Rethinking the Blue and Gold Banquet

Way back in 1952, The Boy Scout Encyclopedia — yes, there really was such a book — included this description of the pack blue and gold dinner: “Often the mothers cook the dinner and the Cub Scouts serve it. Cub Scouts make favors and decorations for the dining table and put on a program of songs, stunts and games.”

That’s a far cry from many of today’s blue and gold dinners, which might feature elaborate advancement ceremonies, paid entertainment and big catering bills. One program director knows of a pack in his council that spends as much as $10,000 to hold its annual dinner at a local catering hall.

“They charge so much per person that families are saying, ‘This year Mom will go; next year Dad will go.’ ”

If your pack is in a similar situation, or if you just want to reduce your stress level, read on for two very different approaches to rethinking the blue and gold dinner.

Go With the Pros

When he was a district executive attending countless blue and gold dinners, Jim Grimaldi had a brainstorm: “You know, we could be doing this at camp if we just got our dining hall to look a little better.”

Thirteen years later, Baiting Hollow Scout Camp does look better, and it now hosts up to five blue and gold dinners every weekend during February and March (one on Friday, two on Saturday, two on Sunday). Aside from Super Bowl Sunday and either end of a February school break, all the slots usually fill up.

“We’ve had to push into the first weekend of April to accommodate the number of units that want to be here,” he says. (It helps that the camp is located right in the middle of the small council’s territory.)

For $11.99 per child and $16.99 per adult, the camp offers a full buffet meal, a decorated dining hall, audiovisual equipment and even a bridge for crossover ceremonies.

“We cook; we serve; we clean up,” Grimaldi says. “This way, the pack leaders get to enjoy their blue and gold.”

While that convenience is nice, cost is what led Pack 221 in Manorville, N.Y., to move its dinner to the camp last year, according to committee chair Kim Russell. The pack had traditionally gone to catering halls, where they paid at least twice as much for a similar meal, and the cost was affecting families and the pack alike since most Cub Scouts were selling enough popcorn to earn a free dinner.

Russell acknowledges that some adults who were used to a fancier venue raised concerns.

“They thought it was going to be not as nice,” she says. “But when they saw that the food was basically the same, they were really impressed.”

Eat Dessert

In Warrensburg, Mo., Cubmaster Chad Pfister expected similar pushback in 2017. That was the year his unit, Pack 399, took the dinner out of its blue and gold dinner. They served cake and ice cream instead.

Pfister says the previous dinner had been “organized chaos.” The program ran so long that families started leaving early. The leaders had to worry about food quantities — was there too much mac and cheese but not enough potato salad? — and about food getting spilled in the carpeted family life center. And, because of a longstanding tradition, planning fell on the shoulders of the second-year Webelos parents — adults who already had one foot out the door.

In the aftermath of the chaos, the pack decided to serve cake and ice cream at the end of its 2017 event. Last year, they refined their plan further, switching to cupcakes they served right before a magician performed. Why cupcakes?

“That way, somebody can grab it and go,” Pfister says. “We don’t have to worry about people cutting things.”

So were there objections from traditionalists?

“We kind of thought that there might be some pushback — especially from those second-year Webelos, because that is all they’ve ever known,” he says. “There really wasn’t any of that.”

And he says the new plan offered added benefits: The meeting took just 90 minutes, which families appreciated on a school night, and setting up chairs in rows without tables made it easier for people to see what was going on up front. What’s more, because the pack saved money on the event, the committee decided to foot the bill for a year-end cookout that previously relied on families providing the food.

“That made that event simple because we can go buy in bulk exactly what we need,” he says.

It also taught the pack’s leaders an important lesson, one that doesn’t just apply to blue and gold banquets: “You aren’t going to hurt anything by trying something different,” Pfister says. “If it doesn’t work, you can come back. But if you don’t try new things, you’ll never know if it works or not for your group.”


Let’s Decorate

You don’t need to break the bank to create a stunning setting for your blue and gold banquet. Simple and inexpensive decorations can enhance the ambiance, and you probably won’t need to leave home to create them.

Visit go.scoutingmagazine.org/crafts for tutorials, templates and tips on how to make some quick decorations that you and your Cub Scout will enjoy making.

A few ideas include a tissue paper campfire, origami tents and popcorn centerpieces.

 

16 Comments

  1. We do a potluck – we used to have potluck sides and catered main course, but with so much food usually left over (A Scout is Thrifty) we now just potluck everything (pack provides a celebratory sheetcake) and focus on the fun. The cost per family for our B&G is $0.

    • The real cost for families preparing the meal is the cost for the food and the time and energy it takes to prepare the dish, so the cost is not $0 cost its just a hidden cost not realized by the leadership of the pack. Depending on the timing of the event some families may chose not to attend to focus more on real life choirs such as homework and learning (most important), something lost in todays busy life style is the fact that a lot of families require both parents to work to make ends meet.

