On Wednesday, some 25,000 Jamboree participants will join the 6,000 staffers already onsite at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia.
Volunteer staff members, who expended their own money and vacation time to be here, have spent the past weeks, months and years preparing for this quadrennial event.
It’s all about to pay off.
When that first youth participant arrives, the 2017 National Jamboree will have officially begun. The 31,000 Scouts and Scouters here will become West Virginia’s third-largest city, behind only Charleston and Huntington.
A trail of buses
As the sun comes up on Wednesday, the buses will arrive. A fleet of 600 buses will deliver Scouts and Venturers to their mountain home for the next nine nights. They’ll unload gear, assemble tents and begin to make new friends.
“Those kids are going to have a great time,” says Jamboree Director Matt Myers. “Kids from Alaska are going to get to know kids from Alabama, and kids from New Mexico are going to get to know kids from New York. And they’re going to realize that we are one group.”
BSA Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh says Jamboree participants are in for 10 days of give-it-everything-you-have fun. These are memories Scouts will be retelling to classmates, friends, and, yes, even their grandkids some day.
“Parents made a wise decision in sending their kids to us,” he says. “We’re going to make sure they have a great time.”
A changed young man or young woman
While the Scouts and Venturers enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, moms and dads back home can follow the fun through blog posts here, a number of other social media channels and, hopefully, a few text messages from their kids.
Dr. Glenn Ault, a volunteer who serves as administration chairman for the National Jamboree, discussed how a Jamboree changes a Scout.
“It’s about meeting other people. It’s about opening your mind to other ways and other experiences,” Ault says. “Parents will be surprised when their kids get back home. And I hope parents engage with their child and ask them, ‘What changed? What experiences did you have? What are you going to take away from this?'”
Surbaugh adds that parents will be shocked when they suddenly don’t have to tell their kids to clean up their room or take out the trash or help with the dishes.
“These are things that just start to happen because they had a growth experience here,” he says. “They will experience literally thousands of little acts of kindness that happen with each other.”
A Scouting tradition
This is the 20th National Jamboree, continuing a tradition of holding this celebration of Scouting’s adventures that has taken place about every four years since 1937. At that first Jamboree, Scouts set up tents on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and were visited by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Jamborees between 1937 and 2010 were held at various sites in Pennsylvania, California, Colorado, Idaho and Virginia.
The 2013 National Jamboree was the first held here at the Summit Bechtel Reserve, the BSA’s fourth and newest national high-adventure base.
Surbaugh says the BSA has made improvements across SBR’s 10,600 acres. That’s one benefit of having a permanent Jamboree home — you don’t have to start from scratch every time.
“The plan was to have a site that we could have continuous improvement,” he says. “Every Jamboree gets a little better.”
I hadn’t visited SBR since 2013, and I noticed the changes right away. The new permanent structures are gorgeous. The AT&T Wi-Fi is speedy. The shuttles take you where you need to go. And the temperature of the staff showers? Quite pleasant indeed.
“You’ll see a lot of differences. The site itself and the facilities have improved,” Surbaugh says. “We learned a lot, and we’re able to make the experience better for Scouts, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Photos via Al Drago and other members of BSA photo team. See more here.