Columbia Boy Scouts get bird's-eye view of Big Apple Troop 361 chosen for 'Urban Camp-out' atop New York's Empire State Building

November 15, 1993|By Galina Vainblat | Galina Vainblat,Contributing Writer

"You can see McDonald's from up here, but you still can't see Pizza Hut," said one enthusiastic Boy Scout after looking down from the 86th floor.

On Friday, more than 40 Boy Scouts from Troop 361 of Columbia and Troop 127 of Wayne, N.J., participated in the Empire State Building's annual overnight "Urban Camp-out" on the building's observatory deck.

For many, it was the first time they had ever been in New York.

"I've never been this high up. I've been up at the Eiffel Tower at Kings Dominion, but it's nothing like this," said Columbia resident Joseph Stinchcomb.

This camp-out is an annual event sponsored by the Empire State Building as a way of getting Scouts from different parts of the country together and helping them develop an appreciation for urban architecture and culture.

"What happens is that there are traditions that are started like the Easter Sunday service or the run up the stairs on Feb. 17," said Laura Fries, a spokeswoman for the Empire State Building. "The Empire State Building is a monument, but it's a monument that's alive."

If they were unnerved at being so high up, none of the Scouts admitted it.

"I'd like to sleep on the top of that point, but they won't let me," said Ryan Armstrong of Columbia.

"It's an opportunity to miss school. It's so cool. I mean I've been up here before but I never thought of actually sleeping up here. I mean we have two troops from the whole entire nation who got to go. It's just amazing that we're allowed to come from so far away," said Phillip Van Der Vossen of Columbia.

No one seemed to find sleeping 86 floors up very scary.

"I think the elevators are the scariest because at first everything was going smooth, but then it went 'whoosh' and everything started shaking," Joseph said.

For some of the boys, the experience was not all fun and games. Joseph, for instance, was able to use the trip to move up one rank in Scouting.

"In order to become First Class, you have to participate in 10 separate troop activities. I had nine. This was my last one," he said.

Most of the Boy Scouts said that participating in Scouting has helped them get ahead in life.

"Scouts helped me get a job in an engineering firm," said David Van Der Vossen, Phillip's brother, a junior Scoutmaster from Columbia. "My boss is actually the Scoutmaster for another troop."

Nigel Ridgeway, Chris Meyer, and Bryce and Ryan Armstrong will be entering college in the fall and say that being Scouts helped them get accepted when they applied to colleges.

"You get teased about it a lot. But once you get past the sixth, seventh, eighth grade, people learn to accept it," said Bryce Armstrong of Columbia.

It seems that being Scouts even helped the boys get along in New York.

"We'll go places and wear the uniform, and people will say, 'Oh, you're a group together. You're a nice group of kids,' and they won't bother you as much," said Brian Stinchcomb, Joseph's father, a Columbia Scoutmaster. "People saluted us all day long, and they would wave to us as they drove by in their Jaguars."

All in all, the Scouts had a lot of fun in the Big Apple.

One Scoutmaster even managed to convince Pizza Hut to deliver almost three dozen pizzas to the observation deck.

The Scouts left the Empire State Building early Saturday to see the Statue of Liberty and the World Trade Center.

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