GLEN JEAN — Thousands of tents will rise Wednesday at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in Fayette County and, for 10 days, the 2017 National Boy Scout Jamboree will replace Morgantown as third-largest city in West Virginia.
A line of 600 buses will bring near 25,000 Boy Scouts to the Jamboree Wednesday, which will be home to 40,000 scouts, volunteers, military personnel and others for a little over a week.
“This is the home of our National Jamboree,” said Michael Surbaugh, chief Scout executive for Boy Scouts of America. “Every four years, we conduct a big event with tens of thousands of Scouts.”
He said the site and facilities at the Summit Reserve have improved since the 2013 Jamboree, the first hosted in West Virginia.
“The plan was to have a site where we can have continuous improvement, every Jamboree gets a little be better,” Surbaugh said. “We learned a lot and were able to make the experience better for Scouts.”
Scouts will be able to experience outdoor activities and concerts at the Jamboree, including “The Big Zip,” one of the longest ziplines in North America.
Scouts also will be able to participate in water activities, fishing, mountain biking, BMX biking, ATV riding, skateboarding, shooting and archery and a climbing-challenge course.
Scouting is a “transformational life experience for young people,” Surbaugh said. It teaches Scouts values and direction.
“Kids from Alaska are going to get to know kids from Alabama,” said Matt Myers, the national Jamboree director for the BSA. “And kids from New Mexico are going to get to know kids from New York, and they’re going to realize that we are one group.”
One value the Boy Scouts teaches through the Jamboree is service. Nearly 4,000 Scouts will leave the reserve each day to perform community service in nine West Virginia counties, including cleanup and providing labor for other projects.
“It’s all about providing those experiences for these kids that come here that may not experience anything like this in their lifetime again,” said Glenn Ault, a volunteer and administrative chairman for the Jamboree. “And hopefully, we change something in them, we see something they haven’t experienced that makes an impression on them and they learn to give back.”
The Boy Scouts is a volunteer-led organization. At the Jamboree, volunteers work at the different activities and act as hosts. Nearly 6,000 volunteers will attend this year’s Jamboree.
“I will just say, from a volunteer perspective, we just can’t do it without the almost 6,000 volunteer staff that come out here and give their time, take their vacations and come out and help us serve these kids to have that one in a lifetime experience,” Ault said.
Volunteers from the U.S. Army and National Guard provide logistical and behind-the-scenes support at the Jamboree.
“We share a lot of the same values, leadership techniques and skills; we do a lot of similar training,” U.S. Air Force Maj. Mary Ricks said. “A lot of times, those Scouts may have an interest in continuing that adventure for being a Scout to being a member of the military team.”
The World Jamboree will be held at the Bechtel Reserve in 2019, with Scouts from 160 nations.
Reach Kayla Asbury at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 304-348-3051 or follow @kasbury_ on Twitter.