CASCADE — The former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base was dotted with tents and the smell of grilled food as more than 500 Boy Scouts gathered there Saturday to participate in the Boy Scouts Spring Fellowship Camporee.
Camporee chairman Scott Smoot said Scouts from Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia camped from Friday to Sunday to meet new friends and participate in activities that they normally don't touch during regular meetings. Some of the activities included archery, kayaking, wall climbing and tomahawk throwing.
"This is held every two years," Smoot said. "It's to promote fellowship and give them a chance to do things they otherwise wouldn't do."
When they weren't trying new activities, the Scouts played football in an open field and cooked hamburgers and hot dogs over campfires.
"I like camping," said Ben Gilbert, 13, of Boy Scout Troop 05 in Hagerstown. "It's fun hanging out with friends. (The camporee) helps you get to know people better and learn things about Scouting."
Troop 05 member Grant Tribble, 13, said the camporee provides a different atmosphere from regular meetings. The troop usually meets indoors at the Presbyterian Church of Hagerstown at the corner of Prospect and Washington streets.
"I like being able to come out here and not experiencing all the luxuries we have at home," he said. "It's fun being around all of your friends. It let's us come here and learn how to set up tents, cook on fires and start fires."
Keric Ellis, 13, of Troop 99 in Greencastle, Pa., said camporees and similar events have the potential to lead to lasting friendships. He said he met a Scout from Scotland during a Boy Scout camping event about a year ago and the two still remain in contact via email.
"We became really close," Ellis said. "When we left, we didn't want to say goodbye."
Smoot said the camporee is sponsored by the Mason-Dixon Council of the Boy Scouts of America, an organization that comprises about 2,400 Scouts from Washington County and Franklin and Fulton counties in Pennsylvania. He said organizers would like the camporee to grow to about 800 Scouts.
"We're looking to grow it year after year," he said. "We have ample space."
Smoot said organizers charge each Scout $12 to offset expenses.