Thousands head to Va. for Boy Scout jamboree

By Rick Rojas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 22, 2010

Area Boy Scouts will be joining as many as 50,000 of their fellow Scouts from across the country for the National Jamboree next week in Virginia, expecting 10 days of adventure, a chance to earn coveted merit badges and to simply have fun.

But their fathers know better.

"They're getting a lot of life lessons we want them to get exposed to, and they didn't even know it," said Tom Zedan of Potomac Falls, a scoutmaster who has three sons who have been Scouts.

And the jamboree, which starts Monday, will be a sight to behold: Fort A.P. Hill near Fredericksburg, where the jamboree has been since 1981, will be transformed into a fully functioning city that Boy Scout officials say will become the ninth-largest in Virginia.

The jamboree in 2005 at Fort A.P. Hill was marred by a fatal accident and the weather. Four adult troop leaders from Alaska were electrocuted when a metal pole they were carrying struck power lines as they attempted to pitch a dining tent. The heat of a particularly warm summer also led to Scouts suffering from heat exhaustion and dehydration.

Organizers said that blueprints for the event's layout do not allow for any setups under power lines. J. Randall Minchew, a scoutmaster from Leesburg, said there will be "copious" amounts of ice and water, and Scouts in his troop have been instructed to drink water at least once every 15 minutes.

Zedan said organizers have taken precautions to prevent similar incidents to those that occurred at the previous jamboree. "There are lessons in everything you do in life, and there were lessons learned at the last jamboree," he said.

The Boy Scout National Jamboree happens every four years, but for most Scouts, the chance for activities and camaraderie with troops from across the country is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The jamboree that would have happened last year was delayed a year to coincide with the centennial of Scouting in the United States.

As Scouting reaches that landmark anniversary in the United States -- Scouting began a bit earlier in Britain, around 1908 -- it's trying to remain relevant in a time when it seems most boys would prefer to play video games than explore the outdoors.

"We haven't fared well [because] we've been reluctant to embrace technology," said Bob Mazzuca, Boy Scouts of America's chief Scouting officer, the organization's equivalent to a chief executive.

But the Boy Scouts are trying to adapt, he said. The jamboree, for example, will involve more technology than it ever has, with an AM radio station and wireless Internet access. And the next generation of Boy Scout uniforms will have a pocket designed to store an MP3 player.

Mazzuca said Scouting's future will be about finding a balance in "learning how to use technology while engaging in healthy outdoor activities."

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