COEUR d’ALENE – Gabriel McCormick was determined to ignite a match using an ax.
It was just about as tall as the 8-year-old Cub Scout from Pack 209, but he held the ax securely as the cutting edge dropped onto the matchsticks that were vertically wedged into a tree stump.
What seemed impossible became reality as finally, in a demonstration of Boy Scout know-how, the ax head hit the match just right and a flame became visible.
“I tried it earlier and I didn’t get it, then I came back and I tried it again and I got it,” said Gabriel, of Hayden.
The 2015 Scout-O-Rama at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds on Saturday was a veritable showcase of Scouting skills – obstacle courses, rock climbing, knot tying and much more. It also showed that Scouts know how to have fun; the line at the water balloon launch was always full.
With a theme of “Best of the West,” pioneer-style blacksmithing and lasso challenges were also among the activities. Gabriel was pleased to report how well he did in a fire-starting competition.
“There was a string and you had to burn the string off and you had to make the flame go big enough to burn the string,” he said.
About 450 Scouts participated in the event, with the option of camping overnight Friday and Saturday.
Malachi Witherwax, 12, of Hayden, is a Boy Scout in Troop 911. His troop set up an obstacle course with tires, wood, rope and logs behind their main station. It was his third Scout-O-Rama.
“I love to run through the courses with the little kids,” Malachi said. “It’s fun to watch them do basketball and stuff.”
For lunch, his troop brought all the necessary materials to make homemade pizza and cook it on top of an open fire. He said he enjoys being able to advance in the ranks and see his Scout colleagues learn and grow from their experiences.
“I think that it really helps all of us to learn life skills,” he said. “Scouting is probably one of the best programs that you can start your kids in. I think that they learn a lot and really grow up in this.”
Angela Hills of Hayden is the activities chair person for the Old Missions District of the Inland Northwest Council of the Boy Scouts of America. She said Scout-O-Rama has been happening locally for at least 11 years.
“It’s a public event for anybody, so it’s the only event that anybody can go to,” she said, explaining that a Boy Scout jamboree is a Scout-exclusive event while Scout-O-Rama draws potential recruits from the community.
“Our goal is unity, having something you can safely come and play at, but recruiting and showing the kids around town that this is a fun thing to do.”
Old Missions membership chair Robert Shepler of Coeur d’Alene said the Scout-O-Rama event gets kids outdoors and opens their imaginations.
“When you talk to younger kids especially, first- through fifth-graders, it’s about exploring their world,” he said.
Through the Scouting program itself, Shepler said the Scouts learn leadership, values, character and citizenship.
“The piece that I think gets missed a lot is a lot of smaller communities have Scout units but aren’t aware of it, so a lot of the things scouts do are kind of invisible,” he said. “The kids do a lot of that goodness – community service, cemetery cleanups, garbage cleanups, scouting for food, all those types of activities, but there’s no individual recognition for it. Hosting an event like this lets the community know that scouting is still alive and those things are still being done. It allows the opportunity for recognition and to show that these things are still existing.”