Thousands of badge-swapping, pin-trading, fire-starting, stilts-walking, ziplining, castle-storming scouts have arrived at Camp Woods and, along with all of the above, they are set for a week of much fun and excitement.
The Canadian Scout Jamboree got underway Saturday night at the camp northwest of Sylvan Lake, with about 6,500 11-to-14-year-olds descending on the 100-acre space for the first national scouting jamboree in six years.
On Sunday, scouts enjoyed the first full day of programming full of activities, games, and relentless badge-swapping efforts.
Shortly after swinging their flails into all the dried cow patties they could find on the land leased for programming up the road from the camp, a group of scouts from Victoria raved about the badges they had already acquired through some enterprising trading.
Alexander Sabourin was proudly holding a badge from Morocco, while others spoke of their new badges from places like Hong Kong, Japan, and Thailand.
Jakob Silva had picked up a rare solid-coloured “ghost” badge that he was quick to praise.
Jordan Borsellino, meanwhile, had already collected “hundreds of pins” in the 24 hours since the troop arrived at camp.
While the Victoria scouts were preparing to “storm the castle” as part of one of the organized activities, Sarah Rostron and Jacqueline Thoman slid on some duct-taped together foam pads and had a sumo wrestle of sorts.
While the Scouts movement became completely co-ed in 1998, today only about 20 per cent of scouts are female.
Thoman’s Edmonton troop is 100 per cent female, though, as it is the only Girl Guides group to attend this year’s Scouts jamboree.
With the next national Guiding get-together two years away, and with 100 years of Guiding and Scouting in Alberta to celebrate in 2013, Thoman, a troop leader, said it was natural to bring her cadre to the event.
“At these events you see a lot of unity across the country, but also internationally,” said Thoman.
There are scouts from Taiwan, the United States, and other countries at this week’s camp.
Thoman said the jamboree is proof that youth today are not merely technology addicts. In her group, guides are not allowed to use their cell phones for texting or entertainment during the week, something that suits Rostron just fine.
“There is so much to distract you here; I’m having lots of fun.”
Helping the camp run smoothly are over 1,600 volunteers, many of whom are scouts now in the Venturers program for teens.
Joshua Estrella, 17, is volunteering on the public relations team, and is glad to be back at a national jamboree after attending the last one in 2007 as a participant.
“It was a thrilling experience. I couldn’t get over the fact that I was with 7,000 people just camping together,” said the Markham native.
Walking around the camp, he marvelled at some of the elderly volunteers, having seen their strain in labouring.
With Scouts to thank for so much, he said he expects 60 years down the road he too will still be lending a hand to the organization.
The jamboree continues until July 13.