In 1937, about 27,000 Boy Scouts camped on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in their first National Jamboree. Eighty years later, 40,000 Scouts and leaders are expected to attend this year’s event at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in West Virginia, with more than 400 traveling from the Hudson Valley.
“It gives you a newfound respect for the brotherhood of Scouting,” says David Campbell, Jamboree committee chair for the Hudson Valley Council of Boy Scouts of America, which is sending more than 100 Scouts (ages 12-17) and leaders from Rockland, Orange, Pike, Sullivan, and Dutchess counties to the 10-day extravaganza. Campbell, a Middletown Eagle Scout, attended the 2010 Jamboree (or “Jambo”) and served on the 2013 committee.
With 10,000 acres to explore between July 19 and 28, Scouts can choose among hundreds of activities ranging from adventures (including rafting, ziplining, target shooting, mountain biking, hiking, and field games), STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs, and traditional activities like earning merit badges and fishing.
Summit Stadium, a natural amphitheater, will offer musical performances and celebrity speakers (TV show host and Eagle Scout Mike Rowe has been a favorite).
It was there that Campbell truly realized the scope of Jambo. “I knew the Jamboree was big, but really, there’s only so far you can see across the landscape,” Campbell says. “At the stadium, here you have 10,000 Scouts marching in from one side, and you look across and there’s 10,000 more on the other side, and 10,000 more over there. Once I saw that, I realized it’s so much bigger than I thought.”
Perhaps the most meaningful part of Jambo is the day of service: Each Scout takes a day to conduct community service in the region (after all, the Scout Law does say “A Scout is helpful”).
Girls will take part as Venturers, says Dennis Dugan, assistant Scout executive for the Twin Rivers Council of Boy Scouts. His council, from Albany, Columbia, and Rensselaer counties, is sending 130 Scouts and leaders to Jambo. In addition, 45 Twin Rivers adults are serving in lifesaving, motor pool, and merit-badge counseling capacities, Dugan says. The Rip Van Winkle and Westchester-Putnam councils round out the Valley-area contingent.
Boy Scouting is available to boys from sixth grade (age 10 or 11) up to age 17; Cub Scouting is for first- through fifth-graders. Visit www.beascout.org to find a local Cub Scout pack or Boy Scout troop.