This past weekend, my son’s Webelos den along with our pack’s second year Webelos den had the opportunity to attend Peterloon which is the Boy Scout camp out held every two years by the Dan Beard Council. Peterloon has the claim as the longest continuously running event of its kind in the United States and the longest continuously running council sponsored event in the world. The first Peterloon was held in 1927, just seven years after the first World Jamboree but 10 years before the first U.S. National Jamboree and has continued unbroken, ever since.
We joined up with the troop our pack traditionally feeds into and were able to camp with them the entire weekend. Webelos scouts who are not linked in with a troop can visit and participate for the day on Saturday only.
After getting a later start leaving for camp than we would have hoped for, we arrived at our campsite which was in the first row of sub camp #1 (of 5 total). We were literally on the edge of the Action Center and the main part of camp where Saturday’s activities would take place. Dusk was turning into night as we began setting up camp. As the Boy Scouts paired up with their “tent buddy” and went about their business setting up camp, our Webelos helped their accompanying parent setting up their own tents. My son was tenting with a den-mate leaving me on my own. He and his buddy were pretty self-sufficient in setting up the tent we brought despite the fact that only one (my son) had helped me set up that tent only once before. I was impressed with their independence as 9 year olds to get the tent up, their sleeping bags set and their gear stowed. That allowed me to set up my tent in roughly the same time. Once the tents were up, the Webelos assisted the Boy Scouts in finishing set up of the camp’s common areas (dining tent, gateway, wash station, etc.). By this time the temps were dropping enough that we began to see our breaths quite clearly. Due to the lack of rain in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area over the past three months, the local fire department issued a total open fire ban — no flames (wood, charcoal or otherwise). Cooking was to be done on stoves with minimal flame height. I believe the lack of having a campfire may have dampened some spirits and certainly made for a colder evening, but certainly encouraged most of the boys to retire to their tents earlier than normal on a camp out. By the time “Taps” was played at 11pm, not only was our campsite quiet, most of the rest of the entire encampment of over 5500 Scouts and Scouters was quiet as well.
Saturday morning came early when the Rumpke driver (the local sanitation/trash company) began “refreshing” the port-o-lets around 5:15am. By 7am, most of the boys and leaders were stirring around. As the designated patrol cooked breakfast, the rest of the group did their best to get the blood moving and keep warm with out a campfire to help. According to the local news weather site, it dropped to about 35°. Some folks reported frost on their tents (my wife stated there was frost on the ground at home); we only had the morning dew on ours. It was the coldest night I had camped in since I was a Boy Scout.
After breakfast and clean up, it was time to head to the Action Center for a day’s worth of Scouting activities. There were various stations that showcased games, scout skills and displays. Most were geared toward the abilities of Boy Scouts and Webelos alike, but some (like black powder shooting and ropes and pulleys) were only for the older boys. With six boys from our pack (four first year and two second year Webelos) we decided to have them participate as a single patrol. Before heading out, we had them choose a patrol name (they came up with the “Atomic Gummy Bears”) and had each boy select one activity they would like to do the most. Surprisingly, each boy selected a different activity. The plan was then to at least hit each activity the boys selected and participate in others as time allowed. Including a break for lunch, the boys participated in the Crow Arrow Throw, Tomahawk toss, Ping-pong plop, BB shooting. They launched water rockets, fired a trebuchet, built a catapult and played Giant’s Croquet using compass skills to determine what wickets they needed to pass through. On the way back to camp for dinner, they learned about bio science and some flu/cold testing doctors use and viewed the sun through telescopes to see sun spots and sun flares.
