As the boys assemble in the morning, the lawn at the Howard County Fairgrounds is painted different colors by T-shirts — red, orange, blue and green.
Each color corresponds to the age of the Cub Scout camp participant, be it camper, junior camper, volunteer or parent. The annual National Pike Day Camp for Cub Scouts brings them all together for a variety of activities that teach skills and life lessons while having fun.
Camp director Michael Taylor says they try to disguise some of the learning by turning it into games.
“They learn traditional Scout skills of ‘what do I do if I’m lost?’ he said. “Those kinds of things in an interactive, fun way. And, of course, we play a bunch of games and sing silly songs.”
The green shirt-wearing group at camp is the volunteers — many of whom started out as Cub Scouts and have elevated to Boy Scouts.
Volunteer Charlie Tribble, 12, began as a camper and now volunteers at the wood burning station, helping the kids burn designs into pieces of wood.
“I think I get really good experience volunteering,” he said. “I can help kids learn what they need to do, and it’s a great camp.”
Taylor said professionals also help out.
“We have members from the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services,” Taylor said. “They teach them lifesaving skills, what to do in case of an emergency. I have Secret Service here, teaching them how to be safe as kids.”
After the opening ceremony each day, the boys head to the first station on their schedule. Aside from wood burning, other stations include archery lessons, water games, craftmanship, geology and event whittling.
Instructor Evelyn Mogren, who has worked at the camp for about 12 years, works at the whittling station, teaching the boys how to carve animals and other objects into bars of soap, pieces of fruit or vegetable and blocks of wood.
She says learning how to properly handle a knife is important for the scouts.
“We treat the wooden knives as a real knife because we know the boys will have real knives in their hands eventually,” Mogren said. “It’s good exercise for when they become Boy Scouts. They can peel vegetables for when they’re cooking and at home.”
The camp at the county fairgrounds has been in operation since the early 1990s, and Taylor said they’ve seen the camp population surge in recent years.
“Seven years ago, the cubs that used to be here were about 230, 250. Today, I have over 650 Cub Scouts here,” he said.
The camp staff is entirely volunteers, but Taylor says they never tire.
“By the time of the end of the week, we’ve already started thinking of next year,” Taylor said. “We’ve been talking about it, so we look forward to it and starting that whole process again.”
That enthusiasm is passed down to the kids.
“These boys are not bored,” Mogren said. “At the end of the day, they’re going, ‘Ah! I’ve done so much! I’m so exhausted!’ And the next day, they’re like, ‘Let’s go back to camp!’”