CLINTON — There was so much to see and so many things to do, some of the thousands of boys and girls attending ScoutFest 2014 at Camp Avondale on Saturday were having sensory overload.
“We have right at 100 events,” event organizer David Breaux said, “and we have almost 4,000 people on campus today — and the weather is perfect.”
The fest, which began Friday night and ends Sunday afternoon, was sponsored by the Istrouma Area Council, which serves 13 parishes in Louisiana and Wilkinson County, Mississippi, to more than 8,200 youth. More than 3,000 adult volunteers support 285 Cub Scout packs, Boy Scout troops and co-ed Venturing crews.
Activities included a zip-line, a climbing wall, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards out on the lake, and a bathtub-warm scuba pool attracted long lines of boys, and a few girls, from grade school to high school ages. Skills like fire-making, BB gun shooting and tomahawk throwing were also popular venues.
Cub Scout twins Nathan and Michael Wilbert, both 7, from Pack 13 of Central, were hurrying their father, Blair Wilbert, from one event to another when they got to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries bait-casting site.
“They are in system overload — they are, ‘I want to do that’ and ‘I want to do that,’ ” Blair Wilbert said with a laugh. He said he was a Boy Scout and attended events here 25 years ago, “but this is huge — and the weather is great.”
Alayna McGarry, with Wildlife and Fisheries, was coaching the kids to push their reel’s button and arc their lure into the gaping mouth of a large, inflatable fish.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “You get to see their excitement as soon as they get their casting figured out — then they’ll take it home and start fishing on their own.”
Around 10 a.m., a bright-red Coast Guard helicopter circled the grounds several times then carefully landed in a meadow between a power line and the forest. A trailer-mounted Coast Guard rescue boat, several National Guard Humvees and a Louisiana State Police helicopter were crawling with inquisitive boys and girls.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Olivia Goll, 15, of Kentwood, after she sat behind the helicopter’s controls.
Her brother Seth, 10, of Pack 452, was in the other seat as their father, Michael Goll, an Eagle Scout in his younger days, snapped cellphone photos of them. “This is awesome,” Seth Goll said.
Over in the tepee village, Mark Dugar, of Central, and his son Mark Dugar III, 9, of Weblos Troop 13, were checking out what primitive life must have been like.
The younger Dugar said he’d “probably” live in a tepee, “but I really like the Army trucks.”
“There’s no corners to go to and no bathtub — what more could you want?” his dad asked, rhetorically.
Over at the Beadiver.com portable scuba pool — 20 feet by 30 feet and 4 feet deep — boys were donning wetsuits, masks and tanks and learning how to dive.
Aaron Aucoin, 11, of Troop 80 of Livingston, was shivering in the cool breeze after pulling off his wetsuit.
“It was awesome!” he told his mother, Laura Aucoin.
“He has been waiting to do this for two years,” Laura Aucoin added, “So this was the first thing we had to do when we got here; he was so excited about it.”
About half the participants, including the Aucoins, camped in tents Friday night.
“It was cold,” Aaron said. “But it was cozy in our tent,” added his mother.
Down along the lake, Civil War re-enactors Carl Smith, a Yankee, and Marvin Mitch, a rebel, both from Port Hudson Historic Site, were demonstrating how to load and shoot a muzzle-loading rifle.
“They love it — they enjoy hearing the bang,” Smith said of his 1853 Enfield, .58-caliber, rifle. “They were accurate out to 800 yards and a good soldier could re-load it three times a minute.”
Jack Crowe, 7, and his dad, Josh, were watching the demonstration.
“He’s really interested in it,” Josh Crowe said of his son, a Cub Scout with Pack 205 at Parkview Baptist Church in Baton Rouge.
Event coordinator Breaux said the next major event will be in three years to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Istrouma Area Council of Baton Rouge.