SOUTHERN ILLINOIS -- Scouts from around the region got a wee taste of Scotland over the weekend when they participated in the Highland Games at Pine Ridge Scout Camp near Makanda.
Each year, many districts within Scouts BSA, formerly Boy Scouts, host spring "camporees," which are group camping experiences for Scouts. This year, two districts within the region, Egyptian and Big Muddy (both districts in the Greater St. Louis Area Council), combined their efforts to host a larger event, according to camp organizers.
"This all came about when Egyptian District made me the camping chairman in the fall last year. Back in December, at a troop meeting, we were discussing what we were going to do for Spring Camporee," said Chris Webb, who also serves as scoutmaster of Christopher's Troop 156B.
After discussing some ideas, he and his assistant scoutmasters brainstormed and came up with 10 to 12 solid options, and the one that stood out was a competition featuring feats of strength modeled after traditional Scottish contests. Webb said he thought the idea would be a little different from some past camporees.
"I've been going to camporee since about 2001, and I couldn't remember ever doing something similar," Webb said. "We thought we'd give it a try."
He said he was notified by Big Muddy district that they were having difficulty finding a location for their camporee, and the two districts decided to join together.
"It meant we'd have more people to help plan and more people to help run it, which meant it would be a better overall experience for our Scouts," Webb said.
Webb assigned various Scout troops to the Pine Ridge camping areas, where they were organized as clans. Scouts were encouraged to wear kilts for the occasion.
Scout clans competed in events like the caber toss, where a large beam is balanced vertically before being thrown, ideally flipping the log and making it land straight. There were other events like the hammer toss, maide leisg, and haggis hurling, though water bottles were substituted for the haggis.
A steeplechase relay, pitting clan versus clan rounded out the competition.
About 100 Scouts participated from troops around the region, and one notable addition was Christopher's Troop 156G, which is the region's first all-girl troop. Girls were able to join Scouts BSA beginning Feb. 1.
It's a move that's more inclusive and easier on families, according to Egyptian District Executive Lauren Schuette.
"The Spring Camporee was the first of many awesome events to come in our district, in which boys and girls, whole families, will have equal opportunity to participate," Schuette said. "We have an outstanding program for youth development, and we are so excited to be able to offer it to everyone now. Families are thrilled for their daughters to get the same experience their sons have always had. We have countless girls who are elated to participate. It's a great time for Scouting."