2011 Metro Lakes Fall Camporee
This event was crazy for a whole bunch of reasons. For 1998-2006 I had run all of the Camorees for my District, and finally hung up my hat with the Cooking Camporee. I had told the District leadership then that I would come back every 5 years and do my Search and Rescue Camporee again, (first one & second one). I was going to do it in 2010, but due to our Council’s Millenium event, (and me running almost all of the Program for 11,500 attendees), I decided I needed a year off to recover from that. So around March of 2010 I decided to postpone the Search and Rescue III event till Sept 23-25 of 2011.
In May of 2011 I contacted the firefighting college that had provided the large airplane fuselage for the last event, and found out that they had sold it off for scrap metal the year before :-(. That was a bummer, because I thought that it had worked so well that I didn’t want to go back to using a tiny 2 seater plane, (which looked kind of funny with 50 victims).
I then tried coming up with an idea that would give me a good excuse to have 50 injured 10 year olds, (since we use 2nd year Webelos as the victims), and the idea I finally came up with was a school bus crash. I checked around and found a local race track that did school bus demolition derbies, and they agreed to donate one of the busses that was used in a derby. I thought that would be great, because the bus would really look like it was in an accident, and therefore add to the realism. I then did all of the planning for the event, including making a patch, as well as all of the logistical effort to make the camporee happen.
Unfortunately the whole thing came to a screeching halt when 2.5 weeks before the Camporee I called the racetrack and they said that none of the school busses had been damaged enough in the derby, (held the night before), so they weren’t going to let us use any of them :-( !! Without the school bus the whole thing just kind of fell apart. To be honest, I was a little depressed and thought about just cancelling the whole camporee.
But thankfully I had a spur of the moment idea, and decided to go with a Zombie Invasion Camporee! I started looking around for ideas, and after a bunch of searching found another District that had done something similar. Since time was running out, and I was VERY desperate, I plagarized as much as I could from their site, (I talked with the organizers via phone and email when I found the site), including their patch. I’m a big fan of “as long as it’s for the good of the Scouts, it’s ok”, and I am quite ok with anyone using anything they want to from my site.
So with less than two weeks remaining, I was able to plan out the various events and get everything ready to go. It’s a good example of how having a serious deadline staring you in the face can really get your creative juices flowing :-).
Pictures (Please bear in mind that these are pictures from my Troop, not from an event perspective)
Event Recap. Please check out the pictures to get an overview of what I am referencing below:
This went very good. Having the Sheriff’s deputy on hand with his squad car kind of set the tone right from the beginning. We had problems with the fog machines, (both of them), and couldn’t get the “decontamination booth” to work very good. We hadn’t had time to test it before the Scouts started arriving. We also had difficulties with getting our captured zombie made up and ready to go. There just wasn’t enough time before the Scouts got there to get everything done.
The 2 Venture Crew members who were our “doctors from the CDC” did a great job of giving the Scouts an overview of the zombie ‘virus’. They looked and sounded ‘doctor-ish’ enough to make some Scouts think that they were real, (the sheriff’s deputy really set the stage for that one). Our threat briefing video was REALLY good. A couple Scouts from my Troop whipped that up all by themselves.
Since we knew that with all of this excitement none of the Scouts were going to go to sleep at a decent hour, we planned a nighttime recon of a ‘zombie encampment’, (in case you weren’t aware that zombies camped). It was basically a giant “kim’s game”, where a whole bunch of weird stuff was placed around the campsite where the zombies were, and the Scouts had to sneak up on them and memorize everything they saw. The funny thing was that we didn’t test them on it till the next day. This worked out pretty good, though some of the Scouts didn’t get to bed till after midnight.
Morning Flag Ceremony:
At our morning flag ceremony I was dressed up in my old Army BDU’s, pretending to be a Captain in the MN National Guard. I explained to the Scouts that the NG had been pulled back to defend the major population centers, (which I figured was realistic), and that they were basically on their own. We then issued them their “Orders” for the day, (see the sample schedule above), and then shortly after that 4 zombies came out and attacked me. They knocked me down and literally drug me away, (that wasn’t in the plan). The Scouts thought that this was VERY funny.
