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Putting jamboree attendance numbers in historical perspective

As any sports fan will tell you, numbers don’t always tell the whole story.

Earlier this month, I shared the final attendance figures from the 2013 National Scout Jamboree.

The count was 30,037 youth and adult participants, a number that doesn’t include staff or visitors.

But what I didn’t know at the time was this: The 2013 jamboree had the third-largest attendance as a percent of Boy Scout membership in our history. Only 2005 and 2010′s events had a higher number.

Roughly 4.42 percent of registered Scouts and Scouters attended the 2013 jamboree. For comparison, the first jamboree, held in 1937, was attended by about 3.49 percent of registered members.

Here are the year-by-year numbers, in case you’re interested: 

1937: attended by 3.485 percent of Boy Scout membership

1950: attended by 4.205 percent of Boy Scout membership

1953: attended by 3.612 percent of Boy Scout membership

1957: attended by 3.686 percent of Boy Scout membership

1960: attended by 3.422 percent of Boy Scout membership

1964: attended by 2.795 percent of Boy Scout membership

1969: attended by 1.794 percent of Boy Scout membership

1973: attended by 3.854 percent of Boy Scout membership (at two sites combined)

1977: attended by 2.335 percent of Boy Scout membership

1981: attended by 2.704 percent of Boy Scout membership

1985: attended by 3.069 percent of Boy Scout membership

1989: attended by 3.252 percent of Boy Scout membership

1993: attended by 3.518 percent of Boy Scout membership

1997: attended by 3.543 percent of Boy Scout membership

2001: attended by 4.177 percent of Boy Scout membership

2005: attended by 4.590 percent of Boy Scout membership

2010: attended by 4.833 percent of Boy Scout membership

2013: attended by 4.419 percent of Boy Scout membership

26 Comments on Putting jamboree attendance numbers in historical perspective

  1. Every year since 1981 when the Jambo moved to Ft. A.P. Hill, the percentage of participation went up (until it MOVED to WV). As Bryan said in an earlier post, it’s apparent that fewer people like going to “the first” jamboree at a new site (or the parents don’t want to send). The Summit was INCREDIBLE. If you didn’t go in 2013, get out there in 2017 (if not before)!

  2. I dont believe it was a question of scouts not wanting to go to a new site or parents not wanting to send, but the new BMI standards imposed. This is not to say the health of the boys and staff should not have been considered, but Mike Tyson could not have passed the standard imposed in his best days or other top athletes for that matter. I feel that a lot of scouts and scouters were simply scared off.

    • Curious – in your mind, how many Scouts and Scouters who stayed away were obese vs. how many were in the “top athlete” category?

  3. Can you say “Spin”.

  4. This might be new for some, and maybe a long way to go to make a point, but this phrase is important when it comes with trying to discern anything from the numbers. Post hoc ergo propter hoc, Latin for “after this, therefore because of this”, is a logical fallacy (of the questionable cause variety) that states “Since Y event followed X event, Y event must have been caused by X event.” It is often shortened to simply post hoc. It is subtly different from the fallacy cum hoc ergo propter hoc, in which two things or events occur simultaneously or the chronological ordering is insignificant or unknown, also referred to as false cause, coincidental correlation. It also relates to this phrase “statistic lie and liars use statistics” There could be a multitude or reason why attendance was down verses 2010. 2010 was the 100 anniversary a big deal, that could explain the increase, and then a decrease. I think it far more likely that it was an economic causes. Many regions of the country are still hard hit, In our area FOS is down, But request for Camper-ships are way up. There are fewer family, and individuals are taking vacations right now as well, for a host of reason. I found multiple articles talking about how tourism is way down, and Americans as a whole are taking fewer vacation. All depending on your philosophical leanings, on could say it was down, or the headlines could also read ” Despite the economy, Jamboree was 3rd highest ever!”

  5. Now let’s run the numbers as a percentage of Scout-age boys in the US for each of those.

    I was at the 1969 Jamboree and I doubt the site could have supported more people. That Jambo attendance was limited by the site capacity, not the interest. You can see that it doubled four years later with two sites.

    Plus, we got to watch the Apollo 11 moon landing and had a message from the astronauts to the Jamboree.

  6. Trenton Spears // August 26, 2013 at 6:22 pm // Reply

    The 2013 Jamboree was really great the only problem I saw was there was not enough staff throughout the Jamboree especially in the Shooting Sports where I was on Staff. Dick Heft and his Staff did an excellent job organizing the Shooting Sports events the Staffs constant compliments and reassuring thankfulness gave all of us sense of a job well done and I look forward to serving on Staff in 2017 when I turn 80 years young. The Staff show and the Arena Show were about the only events that I attended. I know that the Jamboree organizers did a great job and advertised for more adults to staff the Jamboree way back in fall of 2012. When you have an all volunteer Staff you run the risk of not having enough adults to sign up for Staff. I hope that in 2017 that more adults will join us in making the Jamboree even better for the Scouts and Staff. Sincerely, Trenton Spears

    • Bob Basement // August 28, 2013 at 3:36 pm // Reply

      Every unit leader needs to remember that their first priority should always remain their home unit.

