INDEPENDENCE — Weather forecasters were almost unanimous in predicting that Halloween on Saturday would be a rainy “day for the ducks.” Those prognostications just happened to be right in line with what Girl Scouts Louisiana East were planning for the day as they held their first Juliette Low Fall Festival and Duck Derby at Camp Whispering Pines.
The rains held off just long enough to wrap up the event, which attracted about 700 Girl Scouts along with their leaders and parents to the decades-old campground nestled in the piney woods of North-Central Tangipahoa Parish. The Duck Derby was a fundraiser to support the area scouting program’s camping and outdoors activities.
Marianne Addy, vice president for communications and marketing for Girl Scouts Louisiana East, said the Fall Festival offered a perfect time for the outdoors event.
“Juliette Low, who founded the Girl Scouts, was born on Halloween Day in 1860, and we wanted to honor her birthday. At the same time, we wanted to host a fall festival at Camp Whispering Pines to give our Girl Scouts, their leaders and parents an opportunity to see what the camp has to offer and finally, we wanted to use the Duck Derby as a fundraiser. It all fit together perfectly,” she said.
The derby was held at Camp Whispering Pines’ new swimming pool shaped in the trefoil design that is the universally accepted symbol of the Girl Scouts.
Jill Pollard, vice president for programs, property and fun development for the Girl Scouts, announced at the start of the rubber duck derby that 1,100 ducks had been purchased, raising more than $5,000 for the scouting program. So many ducks were bought that they had to be released in batches of 250 and the winners of each race were pitted against one another for the grand prize.
The ducks, released from a square retainer, decided that they were in no hurry to cross the pool to the finish line so Pollard, fully-clothed, jumped into the pool and began making huge splashes to hurry the ducks along.
Addy said each heat winner won an imitation pearl necklace and the grand-prize winner received $500 in “Duck Dough.” The “Duck Dough” could be used by the winner to buy Girl Scout uniforms and paraphernalia or tickets to the Cookies and Cocktails fundraiser that will be held in New Orleans in the spring at the time of the next Girl Scout Cookie Sales kickoff.
The pearl necklaces had special significance for Girl Scouts, Addy explained, because Juliette Low had sold a treasured strand of pearls she owned to support the Girl Scout movement during its formative years.
While the Duck Derby was the day’s highlight, the Girl Scouts had numerous other activities. One of the most popular attractions was the SWAPS table. SWAPS stands for Special Whatchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewhere. The SWAPS were small souvenir items created from beads, small cotton balls, plastic items, ribbons and other craft materials that were attached to safety pins. The girls could then pin the items to the backs of the merit badge sashes worn by Girl Scouts.
An adult leader from Baton Rouge, Stacy Verret, said of the SWAPS: “The girls get very excited about making and exchanging these cute little keepsakes. Making SWAPS is fun for all ages … I still enjoy making and sharing them with the Girl Scouts.”
Another popular attraction was a hayride on tractor-pulled wagon.
Attendees at Camp Whispering Pines for the day also enjoyed archery lessons, an opportunity to climb a rock wall, and canoe and kayak rides. Low’s birthday was officially marked at the camp’s amphitheater, where visitors were treated to hot dogs and soft drinks at the camp’s dining hall.
Kiersten Peltier, of Ponchatoula, and her daughter, Skylar, and friend Gabrielle Williams said they were all enjoying the day.
Kiersten Peltier said the scouting experience “teaches leadership skills, how to develop friendships, how to become more engaged with others … The girls always look forward to being with each other. It’s all good.”
Krystle Long, attending the event with her daughter, Keyle, both also from Ponchatoula, echoed those sentiments.
“Besides helping to secure friendships, my daughter has learned about safety issues, crafts, and just good things in general. We are really enjoying this day outdoors and can’t wait to take the hayride,” Long said.
Addy said that offering exposure to the outdoors is more important than ever for young girls.
“The opportunity to go camping and just to enjoy the outdoors is absolutely one of the favorite things about Girl Scouting,” Addy said.
“With so many distractions from cellphones and other electronic devices it is important that we give young girls the opportunity to learn that being in the outdoors is still a great experience. Camp Whispering Pines remains a wonderful experience for the many who come here each year to enjoy this beautiful place.”
Addy said that about 700 campers spend overnight time at the camp each year. Additionally, single-day experiences are offered at the site from time to time for Girl Scout troops.
Addy said she was pleased so many Girl Scouts visited the camp on Halloween Saturday and that the event was the perfect way to celebrate the Girl Scout founder on the 155th anniversary of her birth.