What a trip!
by Mark Humphrey
Originally published in the Uxbridge Cosmos, Thursday August 15, 2013
The months of planning, fundraising, organizing the frantic last minute packing and repacking to try to get all our gear to fit - and finally we were heading out, leaving Uxbridge at three in the morning for a 7 a.m. flight to Edmonton and on to Sylvan Lake for the 12th Canadian Scout Jamboree. Check in was slow and the flight was late leaving but we were all so excited that it didn't matter. We just wanted to get there.
Once we retrieved our luggage, we were on our way to Sylvan Lake, hours away. It started to rain on the way. Dropped at the gates with our gear, we hiked in a kilometer over new roadways slick with mud and chunks of rock. Checking in, we were escorted to our camp site - a heavily sloping treed patch covered with scrub brush, logs and stuff we hoped wasn't poison ivy. Rough as it was, we rallied together, cleared the site and got our tents up, carried in some picnic tables, set up our kitchen. Camping out is always a challenge but the cheese burgers that night were so tasty!
That evening was opening ceremonies, and however many thousand scouts that were there (many were still coming in) assembled in a field in front of a large stage to hear speeches by local dignitaries, then camp was officially declared open.
Groups were coming in at 2 a.m. We woke up on Sunday to tent city. Every available nook and cranny was filled. The normal chatter and clatter of Scouts' camping amplified by thousands raised the whole idea of noise to a new level!
Sunday morning was Scouts Own - non-denominational spiritual service which emphasized the Scout Promise. Doing our best, helping others, doing our duty. In the afternoon we participated in our first events. Our group was divided into two patrols - Spitfires and Code F the kids named themselves - and some events we did together, some apart. That day, Spitfires played human chess, participated in an obstacle course and built a catapult, while Code F spent their time canoeing at the waterfront.
Our Scouts discovered badge trading trading in their free time in the evening. Special badges had been designed and everyone had things they wanted to trade. The pathways, hills and roads were lined with kids sitting on the ground, badges spread before them, haggling and making deals like traders in a Middle Eastern market.
Monday was our Calgary Stampede day - the offsite activity we'd been lucky enough to win through the event “lottery”. Coming in on the bus to Calgary we saw clear damage from the flooding - banks of the river caved in and bridges washed away. Then, just as we entered the Stampede grounds, it started to pour. We took refuge in the Agricultural Building, only to watch as water poured in the door from the parking lot. It did slow down long enough that we could dash to the stadium for the rodeo.
We had great seats, and a highlight for all of us was a competition where young kids in teams of three tried to hold onto a wild pony long enough that one of them could get on and ride - muddy, sliding fun. There were a lot of cowboy hats as souvenirs on the bus home that night.
Tuesday we had a full morning to visit the “X Center”. Although this important hub was open and available all the time, to have it as part of our schedule meant we didn't have to fight all the crowds. It was like the business district of tent city, with a trading post for camping gear and CJ souvenirs, a radio station you could pick up on fm radio, a real post office with special edition CJ stamps and an internet café where you could check and send emails. Tandy Leather had a booth where you could not only buy a kit but had the tools and space available to put the kit together. The Scout Museum from Bellville had a display.
STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) a program to get Scouts excited about technology, had a booth with hands on robotic programming.
Over the next few days we did sailing, kayaking, archery, horseshoes, zip lining, snorkeling and beach volleyball. Some of us made chain mail bracelets and some made leather knife sheaths. There was a rumor that we weren't getting enough food (CBC Edmonton) but we really had too much. There was a huge thunderstorm Thursday afternoon and the volunteers did wonderful job getting everyone off the water and out of the open fields safely. Can you imagine trying to get that many people moving?
Friday afternoon we were hunting the elusive badges we'd been looking for, buying last minute souvenirs, and saying good-byes. At the closing ceremonies that night we learned that there were 5000 participants present and 1500 volunteers. Every province and territory was represented except Nunavut. International guests came from Taiwan, Australia, United States and Uganda. The flag was lowered and was formally handed to the Nova Scotia contingent who will be hosting the next CJ in 2016.
Spending a week with 12 Scouts I knew only slightly before was a wonderful experience. Not only did they represent themselves proudly but they were a lot of fun to be with.