By Sharon Omahen
University of Georgia
Past and present campers, counselors and friends of the Rock Eagle 4-H Center will gather this month to celebrate its 50th birthday.
The celebration will start Saturday, June 25 at 1 p.m. in the center's Talmadge Auditorium. A reception will be held at 2:30 p.m. in the Sutton Dining Hall.
Jerry Whiteside, who was the state 4-H president when the center opened in 1955, will be the master of ceremonies.
The Rock Eagle 4-H Center has been the scene for many childhood camp memories and tales. Former 4-Hers will be on hand to recount some of those tales.
"As a 4-H member in Warren County, I took many trips to Rock Eagle in the late 1960's and early 70's," said Arch Smith, associate state 4-H leader.
Dissecting a chicken was his favorite part of 4-H camp, he said.
"We don't offer that class during camp any longer," he said, "but much of the program is still the same as it was when I was a camper."
Smith also came to Rock Eagle when he served as a district 4-H officer. He attended district project achievement and served as a camp counselor there.
"Many of the people I met at Rock Eagle from 1973 to 1976 are my closest friends today," he said.
Remembering the past, looking to the future
A video history of Rock Eagle will be shown. There will be a presentation on future plans, too. The facility will be getting new cottages, a new dining hall and other improvements.
The center's new swimming pool opened for campers on May 31. The pool will be formally dedicated as part of the afternoon birthday celebration.
Rock Eagle is the largest of the five 4-H centers operated by the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Each year thousands of kids participate in the Georgia 4-H Environmental Education Program at the center. 4-Hers from across the state come to its summer camping program made available through UGA Extension Service county offices. They also attend competitive events, leadership conferences and rallies there.
Rock Eagle hosts thousands yearly
Outside of traditional 4-H events, Rock Eagle also hosts civic, religious and business group conferences and meetings.
About 5,000 people used the center its first year. Today, the center hosts more than 65,000 visitors annually.
It is named for the white quartz effigy mound that lies on a hillside nine miles north of Eatonton, Ga. Historians believe the effigy was built by Woodland Indians who lived in the area from 1,000 BC to 1,000 AD.
(Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)