The Recorder – Scouts practice their building skills at Spring Camporee

Published: 05/15/2022 20:56:54

Modified: 05/15/2022 20:55:06

GREENFIELD — The Franklin County Fairgrounds looked a bit like a carpentry class on Saturday afternoon as hand-built structures and simple tools were spread across the lawn.

The bridges, lookout tower and crane that were built throughout the day represented the hard work of more than 60 Boy Scouts participating in the Western Massachusetts Council of the Boy Scouts of America’s annual spring camporee. With several troops hailing from Greenfield, Wilbraham and East Longmeadow, the Boy Scouts embraced the theme of “backcountry engineering” by tying knots, tying pieces of wood together and using simple machines like pulleys to create their structures.

“It’s the kind of thing memories are made of,” Camporee leader Michael Zlogar said as scouts cut ropes and prepared to attach the crane jib. “One of our hopes with this is that they’ll be excited to do more stuff like this.”

The scouts camped at the fairgrounds overnight and spent most of Saturday morning and afternoon assembling their machines. When finished, they left them up overnight and took them down before leaving on Sunday. Zlogar thanked the Franklin County Fairgrounds team for being a “great partner” in providing workspace for the scouts.

In choosing backcountry engineering and pioneering skills for the Camporee, Zlogar said it was a chance to provide a “special and unique experience” for scouts, while offering practice in real-life examples of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

“They will be able to take this (experience) and do smaller projects,” Zlogar said, adding that it was a chance for the scouts to put their skills to good use. “Putting them into action like that is special.”

Scouts built three types of bridges: a drawbridge; a friction bridge, the shape of which resembles that of an A-style house; and a rope bridge, which is a rope bridge supported by wooden poles. Members of Greenfield Troop 5 built a lookout tower, which they will keep for use again when they return to the fairgrounds in September, and Wilbraham Troop 359 built a crane, which was used to lift a barrel of 55 gallons of water – approximately 460 pounds of liquid.

The scouts said they had fun building the structures and the cooperative setting of the Camporee was conducive to their efforts. Normally, the scouts said, camporees are often semi-competitive events where points are awarded to troops.

“It’s kind of nice to learn” and not to compete, said Luke Whalen-Sylver, 17, of Wilbraham Troop 359. “It helps young scouts and it helps me.”

He said it was fun to put the skills they learned to good use.

“It was better than expected, it was fun,” Luke said of the Camporee. “I learned a whole bunch of knots and lashes.”

Zachary Perreault, 14, said it was “hot and tiring” working in the searing heat alongside his Greenfield Troop 5 team, but it was rewarding to learn new tie down techniques.

Asa Taggert, a 14-year-old from Greenfield Troop 5, said it was nice working together with everyone as they all honed their skills.

“With that, it’s cool that we’re all working together to build some pioneering stuff,” Asa said. “You see these (projects) in the Scout book. … Being able to build them is really cool.

Zlogar encouraged anyone interested in enrolling their children in the Boy Scouts — girls have been allowed to join since 2019 — to find more information on the Western Massachusetts Council of the Boy Scouts of America website at

“We would like more young men and women to join,” Zlogar said, adding that the scout troops are led by scouts and adults are there to supervise. “Kids create this, we just kind of provide guidance.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4081.

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