BOWLING GREEN Soggy but satisfied could best describe the parting attitude of the 34,579 Boy Scouts and their adult leaders as they left the 2010 National Scout Jamboree yesterday morning at Fort A.P. Hill.
Many of the 900 troops from all 50 states and 26 foreign countries that camped here during the 10-day event took down their tents and packed much of their gear the evening before -- to get a head start on yesterday's departure.
"We'll be sleeping under the stars," Al Best, scoutmaster of Heart of Virginia Council Troop 1702, advised Tuesday night. But then rain began to fall hard around 4:20 a.m. yesterday, forcing many Scouts and leaders to find temporary shelter.
The boys in Troop 1702 first rigged up some tarps, but eventually were forced to occupy a large military shelter used during the Jamboree for staff dining and food.
The Scouts got what sleep they could before waking around 6:30 a.m. to begin their journey home, Best said by cellphone yesterday as he sat on one of 10 buses that ferried central Virginia's jamboree contingent of 360 boys and 40 adults.
But the weather -- which mostly was agreeable since the Jamboree's opening day July 26 -- did little to dampen the boys' spirits or their cherished memories of a Jamboree that celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America.
"How amazing the Jamboree was can't be described in words," said Ryan Densley, 16, an Eagle Scout from Henrico County who camped with Troop 1702. "This will go on the list of the top five things in my life. It was amazing."
The abundance of activities during the event was fun and memorable, Densley said, "but it was more than that. It's the experience, the emotions. I mean there are so many people here and you do so many amazing things. It's just indescribable, really."
For Ed Pemberton, 14, a Scout from Doswell, the Jamboree wasn't what he expected. "Before you go, you don't really know quite what to expect," he said. "But when I got here, I found it was better than I expected."
He enjoyed swapping decorative embroidered patches with other Scouts -- a Jamboree tradition -- and testing his physical and mental prowess in a "confidence course" of obstacles that included being slung high into the air in a parachute-like harness called the Flying Squirrel.
John Hutchinson, 17, a Scout from Henrico, relished meeting Scouts and leaders from distant places.
"I liked having someone there from somewhere else that I could talk to and compare experiences with," said Hutchinson, who camped with Heart of Virginia Council Troop 1708. He recalled talking to a scoutmaster from Indonesia while at the Jamboree post office. "We're from different parts of the world but we're doing all the same stuff," Hutchinson said.
In stark contrast to the 2005 Jamboree -- when four adult leaders were accidentally electrocuted and thousands of boys and visitors suffered heat-related ailments from blistering temperatures -- no major injuries or health issues were reported during this year's event.
Roughly 7,600 boys and adult leaders visited BSA first-aid stations scattered throughout the Jamboree encampment for a variety of minor ailments, and 580 people were treated at a 60-bed military hospital set up and operated by the Army, said Lt. Col. Mike Durham, a public affairs officer for the military joint task force that supports the Jamboree.
Heat never really became an issue this time around, officials said.
For example, Dries noted that thousands of cases of bottled water were made available during the Jamboree's two arena shows, where all 43,000 participants gathered together in one spot. Dries said officials had budgeted six bottles of water per participant for the shows, which came to about 258,000 bottles of water total.
Instead of drinking the water, some Scouts and visitors used the cases of water scattered throughout Saturday's arena show -- attended by 70,000 people -- as makeshift seats.
This Jamboree -- likely to be the last at the 76,000-acre military base since the Army began hosting the quadrennial event beginning in 1981 -- will be remembered primarily for its marking of BSA's 100th birthday.
More than 380 international Scouts -- the largest contingent was from South Korea, with 33 -- joined tens of thousands of American Scouts in a dazzling Centennial Celebration last Saturday. It was the first Jamboree show to be broadcast nationwide via webcast and satellite.
Thousands of Scouts who gathered in several cities across the country to watch the show were included in the broadcast; their local celebrations were flashed on the Jamboree's giant high-definition screens.
President Barack Obama delivered a videotaped birthday message, TV personality Mike Rowe of the Discovery Channel's "Dirty Jobs" series gave an inspiring talk, and the band Switchfoot enthralled the crowd with a high-energy rock show. The evening was capped by the largest fireworks display ever to be staged on a military post.
By the show's end, Scouting officials left little doubt that the 2010 Jamboree was Fort A.P. Hill's last.
Touting a new site in southern West Virginia that is being developed with a $50 million gift from industrialist Stephen D. Bechtel Jr., a 1940 Eagle Scout, BSA executive board member Jack Furst promised the crowd that the Summit Bechtel Family National Scouting Reserve will be ready to host the 2013 Jamboree.
Contact Mark Bowes at (804) 649-6450 or email@example.com.