      • We do a potluck, do not need to charge a fee for the event, and parents can buy something to bring if they don’t have time to make it.

        The Elks Club kindly gives us space for free, with a kitchen that we mainly use for mixing up Blue and Gold (Lemonade) drink mix and storing the sheet cake our Commissioner buys at BJs for the event.

  2. We’ve been hosting our B&G at Baiting Hollow for years and couldn’t think of doing it any other way. They do an amazing job!

  3. Pot lucks allow every family, every budget to contribute.
    For dessert, we used to hold a baking contest. This can then go to an auction for the cakes or just cuttimg them up and serving them to the cubs.
    I always liked getting as many people involved in the fun.

  4. we did catered for $10 a head at the church. Nothing fancy but similar to a fundraiser meal. Volunteers served the food and everyone ate before the ceremony. it always seemed like it was too long having the food and then ceremony. I would have preferred a b&g with more fun/entertainment and meaning of scouting and less food.

  5. We have moved away from a dinner and done ours at the bowling alley or skating rink in the last few years. Our pack is small enough that we can host it during open times when others are there. It is great exposure for the fun we have in Cub Scouts and keeps our cost to a minimum with only needing to pay for entrance tickets, cake and drinks. The boys have a great time and it doesn’t take tons of planning.

  6. Back in the 60’s to keep costs controlled they got boxed chicken from KFC so everybody got the same thing. At the time I believe it had a couple pieces and a half ear of corn and cole slaw. Each den decorated the tables assigned them.

  7. Our pack has our cross-over ceremony as the program before banquet meal. We have catered the meal the last few years to take the burden of cooking from the night. We do have a big scout spirit cake contest for dessert, which always provides enough dessert. It’s a Saturday night event. The last few years we ended the event with a scout carnival as the entertainment. Which has allowed for the littlest kids get in the action. The whole event usually runs 2-2.5 hours.

  8. Our Blue and Gold banquet is done in conjunction with our Arrow of Light crossover. In fact, most in our area are like that. Typically it was just a dessert party after the AoL award and crossover that the Arrow of Light scout families contributed to as their final “see you down the scouting trail” gift. This year, we decided to do a campfire show with cupcakes and it went over insanely well. The Cubmaster and a Boy Scout that was a previous scout in the Pack hosted it. Evening was filled with skits, songs, and run-ons. If you do not conduct a Campfire Show as a Pack Meeting, consider doing so. It is such an awesome opportunity for those scouts, especially the ones who aren’t able to make it to a BSA camp.

  9. Potluck here, with the Pack providing the chicken. We start with Scout Sunday, move next door to the parish hall where we have the Blue and Gold, and then have our Pinewood Derby. 100% attendance for the last 20 years, and it also allows us to reach out to Parents and Grandparents for Friends of Scouting.

  10. Our pack does a Blue and Gold after our Pinewood Derby. Eveyone is eating while the leaders are deciding on race awards.
    It is meant to be simple, with the pack providing hot dogs, which almost everyone will eat, and each den’s parents providing veggies or dessert. We used to do a crossover and Court of Honor, but the day got too long.Dinner is also a captive audience for Friends of Scouting presentation

  11. As 10 years in cub scouts, I have never spent more than $250 for a Blue and Gold celebration. I have tied in the theme from Resident cub camp to get the boys interested in the camp. This year, it’s Under the Sea so we did a luau. Reason 2 is we are all sick of the cold and snow. The pack bought the ingredients for Hawaiian chicken and three mom’s cooked the meat, and families brought side dishes to share. Our biggest expense was the cake. Only because we had the ranks printed on edible paper by a local bakery.

    The boys made tiki centerpieces out of recycled tin cans, scrap contact paper, and self stick colored foam during the den meeting before Blue and Gold. The bears, to complete the Grin and Bear it elective, wrote a skit about how a tiki became a cub scout and worked his way up to Bridge over and earned his Arrow of light.

  12. Our local pack has a combined Blue and Gold and Pinewood Derby. The pack buys chicken strips and drinks. Families bring side or dessert (anything from a pack or two of chips or cookies to a homemade specialty, whatever they have time and money for) and it’s all very well attended and a lot of fun. Low cost to the families and not too bad for the pack. The venue is a church hall that we can use for free. Reading this article, I’m thinking Cub-made decorations need to be emphasized – it’s been done but not consistently. Thanks for this article!

  13. It’s been a few years but I remember the first B&G I attended, I was as bored as the boys. Basically a court of honor with food. So the next year we added some program. Our pack didn’t have funds for magicians but I found that our Order of the Arrow Lodge had Indian dancers and to promote themselves they would come dance at Pack events. I will never forget our Cubs with their mouths open in awe as they watched the dancing. And it was free. Food and decorations were $10 per person, we catered from a local spaghetti restaurant, and bought a sheetcake. It was inexpensive and lots of fun. After the entertainment the boys were even able to sit still for the awards!

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