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Nearly 75 Boy Scouts and 20 adult leaders attended the Newtown Boy Scout Camporee, a special event held the weekend of March 24-26 at Hoyt Scout Reservation in Redding.
There are four Boy Scout troops in Newtown: Troop 70, sponsored by Cullens Youth Association; Troop 270, sponsored by Newtown Congregational Church; Troop 370, sponsored by Newtown United Methodist Church; and Troop 770, sponsored by St Rose Church. All four troops run the same program, sponsored by Boy Scouts of America, but because of scheduling, said Troop 270 Scoutmaster Rob Cicarelli, “we’ve never had the opportunity to get the troops together at the same time.”
Troop 70 Co-Leader Alan Page said it was the first time that all of the Newtown troops could attend a townwide event.
“The boys planned all of the activities from the opening night campfire to the daytime activities and competitions,” Mr Page added.
Planning for the event began in 2016, during the autumn months, said Mr Cicarelli. Adults and the youth leaders from all four troops worked together to plan the Newtown Camporee.
“It was a two-night event, with Saturday being a day of Scouting activities including Ultimate Frisbee, tug of war contest, cooking contest with Dutch ovens, fire building, and a service project,” said Mr Cicarelli. A flag-raising ceremony opened the day.
The cooking contest was stylistically similar to the popular television show Chopped, in that each group was given a collection of ingredients — a box of cake mix, three eggs, a container of yogurt, a bag of instant oatmeal, a can of apple pie filling, and two apples — and told to create something with those ingredients within a set time limit.
The Scouts had 90 minutes to light a fire, cook their dessert, and present it to the judges. Members of Troop 270 emerged victorious after that competition. Mr Cicarelli said finding a winner was not the ultimate goal of that competition, however.
“This was a learning experience for the boys,” he said. “It wasn’t about one troop winning over the other troops. They all had fun.”
A new training center is being built at Hoyt, so the Scouts moved lumber from one location to another as their weekend service project.
“The job was estimated to take two days,” said Mr Cicarelli, “and they knocked it off in an hour and a half. When you have that many Scouts, it’s amazing what can be done.”
All participants slept in tents, and contended with not only hard ground that comes with tent camping, but also unexpectedly cold weather.
“The only difficulty, which was overcome,” Mr Cicarelli, “was who could expect that there would still be snow on the ground in March? While there was none in Newtown, at Hoyt there was still some snow on the ground.”
The weekend’s temperatures were chilly, with daytime temps reaching the mid-30s and the overnights down to about 25 degrees, “but they all persevered,” Mr Cicarelli said.
The boys divided themselves up into intertroop patrols, thus mixing the troops for the daytime activities and for camping at night, according to Mr Page.
“This allowed the boys to meet other boys in their neighborhoods or schools, who are involved in Scouting, but they were not aware of it,” he said.
The Newtown Scouts had initially planned to have its camporee at Cullens Youth Association’s property in Newtown — the 20-acre Taunton Lake Road property dedicated to hosting Newtown-based organized groups that serve youth — but the camporee quickly outgrew that location.
“Cullens became too small because of the number of Scouts who were participating,” Mr Cicarelli said. “It’s a great facility, but we had over 100 people, between the kids and adults who were present.”
Mr Cicarelli said that by Saturday, once everyone had arrived on site, there were 72 Scouts at the camporee.
“The whole entire weekend was planned and organized by all the youth,” he emphasized “The Scouts who are the youth leaders — all the activities were run by the Scouts themselves. The adults were there to keep them on task.”
At the conclusion of the weekend, the youth and adult leaders looked back over the weekend.
“They went over what went right and what went wrong,” Mr Cicarelli said. “The Scouts at that meeting said it was the best camporee they had ever been on. It was an opportunity for them to learn and lead themselves.”