She came thousands of miles from across the Pacific, and now was standing at the foot of the Washington Monument. She wore a red robe, a blue hat and a smile.
All around Nobuko Asano on Saturday were thousands upon thousands of Girl Scouts, young and old, gathered on the National Mall to celebrate the 100th anniversary of their organization.
“It’s amazing,” said Asano, 58, who arrived from Japan the day before for the event.
Dubbed “Girl Scouts Rock the Mall,” the centennial party filled the Mall with people from across the country — and around the world.
Asano, a Girl Scout since age 10, said the day amounted to a “global friendship.”
Organizers, who were expecting 200,000 people, proclaimed that it was the largest gathering ever for the Girl Scouts, an apt way to cheer what they called a proud history of developing leadership and community in girls and women internationally.
The diversity of the crowd was mirrored by a stunning array of colors, as the white t-shirts sold to promote the event had been dyed pink, blue and tie-dye.
“It’s symbolic of the important place Girl Scouting has had in this country,” said Anna Maria Chavez, chief executive of Girl Scouts of the USA.
The District’s Fire and EMS Department deployed its mass casualty unit to the Mall on Saturday to respond to dozens of cases of heat exhaustion. The department had treated 63 people by 5 p.m. and transported 15 to hospitals, spokesman Lon Walls said.
“A lot of them were older folks, a lot of grandparents who were accompanying these kids,” he said.
The department set up a cooling station on 15th Street NW, near the Washington Monument, Walls said.
Despite the heat, the Scouts cheered and danced and sang along with musical performers on the event’s giant stage next to the monument.
“Seeing all these peope here,” Lidia Soto-Harmon, chief executive of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital, said with tears in her eyes, “it’s just incredible.”
The event cost about $2 million and involved considerable planning and coordination, she said.
The day’s events were mainly musical performances, ranging from American Idol’s Thia Megia to local groups. Music, many said, was one of the main ways through which Girl Scouts maintain friendships and develop into strong leaders.
One of those girls was Dana Marie Rogers, a 17-year-old who won a YouTube competition associated with the event. Sitting in a shaded white tent backstage, Rogers said she was “so psyched” about the opportunity to perform in front of the huge crowd.
“Music is something everybody can relate to,” she said.
Chavez said that although the organization has come a long way in developing leaders, there are still “glass ceilings” and other hurdles limiting girls and women, which the organization can help break.
“The world would be a lot less interesting without Girl Scouts,” said Connie Lindsey, national president and board chairman of Girl Scouts USA.
“They’re focused on helping,” Chavez said.
That spirit could be found in the younger members of the group. Amanda Nichter, 8, and Madison McKeon, 9, both Brownie Scouts, said they were excited to be at the event.
“I like helping,” Nichter said.
Clad in brown vests covered with multicolored pins, badges and “swaps” — baubles that Scouts make and trade with each other — they recounted many public service projects they had participated in, including recycling and can drives.
“We have helped make the world a better place,” McKeon said.
Staff writer Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.