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Read this letter from a mom about her son’s jamboree experience

Consider it the ultimate leap of faith.

Over the past three years, the Boy Scouts of America asked tens of thousands of Scouts, Venturers, Scouters and parents to trust the organization’s vision to reshape the national jamboree.

Not only was the Summit Bechtel Reserve the first new location for a jamboree since 1981, but also the planners intended to drastically change the jamboree model entirely.

Did it work?

Rather than taking my word for it, now you can hear directly from one Hudson Valley Council mom who “spent $1,600 and many hours of meetings and travel preparing for an event that I was sure would be too strenuous, too long and too difficult for my often-scattered and unfocused 12-year-old son.”

She sent her letter to me and said I could share it with you. Don’t miss her touching, well-written thoughts after the jump… Continue reading

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Jamboree closing show now yours to watch online

Rousing music performances, impassioned speeches, bright young Scouts, the King of Sweden and the guy from Dirty Jobs — Saturday’s “Celebration of Scouting” show had everything you crave from a jamboree show and more.

If you weren’t one of the 40,000-plus watching in person at the AT&T Summit Stadium, now’s your chance to watch the archived video and see what you missed. It’s now live at jambolive.org along with video from Tuesday’s opening show.

Prefer just the highlights? Check out my minute-by-minute breakdown: Continue reading

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One extreme or the other: Jamboree Scouts find a moment of peace

At breakfast one morning early in the jamboree, staffer John Norkus was feeling a little left out as Scouters went around the table describing their jamboree jobs.

“We were feeling kind of puny around extreme BMX, extreme mountain biking, extreme skateboarding,” he said. “So we changed our name to extreme landscape painting.”

At an activity that harkens back to the watercolor journals of Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell, Norkus and fellow staffers Marshall Townsend and Jerry Silvestrini offered Scouts and Venturers a rare respite from the high-energy activities at the Summit Bechtel Reserve.

Kyle, a Rhode Island Scout from jamboree Troop C252, was finishing his watercolor painting when I visited on Tuesday. See Kyle with his impressive painting above or see a close-up at the end of this post. Continue reading

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At action archery, a friendly rivalry forms

While waiting in line for action archery this afternoon at the Bows, I met Matt, a Scout from Troop A210 in Georgia. He challenged me to a friendly competition to see who could hit the higher number of targets at this difficult but exciting activity at the 2013 National Jamboree.

In action archery, foam discs fly through the air perpendicular to the archers. The trick is aiming the arrow far enough ahead of the disc to make contact. It takes a lot of getting used to and gave me newfound respect for Katniss Everdeen and all the nonfictional versions of her out there.

As I waited in line, I saw target after target get hit. When an arrow strikes the disc, its flight path ends and it falls straight down in a rather satisfying way. I was ready to see the same happen with a few of my shots.

I picked up my bow and grabbed an arrow. Just before we got the whistle signaling the start of firing, Matt offered one last helpful piece of advice: “You’re going down, Bryan!” Good to know.

Twenty arrows later, which of us came out ahead? Continue reading

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Jamboree shooting sports staff is right on the mark

K. Stevens’s Venturing crew out of Denver has a very narrow aim. In her crew, it’s all shooting, all the time.

“That’s all they want to do,” she said. “We have boys who are older and able to do so many things [outside of Scouting]. We do what it takes to keep them involved in Scouting, and we’ve learned that shooting keeps a lot more kids in Scouting.”

Shooting sports are a big draw at the 2013 National Jamboree, too, where Scouts and Venturers show up in droves. At the trap-deck shotgun area alone, the staff has put through 800 Scouts a day.

Stevens is one of several friendly, highly trained instructors at the trap station, led by Iona Baldock. There are five stations in the shotgun area: sporting clays, five-stand, powderball (shooting paintballs at a moving target), trap deck, and an arcade duck-shooting game. Continue reading

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Big bang theory: Expert reveals 2 key elements of world-class fireworks shows

Zambelli Fireworks launched more than two tons of explosives during Sunday’s show, but a truly amazing fireworks display takes more than just sheer volume.

Today I met Damian Dicola, production manager with Zambelli and the man who has the dream job of every Scout who loves big explosions (aka every Scout, period).

Dicola and the Zambelli team started work on the show two years ago when they scouted locations at the Summit, then just a dirt field. Once they finalized the soundtrack, the design team worked for three months making a show synchronized to the music — expertly timed down to one one-thousandth of a second.

He said there are two keys to a spectacular fireworks show: angling and creativity. Continue reading

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Multi-sensory show blows all other fireworks displays out of the water

After rain caused Saturday night’s fireworks display to be canceled, Scouts and Scouters had been intentionally kept in the dark about when — or whether — the show would be rescheduled.

And then: boom! Zambelli Fireworks and jamboree leaders lit up the sky Sunday night, surprising Scouts, Scouters and Venturers who enjoyed the visual and auditory show right from the comfort of their campsite homes.

It happened with a 25-minute display that may have changed the fireworks game forever. Let me explain. Continue reading

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Beach balls, and perhaps a world record, fall at jamboree

It’s not a party until someone brings out a beach ball.

Thousands of Scouts, Scouters and Venturers assembled in a light drizzle Sunday to attempt to set the Guinness World Record for “most people keeping beach balls in the air.”

The current record, 14,993 people, was set in 2012 in Spain.

From my vantage point in the center of the action, I could tell this group was insanely large. But still, the Stadium Experience Team will need a couple of weeks to send their proof to the Guinness folks, so stay tuned and I’ll update this post if we set the record.

Even if we didn’t quite raise the bar, Jamboree Program Group Chairman Russell Smart sees the silver lining.

Said Smart: “We set the Summit record, that’s for sure.”

Video and photos after the jump. Continue reading

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At jamboree worship services, Scouts keep the faith during rainstorm

Faith is a powerful thing.

Heavy rain soaked each of the three largest worship services this morning at the 2013 National Jamboree, but that didn’t stop Scouts and Scouters from gathering to pray together.

The LDS, Protestant and Catholic services were held back to back to back at the AT&T Summit Stadium this morning and early afternoon, meaning all three congregations were out in the elements throughout. (Other faiths held their services inside large tents elsewhere.)

At the stadium, worshippers kept dry using rainsuits, ponchos, umbrellas, and makeshift hats made from cardboard boxes or chairs. But nobody complained, preferring to soak in the message of the sermons, prayers and praise music — even as they soaked in quite a bit of rain.

See photos: Continue reading

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Power struggle: Scouts, Scouters take different approaches to charging devices

At the jamboree, no power outlet remains empty for long.

Everywhere you look — using official AT&T charging stations, orange Summit Bechtel Reserve power arrays (not to be used when raining), outlets inside and outside of shower houses, and solar chargers hanging from backpacks — Scouts and Scouters grab every drop of power for their devices.

It’s no surprise, really, given the age in which we live and the fact the 2013 National Jamboree has lived up to its billing as the most-connected in history.

I found Ryan, an Atlanta Area Council Scout who works on the Aquatics staff, charging his Samsung phone with friends at an orange power station this morning. For Ryan, an empty battery means no way to stay connected with friends and family onsite and off. Continue reading