By C.V. Moore
THE SUMMIT —
Launched by zip-line, the future of Scouting begins now.
As 30,0000 Scouts looked on, the official 2013 Jamboree flag descended a 3,200-foot “Big Zip” line before it was planted firmly in the earth at The Summit Bechtel Family Reserve in Fayette County Tuesday.
A concert, remarks by donors and dignitaries and the burial of a time capsule marked the first morning of the premiere National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia.
“This is a very important day. This is a very important place. This is the future of Scouting,” said Wayne Perry, national president of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).
Building the Summit was something the organization “needed to do to make Scouting more fun and more exciting for young people,” said Perry.
So far, the future looks a little more gender-inclusive.
“I’m having a blast, and being a woman, it’s making me feel very strong and very awesome,” said Emily Mathae, 19, of Arlington, Va.
She came to the Jamboree to teach and recruit as a Sea Scout. The co-ed Venturing program, which forms “ships” instead of troops, emphasizes character-building and nautical skills. She is among the first group of women to be welcomed at a Jamboree.
“Scouting has to adapt to its surroundings to survive in today’s world,” said Matthew Miller, another Sea Scout, from Katy, Texas.
“We’ve just got to continue to keep on adapting and keep on changing so we can embrace the future.”
The BSA is facing a long-term drop in membership, and recruiting materials show the organization is making special attempts to reach out to the Millennial generation to carry the torch for another 100 years.
Mathae and Miller sat with fellow Sea Scouts on the lawn of Summit Stadium watching Tuesday morning’s opening ceremonies.
In front of them, an enormous screen displayed curated Tweets by social media-savvy Scouts giving shout-outs to Mom and their troops back home. A live web stream of the Jamboree is available at jambolive.org.
A push towards technology and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields is another part of the BSA’s effort to reach out to a new generation.
Heavily sponsored by AT&T, this year’s Jamboree embraces cell phones and mobile devices as a way to spread the Scouting message.
At the stadium show, chipper, young MCs provided scripted chatter and enthusiastic introductions to speakers like Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, BSA National Commissioner Tico Perez and Summit namesake Stephen Bechtel.
Local country favorite Taylor Made performed the morning’s concert, booked after international pop star Carly Rae Jepsen canceled over the BSA’s straight-only membership policy.
The organization subsequently voted to allow openly gay Scouts, though they stopped short of offering leadership roles to gays and lesbians. The changes will take effect next January.
The rainbow flag may not be waving just yet at the Jamboree, but the sea of Scouts on Tuesday was a patchwork of color. Most groups opted for solid color T-shirts sporting the name of their contingent, rather than the more formal khaki uniform.
Periodically, they waved their bright plastic water bottles, which served as both a symbol and a lifeline.
Touting sustainability as a core value at this year’s Jamboree, the BSA instructed Scouts to bring along reusable water bottles to be filled at hydration stations throughout the site, rather than throwaway plastic bottles.
They need them; it’s hot. Temperatures at the Summit reached highs in the upper 80s on Tuesday.
Earlier, a time capsule was installed at Scott Visitor Center which contained several emblems of “the future of Scouting” — a brand new Sustainability Merit Badge; a Cyber Chip Internet safety patch; and a Summit Bechtel Reserve compass, among other items.
A bronze statue of billionaire Bechtel was later unveiled at the opening ceremonies.
Tomblin had remarks for the Scouts and added a flag of his own into the mix, presenting the West Virginia state flag to Perry.
“It is an honor and a privilege for our beautiful state to host this wonderful event and we are so glad that you are here,” he said.
Jamboree director Larry Pritchard said the events on Tuesday morning set the tone for the next 10 days.
“We’re excited we can put this mark in the sand for the Boy Scouts for the next 100 years,” he said.
As the concert wrapped up, the Scouts began filing out of Summit Stadium and making their way to their first adventure activity at The Summit. But not before filling up their water bottles.