- Associated Press - Monday, July 26, 2010

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Boy Scouts of America are preparing to celebrate its 100th anniversary with the national jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill, about an hour south of the nation’s capital.

More than 46,000 Boy Scouts, leaders, staff and volunteers from around the world are expected at the 2010 National Scout Jamboree starting Monday in Caroline County. Organizers also anticipate around 250,000 visitors.

Tents will help transform the 76,000-acre base into the state’s seventh or eighth largest city.

For 10 days, Scouts ages 12 to 18 will spend their time participating in archery, fishing and other events like geocaching, a GPS-based scavenger hunt. Other events include skeet shooting, robotics and a chance for Scouts to analyze a sample of their own DNA.

The Boy Scouts have held the event at the Army base every four years since 1981, but it skipped a year so the event could mark the organization’s 100th anniversary. The group has hosted the gathering since 1937.

“The jamboree is kind of the crown jewel of the 100th anniversary, so it’s a big deal for us,” said director Larry Pritchard. “For the Scouts, I think the important thing is that this is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something that’s bigger than anything you’ve ever been a part of. … It gives them a chance to put their Boy Scout citizenship training to use.”

The event traditionally features a presidential address, but Pritchard said President Barack Obama will address Scouts with a video message. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is scheduled to speak during the event.

The 2005 event was marred by tragedy when four Boy Scout leaders were fatally electrocuted when the center pole of a large tent they were erecting touched overhead electrical lines. The deaths also were followed by days of intense heat that sickened more than 300 Scouts and visitors.

Organizers have taken extra precautions to help those in attendance to stay safe in the hot temperatures by developing a colored, heat-safety index telling them how much water to drink to stay hydrated and other tips for beating the heat.

The group plans to move the event to a permanent site in Beckley, W.Va., in 2013, but there are contingency plans in place to hold the event at the base in Bowling Green if the other site is not completed in time.

The community surrounding the military facility in Bowling Green also has benefited over the years from visitors coming to town for the event. The Boy Scouts have funneled nearly $75 million into the community for the 2010 Jamboree by using local businesses for preparation, maintenance and supplies, Pritchard said

“We really thrive on a lot of small business especially retail, hotels and restaurants. Our local small businesses have shined because of the jamboree,” said Cindy Matern, president of the Caroline County Chamber of Commerce. “This is going to help us tremendously, especially with the economy being on the slow track.”

 

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