For years, the Great Rivers Council’s winter camporee didn’t have great attendance.
As part of his Wood Badge ticket, Aaro Froese, a district executive in the council, wanted to change that. Wood Badge is an advanced adult leadership training course. Many Scouters call it one of the best courses they’ve ever taken. As part of the course, you come up with a “ticket,” which is a set of goals for improving your Scouting unit.
As Froese studied the council’s winter camporee, he thought about taking a different approach: make the experience exclusive, make it unique, offer something Scouts might have a hard time finding anywhere else.
Froese’s solution to the council’s camporee conundrum: Solstice Camp, a weekend camporee on the longest night of the year.
Attendance would be capped at a few dozen Scouts. That way, they could have plenty of individualized merit badge instruction from local experts the council would recruit. Each Scout would receive catered gourmet meals, a swag bag full of cool stuff and their name engraved on a new brick plaza at the Lake of the Ozarks Scout Reservation.
Froese and his team also reviewed On Scouting’s annual lists of earned merit badges. The Solstice Camp would offer badges Scouts didn’t earn as often. For the first camp, it was Art, Astronomy, Painting and Animation.
To fund it all, the individual price tag would be pretty high: $200. Despite the price, the event sold out, and the camporee’s staff made sure the Scouts had a great time. They gazed through telescopes and heard from an astronaut who had been to the International Space Station.
“It was all Wood Badgers that were on the staff,” says Jeff Goran, camp director. “It was very unique to see these Wood Badgers come together and make it happen. They understand what servant leadership is, and they wanted to be a part of it.”
Keep it going
The council wanted to duplicate the success of the 2019 winter camporee. Two years later, the council offered Equinox Camp, another space-themed weekend camporee, this time during another celestial event.
An equinox and a solstice result from the tilt of the Earth. An equinox happens when the sun shines directly over the Earth’s equator, creating an equal amount of daytime and nighttime. This happens twice a year, around March 20 and September 23.
Solstices also happen twice a year, around June 21 and December 21, when the Earth is tilted the most, either away or toward the sun. On those days for us in the Northern Hemisphere, the summer solstice is the longest day of the year, and the winter solstice is the shortest.
For Equinox Camp, attendance would be set at 64 Scouts. The merit badges offered would be Surveying, Landscape Architecture, Space Exploration and Signs, Signals and Codes.
Word had gotten around about the council’s last themed camp.
“It filled up within hours of registration opening,” Froese says.
In addition to local attendees, Scouts from Arkansas, Illinois and Kansas also registered. Again, they were treated to catered meals and a swag bag filled with a personalized mug, backpack, shirt, multitool and flashlight.
Scouts also did space-themed activities, like building a wooden sundial and watching Hidden Figures, a movie about three Black women who worked at NASA during the Space Race.
Again, the price tag didn’t deter Scouts from signing up; they saw what they were getting in return.
“That shows you the value of Scouting,” Goran says.
The council is planning a fall Equinox camp for 2023.
Read it in Scout Life
If your Scouts subscribe to Scout Life magazine, they read about this camporee in the May 2022 issue. Each issue is filled with cool outings, how-to projects, fiction, and features about everything from science and nature to gear and Scouting tips. And, of course, lots of hilarious jokes and comics.
You can subscribe online at any time. Use promo code DIGPRT15 to get the special $15 Scout rate.