The Boy Scouts of America is commemorating its 80th anniversary in the United States and its 75th in Baltimore this year, and 5,000 local Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts showed up in Herring Run Park this week -- despite the cold -- to celebrate.
Chris J. Adams, who joined in, said that scouting, particularly compared with organized sports, provides more than just fun.
"Its more controlled," said Chris, an 11-year-old from Troop 458 in the Towson area as he practiced making knots in a sea of tents off the corner of Harford Road and Chesterfield Avenue. "You have more [adults] looking over you. They usually care more about you."
Greg E. Meseke, 12, missed the opening ceremonies on Friday but showed up about 1 p.m. yesterday after playing in a soccer game.
"You get a lot more out of Scouts than sports," said Greg, a member of Troop 265 from Madonna in Harford County. "They give you situations,
and then you have to compare it to life. They make you think about your attitudes. You learn things for life, like survival."
Part of surviving in the wooded wilds -- or even the wide open spaces of Herring Run Park -- is learning how to start a fire without matches.
To accomplish this difficult feat, Scouts from different teams knelt down before round, aluminum delicatessen trays and tried to make sparks by banging a steel lawn-mower file against a hunk of iron ore
from the Sparrows Point steel plant.
"You're supposed to use steel and flint, but flint is too expensive," said Lynn Solomon, a Scout program director for troops in the eastern Baltimore County area.
Besides, he said, iron ore sparks more easily than flint.
Lighting a fire without a match was was one of about 30 skills in which teams or "patrols" from Scout troops around the state competed for awards and banners.
Other tasks at the weekend "Camporall" included identifying fa
mous Americans, throwing a javelin through a hoop, and more traditional Scout skills like hauling logs and knowing where a Scout patch or merit badge goes on a uniform.
Awards to the troop patrols with the most points will be given out today in an 8:30 a.m. ceremony -- two hours after the campwide wake-up call.
"Some troops really train for these things. For others, it's more of a social thing -- they get to see friends from other troops," said Horace "Chip" Porter, a Scout leader from
Troop 746 in Perry Hall.
During a break in the drills yesterday, the Scouts took part in more casual fun -- games of touch football, chasing each other and rolling around on the ground, and just sitting around talking.
It's all good for them, say Scout leaders, even on a cold autumn morning.
"As far as it being cold," said one of the adults mingling through the field of Scouts. "That's real good -- it gives the kids who have never camped out a taste of what it's like."