By Martha Bowles
The Kansas Speedway was the gathering place for more than 12,000 Scouting enthusiasts May 16-18. The Boys Scouts of America Heart of America Council held its inaugural Scouting 500 event that weekend at the speedway. The event was a race themed weekend camping extravaganza where Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Venturers, Explorers, Scout Leaders, Scouting families, and volunteers representing 518 Scouting units could come together for one of the nation's largest Scouting events.
After 2 years of planning, over 700 Professional Scouters, support staff, and Scouting volunteers helped create a fun environment for the Scouts and their families. There was great support from the community for this event including over 600 community volunteers such as various law enforcement agencies, military branches, educational institutions, sporting groups, corporations, animal groups, disabilities awareness organizations, scouting skills experts, clubs, national agencies, and public figures such as the Missouri 5th District Congressional candidate, Bill Lindsey, who helped in the Scuba area.
The activities challenged both the mind and the body. With over 100 activities, the event had something for everyone including fitness, demonstrations, exhibits, sports, hands on skilled trades, and community service. Participants could learn about technology from the Lee's Summit North Broncobots robotics team, use flight simulators, see storm chaser equipment, use a fireman's hose, learn about geocaching from Garmin, use welding equipment, hear about the animal kingdom from representatives of the Kansas City Zoo, watch the KC Disc Dogs in action, and many other mind enriching activities. For those that preferred physical activities, adventures included zip lines, obstacle courses, climbing walls, archery, go karts, bungee runs, and riding BMX bikes on the actual speedway track.
Scouts had many different favorite activities during the event. Troop 262 Life Scout Gabriel Estes from Lake Winnebago especially enjoyed the areas where he could explore technology and engineering. Lake Lotawana Troop 251 1st Class Scout Lance Boegert was fascinated by electricity and liked the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) station in the Skilled Trades area. Troop 251 2nd Class Scout Bridger Scott had a different angle on what made the event great. He said he felt that how nice all the volunteers and participants were and how well the areas were organized was the best part.
In addition to things to do, there were many things to see. Throughout the day, participants had the opportunity to watch performances on the Fanwalk stage. Both the Mic-O-Say Dancers and the Order of the Arrow Dancers entertained the crowd. Scouts could also enjoy seeing fire acts and magic tricks.
With the 2015 World Jamboree in Japan just around the corner, there was also an international flare to the event with performances by the Three Trails Taiko drummers, Japanese dancers, and the Chinese Drum Rollers. A visit to the International display was not complete without stopping to visit Scouting founder Lord Robert Baden-Powell's granddaughter, Gill Clay. Ms. Clay talked to Scouts and Scouters about her love of Scouting and challenged them to carry on with Scouting, find new ways to get involved, keep it fun, and live by the Scout law. She shared that there are over 35 million involved in Scouting around the world and that Scouting is in all but 5 countries. She also encouraged Scouts to set their sights on the 2019 World Jamboree that will be held at the Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve in West Virginia.
As the event came close to an end, the Richard Petty Driving Experience put on a 45 lap private mock NASCAR race, the Beechnutz completed areal maneuvers including a double missing man formation in honor of Life Scout Reat Underwood and his grandfather tragically killed during the Kansas City Jewish Center shooting in April, and sky divers filled the sky making precise landings in front of the stands. There was a special appearance by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, Gill Clay spoke to the crowd, and the ZEROS took the stage for a live concert. The finale was a amazing fireworks display that resulted in many Scouts temporarily loosing their voices from screaming in excitement.
The event was a great success because of the many hours of planning and time given by staff and volunteers. One such volunteer was Lee's Summit resident Lynn Houston. Mr. Houston is the Thunderbird District Advancement Chairman and 2013 Thunderbird District Award of Merit recipient. When asked to give incite about his experience as an event volunteer, he replied, "The Scouting 500 provided the Heart of America Council an opportunity to showcase the Scouting program not just for a small group of individuals, but for the entire Kansas City Metropolitan area. The community saw first hand the fun that Scouts have and more importantly the guidance they receive from the values taught in the program. Working in the Outdoor Action and High Adventure areas, it was great to hear Scouts reach the top of a climbing tower and yell "I Made It". Not only was it fun for them, it showed them the value of never giving up and seeing a task through to the finish."
The Heart of America Council plans to hold similar events every four years. For more information about Scouting in Kansas City please call (816) 942-9333 or visit www.hoac-bsa.org.