The designated Boy Scout patrol (and their leaders) were already cooking dinner when we arrived back in camp. I was hoping that the troop would have included the Webelos more in the preparation and clean up of meals overall and/or make an attempt to incorporate them into or show them some scouting activities that they do while camping. Instead, the down time that the boys did have was filled with tossing a football in the open area next to the campsite — (maybe that is what they do??). Outside of the council planned activities, the troop did not provide much else than a place to stay and meals. This could be due to the fact that the acting Senior Patrol Leader was informed on the Monday of the week of the campout that he would be in charge for the weekend. He was either not able to or did not make an attempt to organize things, have a duty roster created nor try to plan with the PLC anything scout related to fill some of the down time. There seemed to be a lack of overall organization as to who would be doing what and when throughout the weekend. I admit, did not gather our boys during down time to work on advancement either. I justified that decision by having the mindset that our Webelos were interacting with the troop and hopefully getting to know some of the Boy Scouts. While the Webelos were certainly “geeked up” on Scouting based on the Action Center activities, I am not sure they had the same feeling on how the troop operates when camping.
By 7pm, the Arena “pre-show” was beginning however, due to some of the lack of organization and sense of direction, the troop was not quite finished with dinner and clean up. Again, wanting to give the Webelos the opportunity to interact with the troop as much as possible, we hung back at camp until the troop was ready to go to the show. Because of our somewhat later arrival (even though the official arena show did not start until 8pm), we had seats off to the side and could not fully see the stage. We could though see most of the action on a projection screen. It appears the pre-show was mostly two guys talking to the scouts. Getting them pumped about selling popcorn (the arena show was sponsored in part by Trail’s-End), shooting t-shirts into the crowd (right in front of the stage without regard to those on either side), having various patrols selected at “random” come up on the stage for quick, amusing competitions (wrap the boy in toilet paper without tearing, eat the doughnut from a string with out using your hands, some relay races involving popcorn, etc.). These were the things we saw, there may have been different things that went on before we got there.
At 8pm the show itself started with a video recording of the National Anthem sung by a local celebrity then the same two guys from the pre-show came back out and for 40 more minutes announced, talked about and interviewed the winning Boy Scout patrols of the day’s big competitions (Amazing Race game, Tug-o-war, Gateway building competition and Model Campsite award). Sprinkled throughout all the talking were short video clips of more local celebrities congratulating the Boy Scouts and wishing them a happy 100th birthday. Many of the boys around where we were seated (including our Webelos and our host troop’s scouts) were not at all interested in what was going on with “the show.” I even saw a few leaning on each other sleeping. I know we need to attempt to look at things from the boy’s perspective and do what interests them, but at one point one of our Webelos asked us when the real show was going to start. Once the two guys got through all the awards, a laser show began and ran for about 20 minutes. This finally seemed to perk up our boys and the others around us garnering their interest. The music was a good mix of patriotic and contemporary songs with choreographed laser images on the screens and on the back drop of trees behind the seating area. The show was supposed to end with a huge fireworks display, but due to the fire ban it had to be scrapped. For the culminating event of our council’s 100th anniversary celebration, the show was to me and a many boys a big disappointment. In this day where we crave wholesome entertainment for our sons, the opportunity to pull off something spectacular was missed.
Back at camp after the arena show, the troop had a snack ready for everyone. No fire meant most ate quickly then got ready for bed. For the second night a camp of over 5500 people was VERY quiet before “Taps” was even played. My guess is most were worn out from all the walking and activities and most went to bed with a fresh, full tank of scouting spirit (despite the letdown of the arena show), mine certainly was.
Sunday came with slightly warmer overnight temps. Everyone got up, got moving, had breakfast, attended religious services and broke camp. We were totally packed, cleaned up and checked out by 11am. Breaking camp seemed to have the most organization from the troop out of the whole weekend. I guess the boys and leaders want to get home.
Overall it was a great weekend — picture perfect weather during the days, enough activities for Boy Scouts and Webelos alike and the opportunity for our guys to camp with a troop to get a taste of what Boy Scouts do. Certainly there are some areas of opportunity to improve both at the council and unit level to make things better for 2012. We’re already looking forward to that time as our boys will have crossed over and can interact with other Webelos as they camp with the troop.