Dakota Smith had no idea welding had anything to do with the Boy Scouts.
“I thought it was all outdoors and stuff,” the 10-year-old from Spokane said.
There was the outdoors stuff, too, as Smith and the other members of Cub Scout Pack 117 watched Cub Master David Mayfield eat a grub on behalf of his pack as part of a survival demonstration.
Grub-eating and welding were but two of the more than 150 activities offered Saturday to participants at the Centennial Camporee at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center.
The event is the celebration of the Boy Scouts of America’s 100th year and is the largest Scouting event ever hosted by the Inland Northwest Council, based in Spokane. More than 5,000 North Idaho and Eastern Washington Scouts and their families were expected to descend on the fairgrounds, with more than 3,000 camping on site Friday and Saturday nights, officials said.
“This is a celebration of 100 years of building the character of our young men,” said Roger Johnson, of Colville. Johnson became involved with Scouts as a boy and has been a Scout leader for more than 20 years. “I think it’s one of the greatest things we have here in America.”
The weekend camporee will be the largest Scouting event in the region since the 1973 national jamboree, held at Farragut State Park in Idaho. The national Boy Scout Jamboree, the largest gathering of Scouts in the country, is held every four years, usually at an East Coast location, making it financially impossible for some Scouting families to attend.
“This gives our Scouts who can’t go to a jamboree an opportunity to experience something one-of-a-kind,” Johnson said. “It exposes them to so many different possibilities. Today some of them will walk away knowing what they want to do with their lives,” as well as a patch for participating.
Like the mission of Boy Scouts, the weekend’s events were organized around the belief of having “fun with a purpose.”
There were career demonstrations and activities offering fun and adventure. There were rock climbing, boating, derby car racing, snowboarding, paintball, old-fashioned log-sawing, archery and too many others to list.
There were also wild animal demonstrations, with hawks, owls and wolves. Then there were the traditional outdoor survival demonstrations, like how to make lanterns out of tin cans and the aforementioned grub-eating.
Some of the events, like the physical fitness demonstration, were built around requirements for merit badges, which Boy Scouts strive to earn.
As the rain began to fall Saturday afternoon, drenching the thousands of tents scattered across the fairgrounds, most Scouts used their keen sense of survival and opted for activities held inside where it was warm and dry.
Rex Barney, a Scout leader with Troop 550 in Colfax, helped with a computer recycling station, where dozens of curious youngsters ripped out the guts of donated, used computers.
The troop recycles the computer parts. In the process, the boys learn about how computers work and the various parts.
“Learning is by doing,” Barney said. “We are pretty hands-on here.”
Over at a woodworking table, Jake Hemphill, Ethan Tafoya, both 14, Joe Wright, 16, and brother Josh Wright, 15, from Troop 696 out of Newport, Wash., were huddled around a lathe.
Hemphill has been Scouting since “pretty much the first grade,” he said.
The teens said the organization has showed them the importance of helping others, leadership, survival and teamwork.
“There’s exposure here to a lot of different careers and interests,” said Lisa Hemphill, the teens’ Scout leader, and Jake Hemphill’s mother. “This is about building character and future citizens.”