More than 700 Boy Scouts from the Hoosier Trails Council set up camp over the weekend at the Jackson County Fairgrounds for the council’s 2016 camporee.
“We opened the gates for campers at 5 on Friday, and there was a steady stream for nearly four hours,” said Glen R. Steenberger, Scout executive and CEO for Boy Scouts of America Hoosier Trails Council. “A small town set up overnight.”
The camporee is conducted every four years as a chance for members of the Boy Scouts of America to meet Scouts outside their individual troop.
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Daniel Kirby, 14, of Seymour’s Troop 529 said that’s one of the major reasons he enjoys the camporee.
“I like the fact that there are so many other troops from the same council and we normally don’t get to meet them. I’ve met some great people and even traded patches with some of them,” said Kirby, the assistant senior patrol leader for the troop.
Since the Boy Scouts is a youth-focused group, many troops train their Scouts how to lead and organize a group, and then allow them to plan most of the events and activities the group does.
“We’re a boy-led organization. They get training, and once they understand how it works, they do the arrangements,” said John Kirby, scoutmaster of Troop 529. “Usually, they plan the meals, cooking, camp setup and other things, but this week, since we had Cub Scouts with us, as well, we organized things.”
The troop, which is based out of First United Methodist Church in Seymour, brought 14 Boy Scouts and 24 Cub Scouts to the camporee.
Troop 526, another Boy Scouts of America troop located in Seymour at St. Ambrose Catholic Church, also was present, bringing 10 Boy Scouts and five Cub Scouts. That included one Lion Scout, a kindergarten-age group for Cub Scouts that is in its first year of existence.
Often, the camporee takes the form of a competition between troops or patrols in troops. But this year’s theme was unity and took more of a festival-style approach, setting up events and booths for Scouts to visit and explore.
Usually, the Cub Scouts are not included in the camporee, but with the theme, a decision was made to allow them to attend.
“The oldest level of Cub Scouts must go to a campout with Boy Scouts, so this meets that requirement for them,” John Kirby said.
The organizers also invited The Ring of Steel Action Theatre and Stunt Troupe to put on a weapon display booth and combat demonstration.
“We knocked around the idea of having a motivational speaker for a while, then we thought this would be a little more adventurous for them,” Steenberger said.
The Michigan-based group uses historic weapons to give demonstrations about various types of traditional and nontraditional combat systems.
“Don’t call us reenactors. We’re not specific to a period, and that offends some true reenactors. We are a combat stunt group,” said Diane Barbeau, a member of the group.
The camporee was meant to be a chance for Scouts to learn and meet other groups like them, but to many, Scouting means more than simply learning about tying knots or first aid.
“We know that kids benefit from Scouting the longer they are engaged,” Steenberger said. “The important thing, though, is that they have fun, and the character development happens without them noticing.”
Logan Bryant, 13, with Troop 529 agreed.
“At night, everyone sits around the fire, and we play games or talk. I think that’s one of the things I like best about Scouts,” he said.
The Boy Scouts of America also aims to teach boys about confidence and life lessons that can help with the rest of their lives, even if they don’t plan on doing anything that involves the outdoors.
“I think it helps them build confidence to take on any tasks or problem that may come in life,” said Dale Sandlin, scoutmaster for Troop 526. “They learn they can work through the problem to gain the solution they need.”
Besides the focus on leadership and confidence building, Scouting teaches what many consider to be a generation of technology-focused individuals how to disconnect and learn from the world around them.
Many of the camporee stations were focused on outdoor skills, including airgun firing, first aid, capture the flag, structure building and others.
“It gets people out of the house and specifically in this generation everyone who is in their room playing games outdoors to connect with nature more,” Daniel Kirby said.
The majority of the camporee was organized and arranged by volunteers, which is another focus of Boy Scouts of America.
For information about Boy Scouts of America, visit beascout.org.
For information about the Hoosier Trails Council, visit hoosiertrailsbsa.org.