Zombie Egg Shooting:
This was a HUGE hit. Early in the morning it was kind of chilly, and the eggs would just break open and fall apart. But a couple hours later the eggs were exploding VERY nicely, (it might help to take them out of the refrigerator earlier). The Scouts thought that was VERY cool. We also realized we needed to put targets behind the eggs so that the Scouts who hit the egg on the very first try would have something to shoot at after that, (other than the rest of the Scout’s eggs). Unfortunately that while I had been told by the Camp Ranger that I didn’t need to worry too much about the mess, that there were plenty of raccoons and squirrels that would clean it up, he wasn’t there the Sunday after the event. The volunteer in charge of the Camp wanted me to make sure that every egg shell was cleaned up before he would close out the event. He didn’t believe me that the Ranger said it was ok.
Zombie Brain Archery:
Another big hit, (literally). I had been told several times that we couldn’t use human shaped silhouettes, which included zombies as well, so I got a couple plastic skulls and cut the tops off of them, (so they no longer looked human shaped), and then stuffed the tops will cauliflower to resemble brains. We then mounted them on posts right in front of the bulls-eye targets. If Scouts hit the brains it was considered a bulls-eye, otherwise they just got normal points for hitting the various rings.
This didn’t go as good as I had hoped. The reason I chose pumpkins was that sooooo many times I have seen Scouts hit the target, but they don’t have enough strength to stick it in the wood. The silly tomahawk just bounces off. So I thought a nice soft pumpkin would be better. Well unfortunately our pumpkins were still a little green, and almost as hard as wood. So even if a scout managed to hit a pumpkin with the sharp end of the tomahawk, it would still most likely just bounce off. Maybe if you are doing this after halloween with pumpkins that are a little riper then it would work better.
I was a little nervous about this one because I didn’t want my zombies chasing people through the course, and then having some Scout fall off and get hurt because he was fleeing a zombie. So I told my staff to be very easy going with this, and to be the “slow” zombies that are easy to outrun. In the end they may have been a little too slow, but at least there weren’t any problems with it.
Zombie Barrier Building:
The point of this exercise, (aside from competing in knots and lashings), was to build barriers that would keep the zombies at bay during our epic final battle. The problem was that I wasn’t specific enough with my two staff members when I asked them to get the pioneering poles out of storage and bring them to the location. They grabbed just about all of the biggest poles out there, and none of the smaller ones. This made building the barriers just a little difficult, made moreso by the fact that we were using cheap twine. I was going to leave them up for the final battle, but in the end most were so badly constructed that we took them down before. I was afraid that some would fall on people and injure someone.
Typical fire building event. Two pieces of wood with two pieces of twine between them. You can’t make your initial fire lay taller than the lowest string, and the time ends when you burn through the taller one. Boys always like to build fires, even though most don’t know how to do it right.
Zombie Queen Egg Carry:
Another example of being so rushed I didn’t give good directions. When I came upon this event an hour or so into the day I found that the staff member running it was doing it completely wrong. Instead of putting the eggs on the plywood and having the Scouts carry it that way to the bucket, he was just having them pick up the bowling balls and carry them by hand. After I explained things a little more to him, things worked better after that. This is a great team building event, and one I would suggest you give a shot to, (even with out the zombie theme). It isn’t too hard to make the carrying things as long as you have someone vaguely skilled at carpentry.
This is also where the Scouts had to answer the questions about what they saw during the zombie recon the night before since we were using the same site.
School Group Rescue:
The point of this whole Camporee was to do first aid on the Webelos, and to make the injuries realistic enough to make an impression on the Scouts. We had a Fire/Rescue Explorer post come out to handle the moulage, and they did an awesome job of making the injuries look real. They had never done zombie makeup before, so we had to kind of learn that on the fly. I realized later that we should have practiced that a little beforehand so we would have had a better idea how to use what we had to make someone look like the undead.
We also had a local chaper of the Salvation Army come out and handle the cooking for the staff for breakfast and lunch. I was so worried about how much my staff was doing, and how rushed we would be handling all of the make up for the zombies and the victims, that we wouldn’t have enough time to cook and eat. So I recruited the nice SA people to come help out, and they did a wonderful job.
