Traditional and new activities merge at Jamboree

Kenny Kemp
There are 15 zip lines at the Bechtel Summit Reserve, with a total length of more than 5 miles. Scouts estimated that the wait to ride one of the shortest five zip lines was about three hours Thursday morning.
Kenny Kemp
Dr. Glen Ault flew in from Los Angeles and volunteered his time to be the chief medical officer at the National Scout Jamboree. The heat and the hilly terrain have made this Jamboree a little different than previous ones for medical staff.
Kenny Kemp
A Boy Scout tries out the skate park at the Action Center at the Summit Bechtel Reserve on Thursday.
Kenny Kemp
BMX bike tracks are one of the many features that would have been unrecognizable at Jamborees 50 years ago.
GLEN JEAN, W.Va. -- If you thought a Boy Scout Jamboree is all about camping and canoeing, building fires and tying knots, you were wrong.The National Boy Scout Jamboree in Glen Jean is the Disneyland of summer camps, a modern, super-sized extravaganza of features and activities complete with food vendors, corporate sponsors, a Big-brotherish GPS tracking system, long lines and even its own pseudo currency.Scattered among the activities and the perfectly uniform tent cities are Good Humor stands, soda machines and tents selling fast food. Visitors can hang out with the Scouts, in limited areas of the Summit Bechtel Reserve, for a $30 per day admission fee. Summit is expecting 50,000 visitors over the course of the Jamboree, in addition to the 40,000 Scouts and staff.One of the most highly touted features at the Summit is the zip lines. The Reserve has more than five miles of zip lines, the most of any site in the world. Those zip lines are at three different stations, each with five parallel lines.Patrick Lucas, 13, came from Odessa, Texas with Scout Troop D-322. He was waiting in line Thursday morning to ride the shortest of the three stations of zip lines, which, at 1,200 feet, was about a 30-second ride.He'd been waiting about an hour and estimated that he had about two more hours to wait until it was his turn. He wasn't disappointed, though; he'd been told that yesterday it was a six-hour wait."You gotta do stuff here that you can't do at home," said his father, Paul.Patrick Lucas was looking forward to whitewater rafting, BMX biking and trading patches.Patch-trading is very popular among Scouts. Some Scouts said that patches were almost like money at the Jamboree.Scouts congregate just about anywhere possible -- along central paths, under awnings, along tiers at AT&T Stadium -- and spread out blankets to display their patches.They hawk, barter and sell like they were in a Middle Eastern bazaar.Dondi McNulty, 15, from Baton Rouge, La., listed some of the most popular patches: ghost patches, order of the arrow, counsel strips, halo patch, dark horse set -- and "The Blues Brothers."Ghost patches have embroidered designs but are entirely one color, so the designs are difficult to see. "Blues Brothers" patches have likenesses of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, in costume. Where the names of the others come from is a bit of a mystery. "Any sets are just really popular," McNulty said.Patch-trading has a long history in the Boy Scouts; it's been going on since at least the first National Jamboree of 1937.
One thing that doesn't have nearly so long a history is modern technology's role at the Jamboree.This year, for the first time, Scouts were encouraged to bring cellphones to the Jamboree. They get daily itineraries texted to them and there is a Jamboree app, available for 99 cents, with updated information on programs and activities.There are dozens of charging stations scattered around the Summit grounds, although not everybody needs them.Many Scouts were walking around not just with a traditional backpack, but with backpacks with solar panels strapped on. The solar panels trap energy during the daytime, which can then be used to charge phones at night.If anyone forgot a charger, or wanted to upgrade to a solar charger, they were available for sale at the central Scott Summit Center.
One Scout asked what day everyone was leaving.
Why, responded a man escorting media members, are you ready to go already?"No," the Scout responded, "I'm just trying to figure out how many days I have to charge my phone."(Media are not allowed at Summit Bechtel without a personal escort. For instance, Thursday's escort for the Gazette was a man who was an Eagle Scout who now runs a lobbying firm in New York. He had lots of interesting stories and quotes, but said that everything he told us had to be on background.)Every Scout and staff member has a photo ID card hanging around their neck on a lanyard.Not only are they used for identification purposes, but each one is embedded with a GPS chip so that Scouts can be tracked, for safety purposes, wherever they go.On the walk to Action Point; which features activities like BMX biking, skateboarding and canopy walks that would have been a mystery to Scouts 30 years ago; is a strip of tents housing the most traditional Scout activity -- merit badge classes.There is a new merit badge, launching in February 2014, for Mining in Society. A new merit badge for Sustainability is being launched at the Jamboree.The tents for the mining merit badge and the sustainability merit badge are neighbors at Summit Bechtel.With so much going on and West Virginia in the middle of a stretch of 90-plus degree days, injuries and illnesses are assured.Whereas a traditional summer camp might have a full-time nurse and a two-room infirmary, the Jamboree's medical staff is a little bigger.The Jamboree has 19 medical facilities and a medical staff of nurses, paramedics, doctors and specialists of about 600.In the first two and a half days of the Jamboree, about 400 kids have sought medical attention, albeit not always for the most serious ailments."I get kids that come in with a bellyache and really they're just homesick," said Dr. Glen Ault, the chief medical officer at the Jamboree.Like most staff, Ault is a volunteer. Throughout most of the year, he is a doctor at the University of Southern California Medical Center and an associate dean at the USC Medical School.Ault said that the heat and the hilly terrain made the Summit Bechtel site more of a challenge than the former Jamboree site at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia."It does take some physical fitness to get around the site," Ault said. "It's tough when you come off an air-conditioned bus and you're not used to the environment."Tim Landers, a nurse practitioner volunteering at the Jamboree from Columbus, Ohio, said that about a third of the patients he'd seen were with heat-related ailments.To combat the heat, cooling off tents with mist fans are set up all over the place. Dozens of water stations are also scattered about, each with about ten spigots. And it's difficult to walk for more than a few minutes at Summit Bechtel without being told to hydrate.When National Jamboree Director Larry Pritchard arrived to brief the media, a thoroughly modern task, he handed out old-fashioned patches to anyone who was drinking from a water bottle, staying hydrated.Reach David Gutman at david.gutman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.
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