By William E. Grau
With the changing autumn leaves as a backdrop, 10,000 Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, adult leaders, and families from 24 Scout councils in seven states gathered in Waterloo Village near Stanhope, N.J.
The occasion: a three-day mega-encampment known as the Jersey Jamboree.
It was Robert S. S. Baden-Powell, founder of the worldwide Scouting movement, who first applied the term "jamboree" to large Scout gatherings - because, he said, the word meant "any noisy celebration."
From its opening ribbon-cutting ceremony (featuring BSA Chief Scout Executive Jere Ratcliffe) to a Saturday-evening stage show capped by fireworks, the New Jersey event more than lived up to the name.
Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts participated in more than 50 activity stations, including knot-tying, first aid, physical fitness, arts and crafts, water sports, a handicapped awareness trail, and "buckskin games" (with instructions on how to throw a tomahawk or lasso a steer).
At the Merit Badge Roundup, Boy Scouts received hands-on experience and training in career- and hobby-related areas. Sixty businesses and community organizations sponsored merit badge booths that ranged from Railroading and Wilderness Survival to Atomic Energy, Collections, and Golf.
Spectacular events sometimes begin with a simple goal in mind. The Jersey Jamboree originated with the Morris-Sussex Area Council's 1995 Vision Statement, which called for developing "adventures for members that will be remembered for a lifetime."
"We'd always stressed adventures such as camping and hiking," said Joe Quinn, council board member and jamboree general chairman. "This time, we wanted to do something really different."
At the first planning meeting in January 1996, site selection was a priority. The committee of six volunteers selected Waterloo Village, a national historic site in Stanhope, N.J. The sprawling village includes restored homes and stores, a blacksmith shop, a working gristmill, an old-time general store, and an authentic Minisink Indian Village. It also had plenty of space for jamboree events and shows, plus horse-drawn wagon rides and colonial-era skill demonstrations. And the village is located across the street from Mount Allamuchy Scout Reservation, the Morris-Sussex Council camp.
"This allowed us to create programs using our own camp facilities as well as those of the village," said council Scout Executive Dennis Kohl.
An October weekend when Waterloo Village could be available only to jamboree participants and their guests was booked. Then the committee turned to recruiting more people to run the event.
"I remember being so excited early on in our planning when 20 to 30 volunteers showed up for a meeting," recalls Quinn. "Imagine my shock when Dennis Kohl told me we'd need at least 400 people to run the event properly."
Recruits included obvious choices - staff members of previous national Scout jamborees, volunteers from nine Scout councils, and members of Scouting-affiliated organizations like Alpha Phi Omega, the national service fraternity.
Others came from less likely places - The Randolph (N.J.) High School Key Club, 21 environmental groups, and craftsmen from electrical and carpentry labor unions.
"Many state and local agencies and businesses donated their support," says Kohl. Among these were 65,000 gallons of water supplied by the International Trade Zone, parking facilities at chemical conglomerate BASF Corporation, and bus service provided by the Eagle Rock (N.J.) Bus Company.
The organizers had to decide what Scout activities to include.
"Unlike a national Scout jamboree, where all the Scouts are at least a certain age and rank, the Jersey Jamboree was designed for everyone from Tiger Cubs to Eagle Scouts," said David Setzer, council vice president and jamboree program chairman. "We wanted to offer a diverse program that would be of interest to everyone."
Part of the committee worked on Boy Scout activities while the others considered what things Cub Scouts would enjoy. In addition, they put together an arena show with wide appeal by featuring the comedic folk-rock group Trout Fishing in America, along with a local high school rock band.
And the program selections were right on target, judging from a sampling of participant reaction:
"My favorite activity was the obstacle course in the Handicapped Awareness station," said Sean Kennedy, a Bear Cub Scout from Pack 226 in Madison, N.J. "It showed how hard it is to do certain things when you're handicapped. But I also liked camping out for the first time. And singing the funny songs by Trout Fishing in America."
"Everything was excellent," said Jhmil Johnson, an Eagle Scout from Troop 516 in Jersey City. "The whole experience made me want to go to a national Scout jamboree."
Following the jamboree, Dennis Kohl addressed a gathering of volunteers who helped run the event. The site was the historic building in Morristown, N.J., where George Washington had stayed during the two times the Continental Army camped in winter quarters nearby.
Putting on the jamboree had been "like the American Revolution," Kohl observed, in that its success depended on "the commitment of people who believed in its mission and worked extremely hard to make that dream a reality."
Kohl described his best memories of the event. "I'll never forget the smiles on the faces of the kids," he said. "They'll be talking about the Jersey Jamboree for the rest of their lives. And for all of us - Scouts, Scouters, and other volunteers - it really was a dream come true."
Scouter and freelance writer William E. Grau lives in North Caldwell, N.J., with his wife and three sons: a Tenderfoot Scout, a Bear Cub Scout, and a future Tiger Cub.
Wide Game Promotes Fellowship and Teaches Scouting History
"Anybody got a Norman Rockwell?" yelled the 8-year-old Cub Scout from northern New Jersey, dashing around his crowded campsite, flashing a set of baseball-style "trading cards" depicting the photos and biographies of legendary individuals from Scouting history.
"No Rockwell here," said a Boy Scout from Connecticut. "But I'll trade you a 'Green Bar Bill' for a Lord Baden-Powell."
The two youths - of different ages, states, and Scouting programs - were engaged in a jamboree-area wide game that combined fun, fellowship, and learning.
Participants received 10 identical cards depicting one historical Scouting personality, such as artist Norman Rockwell, first Handbook for Patrol Leaders author William "Green Bar Bill" Hillcourt, first Eagle Scout Arthur Eldred, and first Chief Scout Executive James E. West. They were challenged to trade nine cards with nine other Scouts.
"The game was a fun way to learn more about Scouting," said First Class Scout Andrew Scagnelli of Troop 1, North Caldwell, N.J. "It was also a good way to meet people and begin friendships." (Each Scout wrote his name and address on the back of his 10 original cards.)
Scouts who succeeded in collecting 10 different cards earned a jamboree pin depicting a famous scene from BSA history: American businessman William Boyce's 1909 encounter in foggy London with an English Boy Scout, an experience which inspired him to start Scouting in the United States.
Jersey Jamboree Lessons Are Useful in Planning any Scouting Event
Jersey Jamboree organizers learned valuable lessons in carrying out their mega-event. Many of these can be applied to other Scouting activities, from a one-hour den meeting for six boys to a three-day weekend camporee.
For starters, they say, you need to "know where you want to go and then develop a road map to get there."
Here are other useful tips:
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