The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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July 16, 2013

‘Man, this place is awesome’

MOUNT HOPE — For almost two weeks, enough rain drenched this region that some jokingly wondered if the time had arrived to fashion an ark.

Monday brought a drastic change. No need to fear a second flood of biblical proportions.

Hot and dry. Make that very hot and dry as powder.

No one was more thankful for the sudden reversal than the folks in charge of the Boy Scouts Jamboree in Fayette County.

“I would say that God has certainly smiled on us with the weather,” observed Larry Pritchard, national Jamboree director, as upward of 40,000 youngsters and adult leaders began filing into the 10,600-acre complex at Glen Jean.

Throughout the week, the weather experts are calling for dry days, save for an occasional thunder shower, and temperatures well into the 80s.

“And the amazing thing is that the Scouts aren’t taking all that long to set up their campsites to get into the camp and start doing things,” Pritchard said on Monday’s advent of the 10-day event. “It’s exciting.”

A former Eagle Scout himself, Pritchard hails from Kentucky but now calls Daniels his home. He directed the 2010 Jamboree at Fort AP Hill near Bowling Green, Va., site of the festival from 1981 to 2010.

Scouts obviously were impressed upon disembarking some 800 buses that rolled through the Bradley area into the Summit Bechtel Family Scout Reserve.

One of Pritchard’s friends, living in Pennsylvania, shared this text from his son:

“This place is awesome!”

Pritchard found no argument with that sentiment as the boys walked off the buses and got their initial glimpse of a slice of a state that bills itself as “Almost Heaven.”

“The Scouts that I talked to, because it’s all new, are excited to be here,” the director said. “The first task is to set up their campsites.

“They’re happy as can be. They’re ready to go off and shoot bows, shoot guns and ride bikes and skateboards, and have the time of their lives.”

In advance of the event, the Boy Scouts provided each youngster a video to familiarize them with the tents serving as home through early next week. Monday was the first night of sleeping under the stars.

“The important thing we need to do is make sure everybody stays hydrated,” Pritchard said, aware that the mercury is on an upward climb this week. “We’ve got a great heat index system. There are flags all over the camp.”

A green flag means ingest a quarter- to a half-quart of water in an hour. Yellow flag? Swallow up to three-fourths of a quart. If it’s red, drink as much as a quart. Black is the most serious caution: Drink even more water and put the activities into slow gear.

Part of the daily routine is to confer with leaders each evening and review the weather forecast for the next day to make sure all are prepared.

“We are green, the greenest Jamboree ever,” Pritchard said, explaining that campers were advised to bring canteens to avoid the use of water in plastic bottles. “We have hydration systems all over camp. No matter where you go, you can refill.”

Only some 1,000 acres of the huge expanse of land at the summit are used for the Jamboree.

“Our footprints for the Jamboree are only a small corner of it,” Pritchard said.

“We’ve got plenty of room to grow here. The other (acreage) is for development. We’re here to stay. This is our home now. As we grow and develop our high adventure and summer camp programs and eventually year-round programs, we’ve got plenty of land here to work with.”

Pritchard has toiled on behalf of the Scouts for much of his life, covering some nine states and two countries, and the association has never grown old.

“It doesn’t,” he said. “I’m working with folks all around who want to make a difference in the lives of kids.”

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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