  7. the first Jambo was canceled because of polio…attendence technically zero

  8. I am definitely going as a venturer in 2017 as I will be 18 then! I also want to attend or staff the 2019 world jambo at the summit.

  9. Mr. Walter, that is amazing. I wish I had been there.

  10. Actually, I’m not sure you can really judge the success of a Jamboree by attendance figures alone anyway.

  11. Thaddeus J. Walcutt // August 27, 2013 at 2:03 am // Reply

    Careful Bryan. It was Mark Twain who observed, “There are lies, there are damned lies, and then there are statistics.”

    • Hey, we statisticians resemble that remark!

      This is not a bad way of “cooking the books”. It speaks to two very real problems:
      1. Scouting’s shrinking membership.
      2. The unrealistic expectation that attending a Jamboree would be a priority to more than 5% of scouts and venturers.

      Maybe Jambo planners should take next year’s membership stats, multiply by .05, and set that as their goal for 2017.

  12. Stephen Maire // August 27, 2013 at 7:22 am // Reply

    Aggregate numbers (30,307, 4.419%) do not convey particularly useful information. Breakdowns by region, area and council will likely provide better information on where Scouting is strong or could be stronger.

    Given the staffing shortage and the first year in the new location it is probably better to have run a smaller jamboree than a larger one. Better to work some of the kinks out with a crowd that is not stretching the limits of the site.

    Of greater interest will be the feedback from the scouts and leaders on the experience that they had at Jambo. This will give us a hint at what to expect in 2017.

  13. Michael B. McGinty // August 27, 2013 at 11:01 am // Reply

    Somehow we need to make Jambo and all the High Adventure Programs cheaper/affordable so even the “poor” (“the least of these, our brothers!”) amongst us can afford to go. Our council costs was greater than $1500. That’s crimnal.Then the numbers would go say up!!

    • My son raised $2800 for his trip. $1500 sounds like a bargain from where I sit. :)

      Seriously, I do agree that costs need to be a consideration, but there are costs for food and facilities at SBR plus transporation, tours, etc. I’m not sure how to make all of these programs financially available to all unless we have a major endowment that could be used for high adventure camperships.

    • Bob Basement // August 28, 2013 at 3:25 pm // Reply

      And my parents complain about a $15 weekend camp out.

    • Frank. (WLACC) // August 28, 2013 at 8:37 pm // Reply

      That’s a far cry cheaper than our councils three troops. The cheapest was about $4000 and the highest was over $6000. This event is suppose to be a “once in a lifetime” experience for the boy. But the cost that our council establishes keep the ‘want to go’ boy from attending. Perhaps National should step in and put a halt to these high prices that council come up with. I personally know six boys that wanted to go, but their parents couldn’t come up with even the cost after the troop had fundraisers.

      • Wow, Frank, that is steep! I know that there is no way our family could have come up with our $2800 (especially with all of the additional uniforms plus the cost for my husband to go as a leader and me to go as staff) so my son fundraised the entire amount. Would have been much harder to do at those costs, though!

        Our package included flight from MT (a fairly expensive market), several days touring in DC, plus t-shirts/hat/neckerchief/patches. What in the world did your troops do that added so much extra cost and why were costs different between the troops within your Council?

      • I know that $2800 is out of my budget and $6,000 is way out of my budget range……

        Too put it in perspective…..$6,000 is more than I spend to feed my family for an entire year…….

        • bob basement // September 2, 2013 at 10:23 am //

          Maybe the councils should forget about all the extras and get the boys from point A to Point B……

        • I don’t disagree, Bob, that the extras add consoderably to the cost. OTOH, for my son, and for many others in his Jambo troop, this was his first visit to DC. By his evaluation, the DC portion was just as much fun as the Jambo portion.

  14. Steve Stockham // August 27, 2013 at 1:02 pm // Reply

    Considering the fact that SBR is a “High Adventure” site and thus is less accessible than previous sites and that it was the first after the “Centennial” Jamboree, I think it did pretty well. If you’re going to put it into perspective, then you need to factor in as much as you can. If you have 100 people and 10 choose to go, you have 10% attendance but if you have 50 people and 6 go, then you have 12% attendance. Looking at it from one perspective, you have a 2% increase in percentage of attendees whereas if you look at total numbers, you are 4 less than the first time. I wouldn’t exactly call it spin (well, okay, that’s exactly what it is!) but rather just “looking at it from different perspectives.”

  15. change of location, membership decline, high adventure, and statistical spin are all valid arguements, but don’t forget about “years between Jambos”. The centennial jambo allowed councils, scouts, and scouters 5 years to plan and $ave….this recent jambo only provided 3 years since the last. Now it should be back to regular 4 year intervals.

  16. Willy (MDSC) // October 10, 2013 at 12:39 am // Reply

    Too expensive to spend ten minutes considering – $3100; for 2010 – $3800 which they termed “a bargain.” Multiply those prices by 2x for a Scout and adult. I’m not accusing anyone of padding their wallet. I know Scouting is a bargain. But Jamboree appears to be only for those who do only Scouting or are very well off. Too many other demands for too few dollars. One Scout in our Troop could not afford $350 for summer camp. Luckily, the Jamboree opened slots for us at Philmont. Wonderful experience Philmont.

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