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 camp 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!
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.
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!