One big problem I had was that long after I had scheduled this event, the Council decided on the following weekend for it’s big Webelo’s Experience that was to be held at the exact same camp. Therefore the Webelos, who’s attendance I was kind of counting on to be my victims, didn’t show up because most parents didn’t want to drive all the way out to this camp, (75-80 miles away), two weekends in a row. As a result I didn’t have nearly as many victims as I wanted. This caused us to have to re-plan how the actual scenario worked. In the end it was pretty much each patrol was assigned a victim to practice on, and then after the judges (the members of the F/R post), explained to them what they did right and wrong, then they competed on their real victim.
It didn’t turn out too badly, but with the lack of victims it definitely didn’t go as good as I wanted it to.
Zombie Evasion Course:
I was looking for a way to get some good map and compass work in, but still keep to the zombie theme, and so I just basically had zombies out prowling around the compass course. They would chase the Scouts around a little bit to see if they could find their bearings again. Some Scouts thought this was pretty funny, but others thought it was kind of lame. It wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be, but a big part of that was I didn’t have near as many zombies as I wanted.
At each event the patrols would be scored on how they did. Depending on how well they did, they would receive various amounts of pieces of “the cure”. I printed off hundreds of little pieces of paper with various chemical or mathmatical calculations on it. The Patrols then had to save each of these pieces of paper and at the end of the day turn them in. This would also teach them to be responsible as well :-). Depending on how many pieces of the cure that were turned in, that was how many water balloons their patrol was going to get at the final epic battle.
Before the final Campfire we counted up all of the pieces of the cure the various Patrols had turned in. We then took enough garbage bags for each patrol to have one, and then filled them up with all 1,500 water balloons based off of how many pieces of the cure each one had. Each bag was labeled with the Patrols name and Troop number.
During the Campfire all of the skits had to have a zombie theme. This resulted in some very novel new skits, as well as a few skits that were old stand by’s that had been re-done to have a zombie theme. Some were pretty funny.
When the skits were all finished it was time for the Epic Final Confrontation Between Good and Evil :-). Throughout the day I had had many people working at filling water balloons, and we had 1,500 of them. We lost some during the filling process, and others during the loading into the tubs to move them, but we still probably had around 1,400 or so by the time the fight started. Filling this many water balloons does require some planning. We had 3 hoses going, with those little water balloon nozzels on them, and 2 adults manning each one, and it still took all day. We used duct tape to hold the hoses down on a picnic table, and this made it so the adults didn’t have to hold the hoses while doing it. When we then put the filled balloons in giant tubs, a few if them broke because of the weight sitting on top of them, so we filled the tubs with water to make them float up so the weight wasn’t on them any longer. This made it so they didn’t pop, but it made the tubs MUCH heavier, (they weighed a lot to begin with).
We then hauled them down to the campfire ring and then started filling garbage bags with a specific amount of balloons based on how well each Patrol had done. This took quite awhile to do, and since we were running out of time quickly the staff ended up throwing a few at each other just to get rid of them :-).
While the skits were going on my staff had been infiltrating out into the woods around the campfire. It was pretty dark by that time, and since most had been blinded by the campfire they had some difficulty sneaking through the woods.
When the skits were done the guy running the campfire was supposed to have each Patrol come forward and stand by their bag of water balloons. Unfortunately what happened was he stood up and yelled something like, “the Zombies are coming!!”, and then all of the Scouts jumped up and rushed out onto the field and started grabbing water balloons from any bag they could find. I was standing on the top of the hill at a loss as to what to do next. The zombies were all sitting in the woods waiting for me to make my big announcement from the top of the hill, and with all the noise there was no way they could hear me. Initially I was hoping that the Scouts would quiet down in a bit, but it rapidly became apparent that not only were they not quieting down, they were getting worse. They were starting to throw water balloons at each other since no zombies were appearing. I realized I had to do something quickly, or the whole thing was going to get out of hand.
So I grabbed a guy who has one of those flashlights that should be mounted on an airplane for landing lights, and had him spotlight me. I started yelling as loud as I could to get the Scouts attention, as well as my zombies as well. I yelled something to the effect of “Arise my minions, it’s time to feast on the flesh of the humans!!!!!” (Ok, too many cheap movies for me :-). It didn’t hurt that I was waving a plastic hand as my scepter. At least I was finally able to get my zombies attention, and they all started running out from the woods.
