On some campouts, you pitch a tent, cook in a Dutch oven and belt out songs around a blazing fire. On others, you strap on a backpack or hop in a canoe and trek to amazing places of natural beauty. But typically, you won’t be screaming at the top of your lungs as you fall 130 feet and then race along 3,000 feet of track, twisting and turning at nearly 60 miles per hour.
Unless you attend the Jersey Shore Council’s annual Six Flags camporee.
Many councils and districts across the country host camporees. A camporee invites dozens — even hundreds — of Scouts for a weekend of camping and fun. Sometimes you’re competing against other units in skill contests. Other times you’re enjoying themed activities at places you wouldn’t expect to camp.
MEET YOU AT THE PARK
For nearly three decades, Scouts have pitched tents at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. They’ve worked on merit badges, fished at the nearby lakes and, of course, ridden the thrilling roller coasters. About 600 Scouts attended last year’s event. Waiting in line wasn’t boring when you were with fellow Scouts.
“That’s what I like about Scouting,” says Angelo Amato, 18, a Venturer with Crew 66 of Point Pleasant Beach, N.J. “You meet people you normally wouldn’t meet, and you can find a gold mine of things to talk about.”
You can find a gold mine of fun, too. Scouts scooted around in bumper cars, battled comic book villains on an interactive ride and hopped on one of the fastest rides in the park — the Jersey Devil Coaster — again and again.
Your unit doesn’t necessarily have to belong to the same council or district to attend its camporee. Many troops and crews that go to the Six Flags camporee are from another council. If you find a fun camporee somewhere, check to see if your unit can go.
STEP BACK IN TIME
A quarter of a mile from the Gettysburg battlefield in Pennsylvania stands a 163-year-old barn on a family farm. About 900 Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA members walked into the building last year. When they came out, they had their Union Army marching orders.
Sporting navy blue kepi caps, the packs and troops stepped in line to different stations at a Civil War-themed camporee hosted by the Battlefield and Heritage Trails districts of the New Birth of Freedom Council.
The Scouts built stretchers at the field hospital, played period games like marbles and enlisted in the cavalry (bounced around on inflatable horses). At the sound of a bugle, each brigade of Scouts rotated to a new station. They also snacked on hardtack, cheese and homemade butter.
You can learn a lot of local history from themed camporees.
In Maryland, Scouts saw how fur trappers in the mid-1800s lived during the Mountain Man Rendezvous hosted by the Seneca District of the National Capital Area Council. They learned how to saw wood, built survival shelters and watched blacksmithing in action. Before working with tools, refer to the Guide to Safe Scouting as there are protocols for using tools safely.
The Scouts also applied knot-tying, fire-building and orienteering skills at contest stations as they vied for a trophy to take home, decorate and bring back to next year’s Rendezvous.
Oftentimes, camporees take place at council camps, like Rancho Los Mochos, a Golden Gate Area Council property in California. Last spring, Scouts met there for a mythological-themed camporee. The skills required for each station matched those of an ancient Greek hero or character.
For example, the Hercules Labors station featured a series of physical challenges, one of which required three Scouts to shuffle together on long skis. This challenge called for fitness as well as teamwork. Gabriel Webb with Troop 612 of San Leandro, Calif., helped run the station and recalled how one patrol struggled with the task.
“They just couldn’t get their feet straight,” the 17-year-old Life Scout says. “So they jumped off the skis, huddled together, jumped back onto the skis and — without missing a single step — yelled, ‘Chicken!’ for their left feet, and then ‘Nuggets!’ for their right feet. ‘Chicken! Nuggets! Chicken! Nuggets!’”
Scouts at the Tough as Nails spring camporee discovered skilled trade careers. The Lake Erie Council partnered with an Ohio-area contractor association to bring cement masons, carpenters and pipefitters to camp. The Scouts watched as the professionals demonstrated their work and equipment, including a mini excavator.
Last spring, troops built rafts and hauled them to Central Florida Council’s Camp La-No-Che for a regatta camporee. Many Scouts intended to race around the camp’s lake. Not the Toxic Arrows.
“We just wanted to have a lot of fun,” says Rowan Greenly, 13, a First Class Scout with Troop 787 from Casselberry, Fla.
The Toxic Arrows patrol lashed together a barge from plastic barrels and covered it with an umbrella. The Scouts rigged a cooler full of water bottles to their barge and handed out cold drinks to parched Scouts on other rafts.
“We got the Scout Spirit Award,” says Tejas Gannu, 13, a Tenderfoot Scout.
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