Catapult Queen kid Renaissance Fortune Teller Renaissance Jousting Game for Camp

Rockbrook Clarke Carrier House