This is where we realized how much those little water balloons HURT. As I charged down the hill and into the crowd of Scouts, every one of them seemed like he was throwing at ME, at least that’s what it seemed like after being pelted again and again with what felt like softballs. After being hit in the face and head several times I started running with my head down and my hand over my face. Then, after being hit in the crotch several times I started covering that area with the other hand. Bear in mind it was very dark outside, and the campfire was starting to die down, and the only light was from that and flashlights waving around madly, (plus the occasional strobe of a picture being taken).
Several of my staff realized quickly how much the balloons hurt, and retreated back out into the woods, (the Scouts thought that they had been driven off). A couple others laid down and pretended to be dead, which just caused the Scouts to throw the balloons at them while they were on the ground. The really annoying thing was when some Scout would run up and throw a balloon at you from point blank range, and then it would bounce off your body and onto the ground without breaking, and then some other Scout would pick it up and thow it at you again. I started stomping on any balloon on the ground that I saw.
Finally, after what seemed like FOREVER, the balloons started to run out. Even then for quite awhile Scouts would find one laying on the ground and run up and throw it at you. Needless to say the Scouts were in a VERY excited state at this point, and regaining control over them was difficult. It didn’t help that I was soaking wet, cold (we live in MN), and bruised all over my body, and therefore not in the best frame of mind. Plus I had pretty much lost my voice screaming from the top of the hill, so it made it harder to get control over the 250 Scouts. Finally I got the Scoutmasters to walk around yelling something like “troop 23 over here” until all of the Scouts had been corralled by their leaders and taken back to their campsites. I then sent all of my staff up to the shower building and let them take as long and hot a shower as they wanted. In addition to helping warm them back up, it was good to get rid of all of the makeup and blood that was on them getting sticky fast.
The next day I had two different groups of people go out to pick up water balloon pieces from the fire ring. They were laying around everywhere, and I wanted to make sure that we left no trace.
It had been 6 years since I had run a Camporee, and to be honest I was rusty in a few areas. In previous years I didn’t have any problems getting OA youth to be my staff for these, and I was just expecting that that would be the same this time. The problem was that in the intervening years since my last event, Camporees haven’t been run that great, and with only so-so involvement of the OA youth. As a result none of the current OA youth had ever seen how much fun it could be to really run a Camporee, and as a result on that Friday night I only had a few staff there. I started strong arming OA members as they showed up with their Troops, and was finally able to get a decent number of them to volunteer to be staff. But because they were recruited so late they were completely unprepared for things, and that resulted in more than a few miscommunications.
I take VERY good care of my staff, including getting someone to cook very good meals for them, having a building for them to sleep in, plus bringing a TV for them to watch movies late into the evening, plus supplying pop & junk food for them to munch on while watching those movies. After the weekend was done, even with the pain of the water balloons, they all agreed that they wanted to be on staff for future camporees. The only problem is that I won’t be running another one for 5 more years, and who knows how the other people will handle things during that time.
I highly suggest that people make it VERY clear to the older Scouts who you are trying to recruit to be staff what you expect from them, and what they can expect from you. After the first couple Camporees I did 15 years ago I had NO trouble getting staff, (in fact I had to turn many away), and if you cultivate your youth staff in no time you will find a very loyal group of Scouts who are willing and eager to come help at every event you do.
One tip I can’t suggest strongly enough for new Camporee people, is to think a lot about your rotation schedule. The way I do it is I start by dividing up the Patrols into 3 groups. Let’s make this easy and assume I have 30 Patrols, so I have 3 Divisions of 10 Patrols each. I then break those 3 Divisions down into 4 Groups. Obviously they aren’t going to be equal, but that doesn’t matter. So in each Group there are no more than 4 Patrols.
I then have my events arranged so that I have 3 distinct areas. I have each Division in one area for a 2 hour block. So from 9:30-11:30 Division 1 is in Area 1 for those two hours while Division 2 is in Area 2, etc. Then from 1:00-3:00 we rotate the Divisions to a different Area. I always have lunch 11:30am-1pm. This is a good chance to re-assess how things are going at the various stations, and correct any problems before the last two event rotations.
Inside each area I might have 4 half hour events, or two 1 hour events, or 2 half hour events and one 1 hour event. So in Area 1, the Division 1 Patrols might spend 9:30-10:00 doing .22’s, then from 10:00-10:30 doing Archery, then 10:30-11:00 doing tomahawks, and then 11:00-11:30 doing the Obstacle Course. The best part about it is that there are usually no more than 2 Patrols at each event, (usually there is at least one in transit), so there is no over crowding at the location.
