GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — Thousands of Scouts and adults from around the world were organizing their campsites on Monday as the 2019 World Scout Jamboree began at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve.
The 10,000-acre site will host more than 40,000 people until Aug. 2, making this year’s event the largest World Scout Jamboree on record and the Summit Bechtel Reserve — temporarily — the third-largest community in West Virginia behind Charleston and Huntington.
The Boy Scouts of America is co-hosting the event with similar programs from Canada and Mexico. Members of 170 national scouting organizations are participating in the celebration of Scouting.
This year’s Jamboree is the 24th such event and the first to be held in the United States since the 1967 World Scout Jamboree in Idaho. The gathering is also the first of its kind to be held at the Summit Bechtel Reserve, one of the Boy Scouts of America’s four high-adventure bases. The site held National Jamborees in 2013 and 2017.
Plans to build the Summit Bechtel Reserve go back to 2007; the Boy Scouts of America was looking for a new site for the National Jamboree, and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was the Mountain State’s governor.
“West Virginia is an easy sell if we tell our story and show who we are,” he said Monday. “Once we were able to do that, we had to make a commitment for the infrastructure. It gave us kind of bragging rights, but also naming rights for the state of West Virginia to be the home base of the Boy Scouts of America.”
Manchin and U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., toured parts of the Summit as well as met with various scouting groups.
The theme of this year’s jamboree is “Unlock a New World,” with an emphasis on cooperation and discussing solutions to problems such as poverty and environmental issues.
“I think this provides us, in a much greater sense, an opportunity for our American Scouts to meet international Scouts to forge those relationships around the globe,” Capito said. “They’re going to be our future leaders. This is who we have here today.”
Manchin and Capito’s tour included a brief meeting with West Virginia Scouts.
“Just think what sense of pride they’re going to have when they meet someone from the Czech Republic or Finland or Norway or the UK. They can say, ‘This is my home state. This is what West Virginia is all about,'” she said.
World Scout Committee chairperson Craig Turpie said the eyes of the international Scout community are fixed on West Virginia.
“Memories are going to be made here and carried with young people forevermore,” said Turpie, who is from Scotland.
“It’s really fantastic for the whole worldwide movement to be here in West Virginia.”
The memories of taking part in the Boy Scouts is something Manchin still treasures; he told reporters about being a member of Troop 27.
“I’ve never had a bad memory of scouting. Not one bad memory. It’s always been a great experience and a great memory. I have friends — 50 years later — that are still my dearest friends because I met them in scouting,” he said.
Laura Turkki is attending the jamboree as part of the Guides and Scouts of Finland. Turkki and her mother, Auli, are volunteering at the Summit’s three-quarter-mile zip line, “The Big Zip.”
“My best friends are from scouting. I’ve learned a lot of camping things and skills to survive in the wilderness, but also how to be around other people, how to communicate and do voluntary work,” she said.
Turkki said what she learned from scouting helps her with her job; she works for the Finnish government organizing college entrance exams.
“‘Be prepared’ is the motto, and is my way of life, too, that I’ve learned through scouting,” she said.
The World Scout Jamboree is traditionally held every four years. South Korea is hosting the 2023 event.