The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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July 20, 2013

Adventures abound

Trading patches is a serious side show for some Scouts

THE SUMMIT — Beneath the rafters of a half-built visitor center at the Summit Bechtel Reserve, Boy Scouts are learning to make business deals. Their currency of choice? Patches.

Scouts spread out their wares on handkerchiefs and tarps in the impromptu open air marketplace like Berbers at a Moroccan souq. Trading was heavy.

Some camp out there all day, setting up as early as 6 a.m.

“Those guys are a little addicted, I think,” said Michael Wienands of Troop D-406 out of Kansas City, Mo.

On Friday morning, Wienands was approached about a deal.

He hesitated.

Could he trade his rare Heart of America set of patches for a 10-piece Zombie set?

He consulted a colleague, another boy squatting several feet away with a colorful array of patches of his own. His friend green-lighted the transaction.

With a nod and a hand shake, the zombies were his.

“Everyone loves zombies, because it’s survival and Boy Scouts love survival,” he said.

He came to the National Scout Jamboree with just one set of patches, which he traded for smaller sets, which he then traded up into bigger sets.

Don’t confuse patches with badges. A badge is earned. A patch is largely a novelty item. Every Scout wears one on his uniform identifying where he is from, but beyond that, designs get creative.

In the evening, the Summit’s huge, grassy stadium fills up with hundreds of traders who come out to collect more patch booty.

Rarely does actual money change hands. Some consider it cheating. If Scout leaders see any shady deals taking place, they are supposed to report it to security.

So what’s the recipe for success?

“If you know how to bargain and trade,” said Brian Bordelon.

“If you can lie really well,” said Joseph Cretini.

Both are from Baton Rouge, La. Their council produces a set of patches highlighting various festivals in the state — the Balloon Festival, Seafood Festival, Jambalaya Festival, Strawberry Festival and Mardi Gras are all featured.

The boys say that, in a lot of ways, patch trading is just about fun. But you can also learn about the customs and traditions of others through patch designs and conversation.

“You get to meet different people and get to interact with different cultures,” says Bordlon. “I’ve met guys from different troops, from Germany and even a guy from Australia.”

“I think patch trading at the Jamboree makes it a lot more meaningful just because it’s kind of a melting pot from all over the United States,” said Cretini. “It’s a good way to come together.”

Wienands agrees. Though he’s got quite an operation going at the visitor’s center marketplace, he says his best patch trading experiences come from meeting and talking to others.

“I’ve gotten all my best patches from going out and talking to people, not sitting here camped out,” he says.

So are the encamped patch heads missing the point? Wienands thinks so.

“They paid $750 to come to the Jamboree and they are not doing any activities. They are just sitting around and trading patches.”

— E-mail: cmoore@register-herald.com

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