The big shows at NOAC 2015 are held in the home arena of the highly ranked Michigan State men’s basketball team.
But it’s hard to imagine the Spartans whipping up more excitement than the Arrowmen who put on tonight’s opening show, called “It Sparks With Us!”
Every seat in the 15,000-capacity Breslin Student Events Center was filled; to be honest, I felt lucky just to get in the door.
And every one of those Arrowmen cheered wildly throughout the night. (This was after they spent all day running around. Where do these guys get all their energy?)
The first big roars came during the Parade of Lodge Flaps. Just when you thought they couldn’t pack any more people into the Breslin, in walked a representative from each lodge carrying a giant version of his lodge flap.
Here’s how it worked: Each region was announced separately — Southern, Central, Northeast, Western — while representatives walked down toward the stage. This all happened as lights flashed and thumping rock music (Imagine Dragons, Fall Out Boy, etc.) filled the arena.
A speech for the ages
The highlight of the night, for me, was when National Vice Chief Donnie Stephens took the stage to deliver a passionate challenge that could very well determine the future of the Boy Scouts of America.
His message to the riveted Arrowmen: Enjoy NOAC, but remember not to “sacrifice the ‘we’ for the ‘me.'”
Stephens, an experienced speech and debate competitor, gave the attendees a job to do. He told them to spread the message of the BSA to those who aren’t yet connected to our movement.
“Our critics call the BSA outdated,” Stephens said. “Our critics question our relevance. … Our critics say the world doesn’t need the Scouting program.”
A few Arrowmen booed at the thought, but most just waited, rapt, for what would come next.
“This week we’re going to prove the critics wrong,” he said. And the crowd roared.
- The stage: To maximize space inside the Breslin, planners devised an innovative circular stage. Previous NOACs had the stage on one end of the arena, meaning the area behind the stage was closed off. The round stage, and staging designed to match, meant there was no bad seat in the place.
- Red sashes: I’ll do a separate post on the special red OA sashes you can only get at NOAC 2015. But tonight I got my first look at them, and they beat the hype. The red sash against the tan uniform shirt creates a striking look.
- A message from the Chief: Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brock briefly took the stage to praise the OA and its brotherhood of cheerful service. “It’s impossible to count the millions of dollars of service to communities and local councils” Arrowmen have provided, he said. Chief Brock, who retires at the end of September, got a well-deserved standing ovation after his remarks.
- 100 hours: NOAC celebrates 100 years of the OA, and tonight Arrowmen were reminded that they have just 100 hours to enjoy the conference. Time is ticking. Use those hours wisely, because there will never be another 100th anniversary NOAC.
- National anthem: An adorable 6-year-old performed the national anthem at tonight’s show. Apparently she’s done this before.
Here’s where you can read all my NOAC 2015 posts.