2006 Metro Lakes Spring Camporee
A lot of my friends/family thought it was funny that I was going to plan a cooking themed Camporee, especially since I can't cook my way out of a paper bag. If it doesn't involve a microwave, I prefer to stay away from it. On campouts I normally let someone else do the cooking, and then I do all of the dishes, and everyone is usually happy with that arrangement.
I had decided that after 9 years of running Camporees I was finally done (I had given 2 years notice already :-), and this was going to be my grand finale. I was just going to go with a nice simple event just so the bar wasn't raised too high for whoever took over after me. But as with any of these events, you get what's called by the military as 'mission creep'. That's where more and more stuff keeps getting added on until suddenly it's a very big event.
To make my problems even worse my council, Viking Council, had just merged with the Indianhead Council to form the new Northern Star Council. The new council decided that they would have a grand fun day at a local amusement park called ValleyFair. That wouldn't have been too bad except they planned it for the same day as my Camporee. There was a lot of discussion at the Roundtables about whether or not we should cancel the Camporee and go with the council's event, but the majority of Scoutmasters thought that the boys could go to an amusement park any time they wanted, and that we shouldn't waste a great event like this one. So I went ahead with the planning, not knowing how many Troops were going to come to my event, and how many would go to the Council's.
In the end every Troop in our District, except 2, came to our Camporee instead of going to the amusement park, (that didn't make me any friends down at the new council office either). And while that was wonderful for us, it was also very unexpected. I didn't have enough food, patches, and space for that many Scouts. Luckily we were able to overcome all of the problems and the Camporee turned out FANTASTIC!
Pictures - (Bear in mind that these were done from my Troop's point of view)
What went good:
The Peanut Butter Blindfolded One Handed Relay Race - It was definitely the hit of the day! The Scouts got all messy and the PL's wound up with PB all over them. You should definitely do this event at any kind of cooking Camporee you do!
The Hard Boiled Egg Relay Race - The Scouts really got into this one. Getting to build a fire, then hard boil an egg, and then do a relay race through an obstacle course with the egg on a plastic spoon that slowly softening because the egg was so warm was a lot of fun.
The banquet - This turned out phenomenally well. Even with all of the extra people who showed up unexpectedly we still had more food than we could eat. The Scouts cooked everything except the pig (which we roasted in a trailer), and it all turned out great. They baked potatoes, cooked green beans in a wok, made egg rolls, muffins, coleslaw, and more. For dessert we had dozens of pies, cakes, pans of cornbread, cobbler, cookies, and much, much more that the Scouts all made. Even after thirds the Scouts couldn't eat it all.
The SPL Pie Eating Competition - This one was a last minute surprise that we sprang on the SPL's. The Scouts LOVED it.
What didn't turn out so good:
Due to last minute changes in the availability of fire rings, as well as the amount of Scouts who showed up, some of the events didn't quite turn out right. The Pancake flipping was changed to basically just making great tasting pancakes and eating them, (the guy running the event had some novel ingredients). It wasn't that it turned out bad, it's just it didn't go the way it was advertised. The same thing kind of went for the Crepes making, nothing bad, it just didn't go as good as I wanted it to.
The Make Your Own Ice Cream didn't work so well in part because most patrols didn't shake the can long enough. The patrol from my Troop was one of the very few whose did work because I happened to pass by them and told them to keep shaking it until they didn't hear any more ice in the thing. They actually listened to me for once (maybe they actually thought I knew something about ice cream :-), and shook it for around an hour or so. Their ice cream turned out great (not that they thought to take a picture of it :-(, but most of the patrols had more cream than ice.
The whole large event cooking training thing was a flop from the beginning. I couldn't get enough experienced people involved from the beginning, and those I did get involved were working like crazy during the Camporee. They didn't have time to do anything else like run a class. Oh, well, it was worth a try.
Notes for future reference:
Because of the council's event at the amusement park I was assuming my attendance was going to be really low. Normally I take the total number of Scouts, split them into thirds, and the assign 'event areas' to each group. We have 1/3 of the Scouts in event area A from 9:30-11:30, another 1/3 in event area B, and the final 1/3 in event area C. Then from 1:00-3:00pm we rotate everyone to a new event area, and then from 3:00-5:00 they go to their last event area. Inside an event area you might have that 1/3 of the total Scouts broken into 4 quarters, and each one doing a half hour thing. So from 9:30-10:00 1/4 of 1/3 of the total scouts is doing activity A, and at 10:00 rotates to activity B, all while in the same event area.
This has worked very good for Camporees in the past (and it's how I suggest you look into doing yours), but this time I made a bad decision and decided to stray from that model. Because I was expecting so few Scouts I figured I would just break all of the Scouts up into 4 groups, and then we would just rotate all of them through the same 4 programs from 9:30-11:30, and then after lunch we would take those same four quarters and have them do a completely different set of 4 events from 1:00-3:00. And then from 3:00-5:00 we would have 4 completely different events. The beauty of this model was that I could have the same 4 really good cooks running events during all three rotations.
This seemed like a good idea at the time, but when more and more Troops started arriving than I was expecting, (and bringing more Scouts than I expected to show up at a cooking Camporee), there was no way to change the schedule around again. I was limited by the number of fire rings that I could use for various events, as well as being limited by the number of staff. Since I had the same staff teaching events in all three rotations, this severely limited my options when I realized we had more scouts than we bargained for.
The reason I point this out is that it is a very good idea to keep in the back of your mind what you will do if you get lucky enough to have a REALLY good turnout. While it is a wonderful problem to have, it is still a problem. And it can potentially ruin what would have been a great weekend if it is not handled properly. I got lucky this time, mainly due to the fact that this was something like my 16th Camporee that I had run and I was able to make some serious spur of the moment decisions (a lot of which involved my credit card going into the local grocery store and buying lots of stuff). It's just one more thing to bear in mind.
Another note is that we did this event is a public park, which is something that I had never done before. It raised a few logistical/safety concerns, (once again we had more unexpected Scouts than we had bathrooms for), but all in all that aspect of it turned out very well. Bear in mind that there are probably lots of places out there that you have never thought of holding an event that would probably work out great. It's just that you have to go find them. The reason we did ours at this park was that the Council, in an effort to force districts/troops to go to it's event at the amusement park, shut down access to the council's camps for the weekend. Not to be intimidated I just moved the Camporee to this park and everyone had a great time.
This was a great Camporee and I suggest you give it a try sometime in your District. It's always a good thing to raise the bar for cooking on campouts.
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