In a different Area I might have Division 2 Patrols, doing Barrier building from 9:30-10:30, Fire Building from 10:30-11:00, and then the Egg Carry from 11:00-11:30. The key here is that whatever event you have that takes an hour, you have to have enough ‘stuff’ there because you will now have 2 Groups of Patrols there. So half the Patrols in the Division are doing something for an hour, while the other half switch off between two events during that hour. At 10:30 they all flip flop.
I’ve done Camporee’s in the past where we had two hour events, and you have to be a little careful with this because you will have 1/3 of the Scouts at your Camporee at that event, and you have to make sure that it is staffed and geared up enough to handle all of those Scouts. I’ve heard many complaints about other Camporee’s where “we stood in line forever waiting to do this or that”. You don’t want Scout’s memories of your event to be just waiting in line.
This event rotation plan is how I suggest you run your Camporees. Obviously different themes have an impact on this, but for your average Camporee this works out pretty good. A couple times in the past I have tried doing Camporees where I didn’t do this, (example 1 & example 2), and regretted it. Though when we did the night time camporee, I didn’t worry about it then.
Another thing that impacts this is how your Camporee location is laid out. You have to take into account travel time between events, which is why I strongly suggest doing the three rotations like I laid out. Group events into Areas that are geographically close enough to minimize travel between them, and then be prepared that at 3pm all of the Scouts might be walking a little ways to the next Area. This is also why I leave a long time for lunch, so that Scouts who have a long walk back to their campsite, each lunch, then they have a long walk back to their 1pm location. I’ve had some Camporees at locations where you could see the entire Camporee at the same time, and others where it was a .5 mile walk from one event to the next. This is something that you have to plan for.
Obviously you picked up on the water balloon issue. I’m pretty sure I will do this Camporee again in 5 years, and I haven’t decided how I will handle that end of things. While the Scouts had a GREAT time during the water balloon fight, I have a feeling I will come up with something different for our final Epic Battle.
Makeup is REALLY important for this event. I ended up spending $550 on various makeup supplies, and easily could have spent more. Part of the problem was that I had bought makeup for the Search and Rescue event, but that stuff wasn’t good for the Zombie end of things, so I had to buy a whole bunch more. I also had no idea how to do the Zombie makeup, and I wish I would have spent more time on that beforehand, (not that I had much extra time in the two weeks between deciding on the event and it’s start). In the pictures you can see the difference between the Zombies on Friday night, the ones on Saturday morning, and the ones Saturday evening as we got better and better at it. (plus you should cover all of the exposed skin with the pasty look, rather than just the faces :-). For the victims you can find lots of links on the internet about how to make “moulage”. There are lots of firefighting groups, paramedics, and others who might be willing to come in and apply the makeup for you to make it more realistic.
I also learned that you really need to have backup plans in case of last minute problems. People would joke with me about how this turned out to be a pretty good “Plan B”, and I would say, “no, it was a pretty good Plan C”.
If you go with this as a theme, “setting the stage” is very important. I had lots of signs out throughout camp as the Scouts drove in pointing to the “Quarrentine Area”, with the biological warning symbol on it. I heard from one parent about how as soon as the Scouts entered camp they were excited about that. Then, after they found the Sheriff’s deputy and his squad car, they just got more and more excited as they went along. They hadn’t done anything at all yet, but already it was a great event to them.
A big part of my staffing problem was that the camp is an hour and a half away from Minneapolis on a good day, and Friday evening rush hour traffic is NOT a good day. It was VERY tough to get staff up there early enough to get them made up by the time Scouts start arriving. It’s tough to have parents drive your staff 2 hours up to camp through horrible traffic just to turn around and drive home again. Too many of my staff were having to ride up with their Troops, which made it hard to get things ready for when the Scouts arrived. I’m not sure how to fix this issue, but I will be more prepared for it next time. Usually on Friday nights there isn’t much for the Staff to do, other than check in units and tell them where they are camping, so this was the first time that getting staff to camp early on Friday evening was such a major issue.
All in all it was a phenomenal event, and you really should think about doing it for your next District Camporee.