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3,000 gather for Scout Jamboree in Sooke area

Be prepared, big time.

More than 2,000 scouts and leaders will converge on Sooke and surroundings today. But they won’t be wearing khaki, scarfing beans and wieners at campfires or swatting bugs all night in floorless tents.

The Scouts Canada Pacific Jamboree, held every four years, has taken over Camp Barnard for the first time since the 1960s, said Jamboree spokesman Randy Maze, a Beaver leader from Saanich.

Scouting in the 21st century means girls as well as boys, comfy cotton-blend uniforms, and chicken dinners prepared on camp stoves and served alongside a salad (gluten-free and vegetarian options available on request).

The scouts, who hail mostly from B.C. and the Yukon, but come from as far away as Australia, can opt to bring their own tents or rent for the weeklong event. Everyone must hike about three kilometres before they pitch them, Maze said.

A tradition for many campers, campfires have not been part of the jamboree for years because of the amount of wood required for such a huge gathering and the “leave no trace” motto Scouts abide by, he said.

Given the drought conditions, the Otter Point Volunteer Fire Department still opted to walk the grounds, check out available water sources and inspect everything on site, Maze said.

The scouts, who range in age from 11 to 14, will have 17 outdoor activities to choose from during the day, including mountain biking, geocaching, kayaking and paddle boarding, plus talent shows and an Internet café at night. “That’s been around for a long time,” Maze said. There are also overnight hikes, a chance to try scuba diving at the Naden swimming pool at CFB Esquimalt, ham radios to test out, and an opportunity to swing through the trees at WildPlay Element Parks.

About 3,000 people in total — scouts, leaders and volunteers — will be on site. Volunteers pay $395 to attend; scouts $675 with no extra charges for anything.

And here’s a preparedness tip: If you’re planning to take a ferry off the Island next Saturday, hundreds of scouts are planning to be on board.