They heard you: Why the 2017 Jamboree will be even better than the last one


In 2013, thousands of Scouts and Venturers from 50 states and 20 countries experienced the first jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia.

They witnessed incredible stadium shows, met talented performers, tried hands-on STEM activities, earned merit badges, rode mountain bikes, shot more than a million rounds of ammunition, paddled down whitewater rapids and performed more than 150,000 hours of community service to the surrounding areas.

You could summarize the reviews from young people in just two syllables: awesome.

But, like any first-time venture, not everything was perfect. And Russell Smart, program chairman for the 2017 Jamboree, understands that.

“We knew that there would be ways to make the experience even better next time,” he says. “Our commitment was that once we identified those elements that were not the best that they could be, we would fix them before the next jamboree.”

And so they have. I asked Smart and Gary Schroeder, vice chairman of the adventure areas, to review a few of the problematic areas for 2013 — and how they’ve been addressed.

More freedom to enjoy the adventure areas

At the 2013 Jamboree, adventure areas used a “curriculum model” that allowed each participant to select one or two adventure program elements and spend several hours doing that specific activity.

“We learned that this model requires scheduled program times which were often difficult to meet due to weather changes, late participant arrivals, etc.,” Schroeder says. “It is not the optimal plan for the conditions and volumes of the jamboree experience.”

So 2017 marks a return to the “elective model” used at jamborees before 2013. That means most jamboree activities will be open, allowing participants to go where they like and then spend as much (or as little) time in a particular venue.

The exception will be zip lines and canopy tours.

“Because of the limited capacity on these activities, we must pre-schedule them,” Schroeder says. “We are looking at several options for how to accomplish this in a fair and equitable way. Details on the allocation plan will be shared with unit leaders by early 2017.”

As for who’s allowed where, the main adventure areas are open to registered participants only. The Scott Summit Center, like in 2013, will offer visitors introductory versions of many of the activities available in the main adventure areas.

Still, no one jamboree participant will be able to do it all. Schroeder stressed: “The Jamboree activities are not the equivalent of the Summit’s high adventure programs, so we hope that many jamboree participants will plan a return trip to SBR to participate in programs they sampled or missed at the jamboree and to enjoy the full high-adventure experience at SBR,” Schroeder says.

Shuttles to help you get around

Also new in 2017: shuttles for participants.

One bus will constantly shuttle between The Barrels, The Bows and a rest and relaxation area where Technology Quest was located in 2013.

Another bus will run a loop around Adventure Valley and will serve the Big Zip landing, The Rocks (climbing), The Ropes (challenge courses), and Low Gear (mountain biking).

A new Boys’ Life experience

At the new Boys’ Life Media Experience, participants can share their jamboree stories through a variety of media outlets: blogs, internet radio, live-streaming video, photos, traditional print channels and more.

They can also edit their smartphone videos using cutting-edge technology under the guidance of media professionals.

Finally, the Boys’ Life Media Experience is where participants will find K2BSA, the ham radio home of the jamboree.

Unit-based river rafting

River rafting on the New River will continue to be available as an extra-charge option at the 2017 Jamboree.

But this time, scheduling will be by units and not by individuals.

“We will work with local councils to allot an appropriate number of seats for youth and/or adults based on available rafting seats and total jamboree participants,” Schroeder says. “All members in a particular unit will be assigned to the same time slot, ensuring it won’t conflict with their Jamboree Trek or Day of Service assignments.”

More transparent wait times

Smart, Schroeder and their team are working on a system to keep all participants informed on the expected wait times for specific activities.

“This will allow participants to make a more informed decision about which adventure areas they choose to visit on any given day,” Schroeder says.

The system will be tested during the 2016 summer program.

Continuing the trek to Garden Ground

Some things worked so well, there will be little change in 2017. The trek to Garden Ground Mountain is an example of an activity that received overwhelmingly positive feedback.

“For 2017, we will maintain the vast majority of the Garden Ground events and activities we had in 2013 — plus add some new ones,” Smart says. “Probably the most exciting possibility is a ‘Jamboree Warrior’ venue similar to the ‘OA Warrior‘ event at the 2015 NOAC. The Order of the Arrow will continue to provide the Trek Guides for this experience.”

Continuing the Day of Service

Scouts and Venturers also loved the Messengers of Peace Day of Service during which participants ventured into the community to give back.

New for 2017 will be the option for preselected units whose travel plans permit to do their service project either en route to the jamboree or on the way home.

“This will allow us to do projects in parts of West Virginia that are outside of the immediate SBR area,” Smart says. “It will also give those units that select this option more time in the Jamboree activity areas since they will not be doing their day of service during the Jamboree itself. The Order of the Arrow will continue to assist in the implementation of this experience.”

Great shows at the AT&T Summit Stadium

In 2013, the jamboree started with an opening show designed to launch the jamboree and recognize the major donors who made SBR possible.

For 2017, there’s no opening show. Each base camp will have an event in its headquarters area on the evening of the arrival day to allow participants to get acquainted and prepare for the week ahead.

The first big event in the AT&T Summit Stadium will be a big show on Saturday evening. On the final night of the jamboree, everyone will gather in the Stadium for a celebration and closing show.

During the week, daily activities, other shows and special events will fill the Summit Stadium.

Also new for 2017: A “base camp bash” presented on a different night in each of the five base camps.

An improved Scott Summit Center

Just like in 2013, the Scott Summit Center will be the place to earn merit badges, check out interactive exhibits and have tons of fun. That’s also where you’ll find the Faith & Beliefs area and exhibits for many of the BSA’s chartered partners.

At the 2017 Jamboree, the Summit Center will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“We learned in 2013 that there was very limited interest in visiting the Summit Center in the evenings,” Smart says.

A new STEM Quest area

In 2013, the area called Technology Quest was located on Thrasher Mountain between The Park and The Bows.

In 2017, the new STEM Quest area will be expanded and located adjacent to The Pools. As in 2013, each unit will be assigned to visit STEM Quest on a specific half-day to maximize participation. There will also be a variety of STEM-related exhibits in the Scott Summit Center and a “Science Behind the Sport” program at selected adventure areas.

More military engagement

A highlight of past jamborees has always been the participation of the military. This gave Scouts the chance to see military equipment and meet military personnel.

In 2013, though, Department of Defense budget constraints limited the military’s participation.

“This time, we expect a much more robust military participation and have created a new Freedom Annex and Trail area that will feature an impressive array of equipment for participants to visit and learn more about our military services,” Smart says.

How to join the fun

Want to help make the 2017 National Jamboree a life-changing experience for Scouts and Venturers? Sign up to serve on staff here.

Want to attend the 2017 National Jamboree as an adult, Scout or Venturer? Learn more here.

About Bryan Wendell 3282 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.