EVERY FEBRUARY SINCE Baden-Powell was a Cub Scout, packs across the country have held blue and gold banquets to celebrate Scouting’s birthday, hand out awards and eat spaghetti. But blue and gold can become blah and old, and the event can turn into a race to see which will run out first: the piles of awards or the patience of Tiger Cubs.
That was not the case last February with Pack 385 in Sacramento, Calif. Boys and parents alike had a great time at the pack’s banquet, thanks to Committee Chair Ellen Kerigan Pate, 20 or so parents, and Darth Vader and his friends.
Darth Vader? Yes. As part of its Star Wars theme, the pack invited five costumed Star Wars enthusiasts to the banquet, including the Sith Lord himself, three Stormtroopers and a TIE fighter pilot. “When they walked into the dinner, the kids thought it was the best thing ever,” Pate says. “They really thought that they were the characters.” One Tiger Cub spent the evening following Darth Vader around; another (a major Star Wars fan himself) spent the evening talking the ears off the guests.
Pack 385’s guests came from the 501st Legion (501st.com), which bills itself as “the leading force in fan-based charity events.” Members of the worldwide group — and the affiliated Rebel Legion (rebellegion.com), which represents the good guys in the Star Wars saga — make their own costumes and appear at charity events of all kinds.
At Pack 385’s banquet, Darth Vader and company made sure the Scouts were using their manners during dinner and even participated in awards presentations.
The guests were only part of the theme, however. Pate’s chef husband, Tim, and their son, Michael, came up with a menu featuring items like Princess Leia pasta salad and lightsaber corn dogs. Star Wars-style music played during a slideshow about pack activities, and cakes in the dessert auction followed the theme.
Besides making the banquet more fun, Pate says the theme actually made it easier to plan. “It was very easy to get volunteers to help us,” she says.
Of course, Star Wars is just one possible theme a pack could use. Here are some other examples:
- Pack 29 in Austin, Texas, recently followed up an astronomy pack meeting with a “Celebrate Our Stars” theme at its banquet — the stars being the Cub Scouts themselves. “We cut out big yellow stars and had each den leader glue on pictures of each Scout and decorate their den table with them,” says Advancement Chair Kelli Heyns. The dens also made centerpieces of their favorite constellations by poking holes in cylinders of dark blue paper and placing them over battery-operated candles.
- Pack 274 in Dudley, Mass., recently used a Native American theme. It brought in the council’s Order of the Arrow ceremonies team and even invited a local Nipmuc shaman to perform a blessing ceremony as the second-year Webelos Scouts graduated into Boy Scouting. “The boys thought it was great — even the Tigers — as it showed them what they had to look forward to,” says Committee Chairman Brian Anders.
- Pack 61 in Flemington, N.J., used a medieval theme last year and followed it up with a trip to a Medieval Times dinner the next month. Cubmaster Joe Williamson says the pack regularly brings in entertainers to spice up its banquet.
So where do themes like these come from? Some packs leave the decision to their second-year Webelos. After all, they are the main attraction — Darth Vader notwithstanding — and the blue and gold banquet is one of the last highlights of their last year in Cub Scouting. “For most it is a bittersweet celebration, as they are leaving the pack with memories to take with them and dreams about adventures they will have in Boy Scouts,” Heyns says.
Whoever picks the theme should announce it early. Doing so can increase both excitement and your volunteer base. A few months before her Star Wars banquet, Pate learned that a new pack dad had an extensive Star Wars collection. He also suggested inviting the 501st Legion. “If we hadn’t asked or had just kept it to the committee, we never would have known, and it wouldn’t have been as fun,” she says.