Some 150 central Illinois Boy Scouts would be wise to sleep as much as they can through next week. They’ll need it come Friday night.
Before the following dawn, they’ll have tracked through the woods of McNaughton Park by starlight and compass, scouted military attack positions with stealth, practiced loading cannons and learned how escaping slaves guided themselves north along the Underground Railroad to freedom by following "the drinking gourd.”
The Civil War will provide the outline for Scouts from four counties to practice their outdoor skills during an all-night Fall Camporee at the Pekin park, said Bill Maddox, a leading area Scout official and co-chairman of the event.
It will be the first such night-time Boy Scout gathering in the Pekin area “in my memory,” said Maddox, a retired city police officer and former City Council member who’s been a Scout member and leader since 1970.
The current extended forecast of dry, warm and clear conditions looks promising for the event planned by the WOTAMALO District BSA, which encompasses Scout troops from Woodford, Tazewell, Mason and Logan counties.
“We’re planning for 150 Scouts,” Maddox said. Their safety will be the duty of volunteers from the Tazewell County Emergency Management Agency (EMA), he said.
“They’ll use (the event) for training exercises themselves,” said Maddox, who also volunteers with the EMA as a radio operator.
At other large Scout camp gatherings, “It’s difficult to get them in their tents” as the night grows late, he said. “We decided we might as well keep them active” with the all-night Camporee.
Beginning at 10 p.m., its activities will include map and celestial navigation — “The ‘drinking gourd’ is the Big Dipper, with its handle pointing to the North Star,” Maddox said — team building exercises and military-like maneuvering, all within a Civil War context.
“You can apply (Scout trainings) to just about any situation, but we thought that would be educational,” he said.
Dawn will bring an end to the exercises, but not the Camporee.
More activities will follow a Saturday morning of sleep, with closing activities for the event in the evening, Maddox said.
“Then they’ll go home, get a good night’s rest and be ready for church Sunday morning,” he said.
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