Jamborees are kind of the Olympics of Scouting. They're held only once every four years and are considered to be the crowning event in Boy Scouting.
This is an "Olympic" Scout year, and some 35,000 U.S. Boy Scouts, including more than 1,500 from Utah, have converged on Fort A.P. Hill, Va., for the 15th National Jamboree, which began Monday and runs through Aug. 1.
Unlike the Olympic Games, Scouts at the Jamboree face little competition but lots of camaraderie, hands-on activities, exhibits, shows and camping as they meet other Scouts from throughout the nation.
"The jamboree is a wonderful activity for boys and adults to see the big picture of Scouting," said Ron Nyman, director of field services for Utah's National Parks Boy Scout Council, headquartered in Provo. "That's what jamboree is to me — a chance to see beyond the borders of Utah. It's a beautiful thing."
The Parks Council has sent 520 boys and 75 leaders to the jamboree, while the Great Salt Lake Council has a total of 720 boys and 86 leaders attending. Add another 144 boys and 16 leaders from the Trapper Trails Council, and Utah has 1,584 Scouts there — which makes Utah one of the most highly represented states.
In fact, Steve Luna, director of support services for the Great Salt Lake Council, said his contingent represents the largest single group of Boy Scouts ever assembled from a single council for any of the 15 jamborees.
The Great Salt Lake Council sent 16 troops and the Parks Council 15. A Portland, Ore., council also sent 16 troops but fewer boys.
"It's a fellowship experience," Luna said, explaining the council has permission from the Salt Lake Organizing Committee to utilize an Olympics shoulder strap badge that they can trade with other Scouts.
The majority of the boys earned the entire $2,000 themselves to attend the event. One milked cows, another had a newspaper route, and others sold pizzas, raised pumpkins and corn or had other jobs. Some boys have been saving for three years for the event.
"A kid who can do that can make a house payment too, someday," Nyman said.
The jamboree will likely become Virginia's sixth-largest city once all the 16,000 tents are assembled on their 12,000-acre site. This temporary city will also boast 1,300 latrines, 900 showers, 450 pay phones, 7,500 propane stoves and 5,000 folding chairs.