Thousands of boy scouts converged Thursday on Joint Base Lewis-McChord for WashJam, the largest Boy Scout jamboree in the Pacific Northwest.
Its the closest thing you can get to the national jamboree without having to travel all the way across the country, Pacific Harbor Council executive director Tim Garber said. Most exciting adventure they have in scouting.
Garber said he expected about 4,500 scouts some coming from as far as Texas to attend the four-day event. With volunteers and family members included, about 6,000 people are anticipated at the third ever WashJam, which takes place every four years as a preview of the national jamboree in West Virginia.
The majority of Scouts arrived Thursday afternoon and will camp in a field adjacent to Lewis-McChord until Sunday.
So what will they be looking forward to?
Just seeing all the things you can do with Scouts all the doors the scouts can open for you, said 16-year old Chuck Stern of Buckley.
Throughout the weekend, the Scouts will have a chance to use a variety of their skills, including hiking, mountain biking and canoeing, sailing and kayaking on American Lake.
Theyll also make use of 40 archery booths, 60 gun-firing stations and three climbing walls.
We try to make sure the kids have a huge variety of activities to do once they get here, program director John Ohlson said. Its like Disneyland for Boy Scouts.
Along with the classic scouting adventures, there will be activities fit for the 21st century Scout computer classes, robotics, geocaching and even video games.
We have traditional scouting and the new kind of scouting, all in the same place, event planner John Disney said.
Scouts will have a chance to earn 35 different merit badges during their weekend at WashJam. They can even be among the first Scouts in the country to earn the search and rescue merit badge, which doesnt officially debut until next week.
Im sure its going to be an awesome badge, Stern said.
Holding WashJam at Lewis-McChord also will give Scouts a first-hand look at life in the military. A couple Black Hawk helicopters are scheduled to touch down Saturday.
More than 20 ROTC cadets helped set up WashJam earlier this week, and on Saturday, the cadets will guide Scouts through a 14-station confidence course designed to build strength, agility and leadership.
The kids are real excited about that because they get to do real army stuff and not just Boy Scout stuff, Ohlson said.
Austin Kapelski, 15, of Tacoma said he thinks its cool being so close to Lewis-McChord, but what he is really looking forward to are the stage shows.
WashJam will feature a performance stage that Garber described as fit for a rock show. A few Scouts will get the chance to take center stage at todays talent show. Other events at the main stage this weekend will include a magic show, fireworks and a performance by the children entertainers, the Rowdy Referees.
The stage show is usually fun to see, said Kapleski, who also attended the last WashJam four years ago. I like that its different every year.