A Marvelous Beginning

Camp Counselor with small girl camper

“Rockbrook Request: new campers!” That’s what the counselors cheered this morning as we prepared to welcome our August Mini Session campers. It’s always exciting for new friends to arrive at camp, but that’s especially true for this last session of the summer. These are the campers who have been waiting the longest for camp, and for that reason have been banking their camp enthusiasm for months. Now, finally, as they drove into camp and everything was suddenly real— actual counselors, a bunk bed to choose in the cabin, and so many people to meet! —all their stored up energy was ready to come out. That kind of anticipation can at times also bring with it a few butterflies, but that’s something that ordinarily fades quite quickly once we channel that energy into the daily action of camp life. From the smiling faces I saw on the hill, that’s already begun.

Right before lunch, the whole camp assembled on the grassy hill just below the Junior Lodge. Off in the distance, you could see the blue ridge mountains and easily make out the shining face of Cedar Rock, thanks to the clear sunny weather. For the newly arrived campers and the full session girls alike, it was great fun to sing the Line Songs together, find out which cabins won the “Mop Award” (best inspection record) this week, and, for some, to try out their new Crazy Creek chairs. The Hi-Ups led everyone in singing the camp song, and before heading to lunch, we all posed to capture an all-camp photo. Here is that photo. It’s a little hard to make out everyone in a group this large, but if you click and download the high resolution version (which make take a few seconds), you’ll have a better view.

All Camp 3rd Session

Lunch made everyone happy because Rick prepared a grand breakfast spread of scrambled eggs, homemade fried red potatoes, mounds of bacon, bowls of steaming yellow grits, and a mixed fruit salad of melon, strawberries and black berries. There were a few girls who preferred cereal, granola and yogurt, but everyone was happily stuffed by 1:30!

Camp Swimming Friends

Taking advantage of the sunny warm afternoon, the mini session girls toured the camp ending up at the lake to demonstrate their swimming ability to the lifeguards and receive their swim tag. This simple test requires them to swim out about 50 feet, back the same distance, and then tread water for one minute. We don’t insist everyone take the text— a few girls always opt out it seems —but we do require girls be good swimmers if they are to participate in the water related activities (e.g., kayaking, canoeing, rafting, and sliding rock trips) or swim at the lake without the aid of a life jacket. Girls can always change their mind and take the “swim demo” later if they prefer. As I mentioned yesterday, the lake is a lot of fun (Take a ride down “Big Samantha,” our water slide!), and that can be a strong motivator!

To really kick things off, we held a pirate-themed carnival this afternoon down on our grassy sports field. For both the campers and counselors, this was first of all an opportunity to invent and show off a pirate costume, so with red bandanas wrapped around their heads, a few plastic swords, painted mustaches, hats and hoop earrings, including a few full buccaneer costumes, we had an impressive pirate crew. But like all great parties, we had games to play (with prizes to win), different snacks to eat (cotton candy, snow cones, and soft pretzels), and plenty of dancing and music pumping the whole time. The girls had a blast teaming up with buddies and running from game to game snacking along the way. They were tossing rings onto coke bottles, softballs in buckets, and beanbags into corn holes. They were bobbing for apples and making giant bubbles with hula hoops. They had their faces painted and their fortunes told by “Gypsies.” They raced to blow a bubble from the piece of bubblegum found hidden in a pie pan of flour. They tossed green “slime” (a thick solution of food coloring, jello powder, flour, and water) at three volunteer Hi-Ups… just for the hilarious fun of it. In addition, on one end of the field we set up two inflatable challenge games to play: an obstacle course race and a pillar jousting competition.

Ball Toss Carnival Game
Carnival Camp Kid with snacks
Camp Carnival Challenge

Beyond all these activities, costumes and snacks, what really made this event “the best party ever!” as one Junior camper put it, was the easy, joyful enthusiasm arising from everyone. So much laughing and smiling, spontaneous dancing, and genuine friendship making everything better! It was remarkable to see all these girls have such great fun and open up to the feeling of camp.  I can already tell, these girls are going make this session marvelous.

Camp Pirate Friends
Pirate Camp Friends

A Perfect Pirate Carnival

Camp girl gets swim tag after test

Today we opened our June mini session and welcomed 85 campers to Rockbrook to begin their 2-week session. It was an exciting morning for everyone, certainly for the girls arriving because they were finally starting their time at camp, but also for the current full session campers and staff already here because they now had a new group of friends to meet and play with while at camp. About half of the girls arriving today were brand new to camp, so for them this morning, and later during their camp tours, as they discovered each activity area or feature of Rockbrook— the huge rock face for climbing above the camp (Castle Rock), the water slide at the lake (“Big Samantha”), the zipline, horseback riding rings (and the tunnel under the road that leads to the riding area), all the tabletop and floor weaving looms in Curosty, and the crazy intensity of the dininghall, for example —ratcheted up their eagerness to get started. A quick assembly of the whole camp on the grassy hill got everyone singing a few camp songs, and gave each Director, Line Head, and the Hi-Ups a chance to introduce themselves.

For Lunch, Rick and his fantastic kitchen crew prepared a camp classic: tacos. With bowls of homemade guacamole, salsa, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, refried black beans, and ground beef, as well as stacks of crunchy taco shells on each cabin’s table, the girls broke records making their own tacos.  One small Junior camper bragged that she ate 5 tacos in all!

The mini session Seniors and Middlers spent their rest hour at lake hearing about how our “Tag System” works and demonstrating their swimming ability for the waterfront staff. Every girl who chooses to do water-related activities at camp (swim at lake, a rafting, kayaking, or canoeing trip, for example) must feel confident in the water, be able to swim comfortably for about 150 feet and tread water, unassisted, for one minute. We ask each camper to demonstrate this ability, and if successful, will receive a round plastic tag, identified with her name, to be placed on the tag board. The tags help the lifeguards know who is swimming when they are moved to different sections of the tag board. It’s a great system that’s been well established at Rockbrook for years.

Pirate Dance Camp Event

The main event of the day, which began around 3:30, we held down at our grassy sports field. And like all great Rockbrook events, it combined costumes, special snacks and food, games, prizes, music, and dancing, all revolving around a theme. It this case, it was a “Pirate Carnival.” Chase, our Program Director, planned and organized the event with about 30 other staff members helping with each game. With beautiful sunny, warm weather, the girls arrived to find a variety of games—tossing a ball through a hoop, finding a piece of gum in a bowl of flour, a ring toss, bobbing for apples, a water gun and ping-pong ball challenge… all with fun pirate prizes like a gold earring or tattoo. Also, they could go and have a facepaint design, toss a cup of “slime” (think green, oozy water made from jello powder, flour, water and food coloring) at someone, have their fortune told, or decorate an eye patch. We also had two inflatable games, an obstacle course that seemed entirely too bouncy, and an elastic, running game where a strong bungee cord pulls you back when you run a short track. Two stations making cotton candy and another passing out snow cones kept everyone energized throughout the afternoon.

As you can see from these three examples (click the photos to see a larger version), costumes were also a big part of the fun. I’d say the majority of the girls chose to sport some kind of pirate gear like a bandana, eye patch, face-painted mustache, or golden earring. If not, then a bathing suit felt just right. This really was a perfect event, with every camper running from game to game, maybe stopping to toss the corn hole bean bags, or swivel a hula hoop for a minute. We sang along to the music, danced together, and laughed a lot having a blast for, gosh almost 2 hours! It was the kind of big camp fun we love around here, and we’re just getting started!

Camp Girls dressed as pirates