If the National Boy Scout Jamboree is jinxed, it certainly is hard to tell.
Cars and buses full of visitors clamoring to get into the 10-day camp-out back up on Route 301 outside the Army base here and around the bend. Inside, on a central road lined with boys lapping up lassoing and knife throwing activities, loudspeakers blast the Village People, and Scouts spontaneously shoot out their arms to form dozens of Y's and M's and C's and A's.
After a tragic and rocky start -- four Alaska Scout leaders were electrocuted Monday, searing heat sickened more than 300 participants Wednesday and a visit by President Bush was postponed twice -- Scouts and their masters are positively gushing about the event.
"Everybody talks about utopia. This is the closest thing to it," said Garrett Vogel, 19, a third assistant Scoutmaster from Richmond, who, as one of the heat-exhausted taken to a hospital Wednesday, might have reason to be jaded.
His father, George Vogel, added his confidence: "As a parent, it's like sending him to his uncle's."
Most agree that the Jamboree's fun has far overshadowed its gloom. Nearly 32,000 Scouts are learning to sail, making friends and generally having an irrepressible blast.
If news reports have made the event seem star-crossed, grumble some Scout leaders, it's partly because decisions by event officials have made situations seem worse than they were.
On Monday, officials acknowledged that a North Carolina man, 57, died of a heart attack the day before, but only when pressed by reporters. And they have offered few details about the fatal electrical accident, which happened when the pole of a tent being raised touched an overhead power line.
And on Thursday, officials apologized for a comment by Gregg Shields, a Boy Scouts spokesman. Shields had suggested to the Associated Press that the Alaska leaders might not have followed Scout teachings that warn against pitching tents under trees or power lines.
The next day, Bill Haines, head of the Western Alaska Council, issued a statement providing more information on what led to the accident. It occurred, he said, after two contractors hired to erect two dining tents asked the Scout leaders for help with the second one.
Creating more griping among Scout leaders was the decision to forge ahead with a kickoff arena show Wednesday night, even after temperatures surged. Some Scouts stayed away at the advice of doctors, but thousands, clad in full uniforms, were marched three hours before showtime to the arena, where they waited under a blazing sun. More than 300 Scouts and others were treated for heat exhaustion; about 40 were taken to hospitals.
There was drinking water in the arena, "but by then it was too late," said Pete Galli, a volunteer from Fort Myers, Fla., who was on the Jamboree's ice distribution team. "They should have called it off long before it got to that point."
Scout officials called off the show after Bush canceled because of poor weather. He rescheduled for the next night, but Scout and Army officials canceled that one to give Scouts -- and an overworked medical staff -- time to recover. Bush is expected to speak tonight.
Some Scout journalists, who send dispatches to their hometown papers, say they are being steered away from writing about the deaths and the heat, even though they say they mostly want to focus on the positive anyway.
"I was kind of upset that they were limiting us," said Drew Winters, 17, who has written for the Poteau (Okla.) Daily News.
Scout officials will not say they have regrets. But they will, as always, carefully review the Jamboree's kinks, Scouts spokeswoman Renee L. Fairrer said.
"Certainly, with any large project . . . you are going to have areas where you say, 'I could have done this' and 'I should have done this,' " she said.
The beginning of the week was "challenging," Fairrer said, and officials have simply plowed ahead.
The Scouts, on the other hand, have needed little prompting. It is hard to imagine how they could not have a good time at the Jamboree, a massive and meticulously planned wonderland where Scouts want for nothing, save a warm shower. A lake has been stocked with 20,000 fish for their casting pleasure. Food kiosks have been strategically located in a pattern that, Boy Scouts officials say, was developed through "time-motion studies" to ensure the quick feeding of hungry teenagers. Opportunities to earn merit badges, the tickets to becoming an Eagle Scout, abound.
Scouts said their determination to concentrate on the fun is partly due to perspective -- accidents happen in communities of 40,000, like the Jamboree, they reason -- but also is based on a bond held together by oaths and olive shorts, as well as hours of community service.
The scouting spirit has kept some frightening situations from worsening. As more and more Scouts and adults grew ill at the arena show, teenagers in charge of handing out water from a truck, all of them members of a co-ed scouting group called Venturers, sprang into action. They whisked the people into the cooled truck and summoned their leader, physician Mike Barrett, and other medical personnel. Soon, patients were getting intravenous fluids.
The youths "turned a tractor-trailer water unit into a second medical tent," Barrett said. "We were very proud of them."
That kind of fellowship, Scouts and leaders say, is what makes Jamboree the scouting mecca.
"I went in 2001 and fell in love with" Jamboree, Garrett Vogel said. "I couldn't wait to come back."