1. The largest-ever gathering of Eagle Scouts
Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson said he had never seen so many Eagle Scouts gathered in the same place. In fact, nobody had.
At NOAC, the National Eagle Scout Association organized what it called the largest gathering of Eagles in history. Tillerson, himself a Distinguished Eagle Scout, was the perfect man to inspire a crowd of more than 4,000 Eagles and remind them of their duty.
“People trust you. They count on you,”
he said. “Your personal integrity, once established and earned — people don’t
have to think about it. They know. They know you. They know you’ll do the right thing every time.”
2. Arrowmen welcomed by university, city
Students and staff at Michigan State University and the people of East Lansing, Mich., couldn’t help but notice 15,000 red sash–wearing Scouts on campus all week. But they seemed to welcome the company.
The MSU Dairy Store created a special ice cream flavor — NOAC Centennial Swirl — just for the occasion. The owner of a local Domino’s saw a big boost in late-night pizza sales and donated 15 percent of proceeds back to the OA.
And students seemed to enjoy interacting with the Scouts. The Arrowmen invited Darrell Stewart, a wide receiver for the MSU football team who happened to be walking by, to join them in a game of ga-ga, a variant of dodgeball. He saw something in the Arrowmen that impressed him.
“Everybody was very genuine,” he said. “It’s basically a big brotherhood. Everybody looks after each other.”
Photo by James Brown.
3. Service in a football stadium
It wouldn’t be an Order of the Arrow event without a big service project.
On the conference’s last full day, the Arrowmen gathered inside MSU’s football stadium for what organizers called the largest emergency evacuation drill in Spartan Stadium history. The beneficiaries were MSU police and university staff.
After the Scouts packed one side of the stadium and enjoyed a rousing speech from Creek Stewart, host of The Weather Channel’s Fat Guys in the Woods, it was time for a card stunt. Together the Arrowmen held red and white signs that spelled out “NOAC 2015: IT STARTS WITH US.”
Then the announcer informed the crowd of a fictional severe weather system in the area and told them to exit in an orderly fashion. No problem for these service-minded Scouts.
4. A festival 100 years in the making
NOAC’s Centennial Festival combined the best elements of a trade show, carnival and huge party. Each lodge set up a booth incorporating traditions from its part of the country.
The lodge from New Orleans tossed Mardi Gras beads from a booth that prominently displayed a Drew Brees jersey. The lodge from St. Louis challenged Scouts to construct a giant arch-shaped puzzle. Boston’s lodge had people dressed as lobsters, while New York City’s lodge let Scouts take photos inside a cardboard taxi.
Arrowmen traveled the country without leaving campus.
5. Move over, Broadway
NOAC’s magical nightly shows transported Arrowmen to another world, but the work behind the scenes was just as compelling.
The team’s job was to take an abstract conference theme — “It Starts With Us” for 2015 — and captivate a crowd of 15,000, most of them teens, for 90 minutes on four different nights. And the team had to do this with an almost exclusively volunteer staff.
The shows offered a little of everything: spirited speeches, live musical acts, hilarious monologues, 3-D light shows, scripted drama, pyrotechnics, group karaoke numbers and a guy who juggled fire.
No problem for Austin Kriznar and his team. Kriznar, 20, was the conference vice chief in charge of shows. And despite all his efforts, he was quick to deflect praise.
“I get way too much credit,” he said. “It’s two-and-a-half years of people who have put their hearts and souls into this.”
If the ear-splitting cheers didn’t show Kriznar and his team they had succeeded, a 15-year-old Arrowman drove the point home. He approached Kriznar after the opening night show.
“He’s shaking and says, ‘I’m so excited for NOAC now.’ That’s awesome,” Kriznar said. “He’s almost vibrating before my eyes. That’s when we know we’ve done our jobs.”
READ MORE stories from NOAC 2015 at blog.scoutingmagazine.org/category/noac-2015/