FORT AP HILL, Va. — Brennan Beecher arrived Monday at the 2010 National Scout Jamboree with merit badges on his mind.
The West Jordan Scout has 107 merit badges already sewn to his green bandelo, but he's eager to earn the few that have eluded him. Brennan was ready to scratch several from his list after a short walk through the Jamboree's sprawling merit badge midway.
"There's Truck Transportation, Plant Science — plus a few of the brand-new merit badges," he said Tuesday while taking a few minutes away from the merit badge midway to trade a handful of Scout patches.
Brennan's enthusiasm at the plethora of activities offered at the 2010 edition of the quadrennial Scouting event is shared by more than 1,000 other Utah boys and their leaders. The National Jamboree opened Monday, transforming a U.S. Army base into a uniformed city (population: almost 45,000) of Scouts of all backgrounds swapping patches, earning merit badges and enjoying acres of high adventure.
Scouts will fire more than 540,000 arrows at targets, rappel more than 9 million feet and mountain board the equivalent of four times the distance from Fort AP Hill to Washington, D.C.
But Utah leaders say the Jamboree is about more than simply having fun.
Monticello's Lyle Anderson attended his first National Jamboree in Idaho in 1969 and returned with his sons in 2001 and 2005. Anderson's back for a fourth Jamboree with another son, he explained, because of the life skills the event can teach as young men from across the nation come together.
"I hope my son will gain confidence in his ability to approach other people who are different," Anderson said.
The Utah Boy Scouts are encamped in tent cities near the edge of the Jamboree. The "canvas communities" become the 13th largest city in Virginia during the event. By 9 a.m., the campsites become ghost towns as Scouts hustle out to explore the hundreds of exhibits and activities.
It's obvious why the National Jamboree stretches across 10 days — there's simply too much to see and do in even a week. While a Utah boy at one end of the base is developing his newfound scuba skills, a Utah troop is pedaling through the BMX course or, perhaps, working on a Woodwork merit badge.
There's live entertainment, visits from Miss America as well as former Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon, and even campfire moments for young men to enjoy some solitude or a quiet discussion with one of the Jamboree's nondenominational chaplains.
Utah Scouts do share in one common activity throughout the day — drinking water by the gallon. It's late July in sticky Virginia, and temperatures approach triple digits. Scouts and leaders are constantly being reminded to drink up, stay hydrated and apply another layer of sunscreen.
Kayleb Carr, a 15-year-old Scout from Blanding, has already learned to pace himself. Kayleb spent much of Tuesday trading patches with Scouts from around the country. He brought back to camp a stack of patches from Connecticut. He'll be well-rested for his attempt Wednesday to conquer the Jamboree confidence course.