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For ten days every four summers, Boy Scouts of America (BSA) hosts a national Jamboree, or “Jambo,” that Scouts from across the nation and around the world can attend. This theme of this year’s Jambo, which ran July 19-28, was “Live Scouting’s Adventure.” This year’s event was the 19th Boy Scouts Jamboree, and the second one to be presented at Summit Bechtel Reserve, a 10,600-acre property owned by BSA located in Glen Jean, W.Va.
Fourteen Scouts from Newtown — 11 members of Troop 270 and three from Troop 370 — attended this year’s Jambo. Two adults, Troop 270 Scoutmaster Rob Cicarelli and chaperone Nick Wolf, accompanied the young men.
Six troops from the Connecticut Yankee Council, of which Newtown is a member, went to the Jamboree. The Newtown Scouts were blended into four separate troops at Jambo, so Scouts from the same hometown did not necessarily spend all of their time with their troop members.
The Jamboree, according to Mr Cicarelli, “is an opportunity for the Scouts to participate in activities they may not get back here in Newtown with their troop.”
For the 2017 Jamboree, that meant that in addition to ziplining, hiking, mountain biking, white water rafting, and other activities, Scouts last month had the opportunity to try a virtual search and rescue mission provided by the US Navy, go scuba diving, play Highland Games, or even challenge themselves within Spartan Games, a mile-long extreme obstacle course.
Those last two options were among offerings during one day of Jambo, after Scouts participated in Garden Grove Mountain Trek, a 2½-hour, three-mile hike up a former open pit coal mine.
“It’s the largest hill within the site,” Mr Cicarelli explained. “It had been reclaimed, a number of years ago, so the coal company had refilled it with dirt, and natural forest has come back to the area. The Scouts purchased the property, and it’s beautiful.
“When you climb most mountains, you get to a peak,” he added. “When you climb this one, it’s a meadow.”
The top of the mountain is reportedly large enough to fit a nine-hole golf course. BSA Jamboree planners now present activities across the top of the mountain, with one section of the mountain top devoted to Highland Games, another for the Spartan Games, and another section devoted to what Mr Cicarelli described as “Baden-Powell/old-school camping activities,” referring to Boy Scouts Founder Robert Baden-Powell.
Gabriel Locke and Joseph Doherty (Troop 270 and 370, respectively), are two of three Scouts who spoke with The Newtown Bee about their experiences. Both went for the Spartan Games. Troop 270 member John Boccuzzi, who also attended, went to the old-school area, which included blacksmithing, musket shooting, hatchet throwing, and ceremonial Indian dancing.
Reveille at 6 am started each day at Jambo. Flags were lowered each evening at 8 pm and then “Taps,” at 10 pm, signaled the day’s end. Between those hours, Scouts were expected to be busy and active.
“After cooking and eating breakfast, the Scouts were off to do what they wanted,” Mr Cicarelli said. “They had a lot to do,” he continued. “They were given free choice to plan out their own activities. They had to plan their day so that they had time, for instance, to get out to the zipline course. That was part of the experience: planning your time.”
Sunday, July 23, was the Day of Worship. That morning, Scouts had the opportunity to attend their choice of 60-minute services presented in a number of faiths.
John and Gabriel both opted to attend the Roman Catholic service. Joseph, who is Roman Catholic, decided to try something different. He attended the Sikh service that morning, and enjoyed himself.
“It was actually pretty cool,” he said. “They accept all the other religions, and are totally okay with people being any other religion.”
The Sikh service, he said, opened with a few minutes of prayer, then about five minutes of silence. The remainder of the time was filled with questions and answers between the Scouts and those hosting the service, according to Joseph.
The following day was a big one for all Jamboree attendees. On Monday, July 24, President Donald J. Trump spoke at the event.
“It was really cool to see the President,” said John.
“Not everyone gets to the President live,” added Gabriel.
While many reports following the President’s visit focused on the politics of his speech, Gabriel said most of the Scouts “shut the politics out of their minds. We wanted to hear the motivational stuff.”
Joseph was impressed at how much time the President spent on stage.
“I thought he was only supposed to be there for 30 minutes, but he spoke for nearly 45 minutes,” he said.
The Scouts, Gabriel added, “were pretty respectful” of the country’s Commander in Chief. The crowd “got a little rowdy at times,” said John, when the President would get them riled up, or rallied the crowd. That was not the case for the full speech, however, the young men were quick to point out.
“There were 40,000 of us in that field, and much of the time you could have heard a pin drop. We wanted to hear what he said,” Gabriel said.
The Jamboree also included performances by the rock bands X Ambassadors and Plain White Ts, and country performer Jessie Chris.
Another day, July 26, was devoted to service projects.
“Every troop went to different places in West Virginia for the service projects,” said Gabriel. The three Newtown Scouts interviewed for this feature all ended up at a local community college. Joseph spent a lot of time weeding, John painted parking lot lines, and Gabriel did work along a wall.
According to West Virginia Press, the Day of Service resulted in 220 projects in 45 of the state’s counties.
The number one unscripted activity at Jamborees is patch trading. While John and Joseph both participated in the longstanding tradition, Gabriel did not.
“I was a bouncer” for someone else, he said, explaining that while trades were supposed to follow mutual agreements between two Scouts, some were less than honorable.
“A lot of patch trading is knowing how to will the other person to trade,” said Gabriel. “I prevented people from being sneaky” while Newtown chaperone Nick Wolf made his trades, he said.
Meanwhile, Joseph had hoped to find a Central Florida Council 2017 National Jamboree patch, and was successful in that quest. He also was able to pick up most of the special patches that were released each day to commemorate a day’s activities.
John was able to collect the full set of Doctor Who patches, which the boys said were among the most popular ones this year. Halo, Monty Python, and PEZ patches were also highly coveted among this year’s attendees.
A new patch was issued each day, so Scouts were encouraged to visit the trading post each morning to pick up those limited edition items.
Unlike many summer camps, BSA wanted Scouts to have their cellphones with them for Jambo. Scouts can download an app before arriving at the Summit, where they can then use the program to check on wait times at the activities, reminders about daily offerings, and more.
Scouts especially relied on the app when they wanted to participate in popular activities. “Some things had three-hour wait times,” he continued. “The app would let everyone know that.”
Joseph went to Jambo wearing a neckerchief and slide from 1973, given to him by an uncle who had attended that year’s Jamboree and encouraged Joseph to do the same. Gabriel said his older brother has talked about the fun he had while attending the 2013 Jamboree, the first at Summit Bechtel Reserve. John’s father has often lamented to his son how he was sorry to have missed the opportunity to go to Jambo.
All three of the Scouts who spoke with The Bee about Jambo 2017 said they were happy they had the opportunity to attend the Boy Scout offering. Each offered different personal highlights and perspectives, but all three agreed that it was a good trip.
“I will definitely tell” sons or nephews who ask about his experiences that they should go, John said.