Just 65 miles away from Colonial Williamsburg in the Tidewater Area of Virginia’s coastal region lies Fort A.P. Hill. This part of our country that is so steeped in our nation’s history was the location of the Boy Scouts of America’s 100th Anniversary Celebration National Jamboree, a distinct milestone of its own. Bearing the motto “Celebrating the Adventure - Continuing the Journey” this gathering of 35,000 scouts, 6,000 scout leaders, and 7,000 staff was truly awesome. Opening on Monday, 26 July and closing the following Tuesday 03 August, participants from BSA units around the world gathered for a non - stop scouting extravaganza.
In the midst of all the hoopla, the Sons of the American Revolution had its first experience in its “Partnership for Good Citizenship” as a Chartered Organization Exhibitor. A delegation of 4 full time staff consisting of Elwin Spray HISSAR, James E. Mitchell TXSSAR, Edward Rigel, Sr. GASSAR, & contingent leader T. Rex Legler II INSSAR were joined by 6 part time “Day” staffers including James H. Wood NCSSAR, James E. Parker GASSAR, Art Munford TXSSAR, T. R. “Tad” Legler III INSSAR, Lance M. Lyngar VASSAR, and Art Batten VASSAR. These compatriots spent 8 hours a day manning a 10’ X 10’ information booth handing out literature, distributing unique scout patches to boys, and answering questions & promoting the SAR’s Arthur M. & Berdena King Eagle Scout Award.
Although the weather was “HOT” with three days exceeding 100 degrees and heat indexes up to 112 degrees, business was lively at the SAR booth as a seemingly never ending line of scouts, leaders, and parents were given promotional materials and pamphlets. After the first several days it was not uncommon to have scouts and their leaders bringing other scouts and leaders to get our information and unique patch. In regards to the patch designed by Eagle Scout Compatriot Matt Hogendobler VASSAR, the most commonly heard adjectives were “sweet” and “awesome”. Many adults were disappointed when told the patch was restricted to boys who completed an information request form allowing further contact by the SAR chapter or state Eagle Scout chairman. Over 2,000 scouts signed up and an estimated 4,500 scouts, leaders, and parents visited the booth. When scouts and parents learned that the ONLY requirement to apply for the award was to be an Eagle Scout and submit the application in the year before the Eagle Scout’s 19th birthday a resounding “WOW” was heard. Positive nods of understanding from parents and scouts alike were garnered as the application process was likened to completing a college entrance application discussing all areas of the applicant’s activities. Because many scouts earn the Eagle Scout award in 8th, 9th, or 10th grades, the attraction of being able to start gathering unrestricted award money for college with multiple entry opportunities was greatly appreciated by parents. When it was pointed out that not only was there an opportunity for Eagle Scouts but also for essays, orations, and JROTC programs, adult booth visitors readily saw that the SAR was in the youth program and education business. Almost universally parents and adult leaders expressed positive comments regarding awards being available to scouts before their senior year in high school.
For the compatriots working in the booth the visible smiles and “Thank You’s” from the booth visitors were truly gratifying. Especially rewarding were the visits from past chapter, state, and national SAR award winners such as 2005 national First Place winner John Rasmussen of Minnesota , 2009 national First Place winner Garrit Bakker of Michigan (who is pictured on the front of the Eagle Scout brochure receiving his award from PG David Appleby), & 2008 National Second place winner Samuel Cain of North Carolina, to name a few. Another surprise visitor was the National Commander of the American Legion, Clarence Hill, who had just brought the SAR greetings at the 2010 annual congress in Cleveland OH.
Despite the heat, several compatriots wore colonial clothing to man the booth. Coming and going from the staff area to the National Exhibits area they were frequently stopped for photo opportunities with scouts and leaders. Jim Mitchell even participated in colonial outfit at the American Heritage booth in the Merit Badge Midway. A young Russian emigre who is now a scout in his adopted country was delighted to have his photo taken with Jim Mitchell while wearing Jim’s tricorn & holding his musket. When he told Jim he couldn’t apply for the contest he was relieved to learn that he could if he did a 4 generation ancestor chart on his adoptive parents.
Many scout leaders visiting the booth identified themselves as being in the SAR or DAR. A final unexpected development was a list of over 100 names of men who said that their mothers, sisters, or aunts were in the NSDAR and that they wanted to join the SAR. Compatriot Ed Rigel is compiling the list which will be distributed to the respective state membership chairmen for follow up.
Participation by the Sons of the American Revolution was a resounding success. A high visibility public presence was maintained, over 5,000 brochures and 2,100 patches were distributed, and additional contest opportunities for female Venture scouts were advertised. Unexpected but welcomed recruiting for the SAR occurred. Invaluable face to face networking within the BSA was facilitated. Volunteers on the BSA National Exhibits staff were enthused by the SAR participation and invited our return. Law, Genealogy, and American Heritage merit badge groups at the Merit Badge Midway invited joint participation with the SAR. Plans are even now being developed from our after action comments to prepare for participation by the Sons of the American Revolution in another information booth in the National Exhibits area of the 2013 BSA National Scout Jamboree to be held at the BSA’s Bechtel Summit High Adventure Area in West Virginia.