For one weekend this fall, the Boy Scouts’ Camp Naish in Bonner Springs has the potential to be the 20th largest community in Kansas.
With more than 20,000 people expected to attend the Centennial Campout to celebrate 100 years of Boy Scout history in America, the event is shaping up to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“This only happens once every 100 years,” said Warren Wenner, program director at the Heart of America Council. “We won’t be here the next time.”
The Centennial Campout will be Sept. 24-26. While the majority of the centennial year activities have been focused on leadership and community service, the campout is the culminating event that will emphasize fun and celebration, Wenner said.
Registration for the event recently opened and Randy Kidder, finance director of the Heart of America Council, said the website set up for the campout was so overwhelmed within the first hour that it stopped working.
Kidder said membership of the Heart of America Council, the Kansas City metro area chapter of Boy Scouts of America, has grown 10 percent in the last four years. He said more than 35,000 youths and 19,000 adults are involved in Scouting in the Kansas City metro area.
In a preliminary survey sent out to gauge troops’ interest in the campout, 15,000 Scouts said they were planning to attend. Kidder expects that number to rise.
“People want to come out because we’re going to be doing so many neat things,” Wenner said.
The campout will take up the 1,200 acres that make up the Naish Scout Reservation, as well as an additional 200 acres of undeveloped farmland that is also owned by the reservation. The farmland is currently being transformed into a campground, which includes bringing in electric poles, constructing walking trails and building an amphitheater area where a professional music concert and fireworks show will take place the Saturday night of the campout.
Scouts will be divided by age group, with each group being assigned to oversee different activities, including a 5K run, obstacle courses, scuba demonstrations, a hot-air balloon demonstration, field sports and a polar plunge.
“It should be kind of spectacular,” Kidder said about all the activities that have been planned so far, with more still in the works. “There’s going to be more to do than (the Scouts) can do in a single day. It’ll be more Scouting activities than they’ll ever see in a lifetime.”
While volunteers have been working for more than a year on planning the campout, there is still a long way to go.
Wenner said some 600 volunteers are involved, and special attention is being paid to every aspect of the campout, especially safety.
“This is going to be so well-planned, from health (and) safety to risk management,” Wenner said.
“The programs are just the sizzle,” Kidder added. “We’ve worked really hard to make this a safe event. We’ve looked at all angles to make it a safe environment for people to come out for.”
More information about the campout can be found online at hoac-bsa.org.