The 2023 Jamboree returned to it’s permanent home at the Bechtel Summit Reservation in West Virginia. It had been six years since the last Jamboree. The 2021 Jamboree was cancelled because of Covid. So much had changed in Scouting in six years, it wasn’t reasonable to assume that the Jamboree would be “business as usual”. Membership was down substantially and Jamboree attendance would reflect this. There were questions if the Jamboree could happen. I spoke with National volunteer leaders at the 2022 NOAC and they were adamant that the Jamboree must and would happen.

Extravagant opening and closing shows would be replaced with shows in the subcamps. Elaborate fireworks displays were replaced with impressive Drone light shows. Big name entertainment wasn’t available, but that may have been because so many groups were busy trying to recoup monies lost during Covid. Female Scouts were full participants, they attended in good numbers. Staff had been renamed Jamboree Service Team for the cancelled 2021 Jamboree and the name was reused in 2023. JST and contingents supplied more of their own equipment than in the past, but again costs were being cut.

Previous Jamborees had been going digital, by 2023 a high percentage of Scouts had smart phones. It’s said, thanks to AT&T, that the Summit has the best cellphone reception in West Virginia. Scouts could check on wait times at the busiest program areas. Printed material was noticeably absent because of the digital nature of the Jamboree. The weather was hot and humid, there were rain showers near the opening and closing, but not bad. Although, the sky's opened in a torrential downpour after everyone left.

Joe Biden was President, but he did not attend. Some thought that since he had been a Scout, he might come or send a message, but he did not.

Attendance is stated to be about 15,000 Scouts and Leaders. Early on it was questioned if 15,000 could be achieved, but as the date approached some concessions were made regarding adults attending. The theme Forward, which after all the difficulties Scouting had endured, seemed appropriate. The logistic difficulties of previous Jamborees at the Summit seemed to have been resolved.

For a high percentage of youth attending, this was their first Jamboree. There were few memories of what happened in the past and it seems to have been a wonderful experience for all. Thanks to the dedicated volunteer Scouters that made 2023 happen.
protos
 
Prototypes
 
2023 Prototype patches
2023 Prototype patches
2023 Prototype patches2023 Prototype patches
Amplifying Information on Prototypes
Amplifying information on prototypes
(to the far left) - Note Small People - Light Blue and to the right of it, the Larger people and Dark Blue.

The bear print and stars are also larger but more difficult to notice.
 
6" back patch


(to the left ) - is the the Official Issue 6" Back Patch

Special thanks to Tico Peres, Jamboree Chairman, for making these available from his personal collection. Also Tico a very special THANKS for all that you and your dedicated committee did in assuring the 2023 Jamboree was a success under difficult circumstances.
2023 National Scout Jamboree
This was the first Jamboree I was covering in real time, but information was still scarce. Trying to describe activities at a National Jamboree is kind of like asking several blind men to describe an elephant. Each touches a part of the elephant and as far as he’s concerned the elephant is like that part he touched. As big and spread out as the Jamboree is, many Scouts (ers) might not visit all the subcamps. Staff members labor in their areas and might not have any idea of what goes on in different locations. During the course of the 2023 Jamboree I contacted numerous individuals (friends) with questions for this website. In many cases they didn’t know, not a criticism just an observation. Everyone was busy doing their job, and that’s a good thing. It’s been an inspiration to do the research for this website so that both participants and people at home can see what went on.

Images off Facebook. Southern California delegation w/the flag and Washington State female troop enroute to 2023 Jamboree
At previous Jamborees there was an expectation that National BSA would make a profit. It’s been rumored that the BSA lost money on the 2019 World Jamboree. No one was sure about 2023, but one thing was certain, Scouting must not lose money on the Jamboree. A huge event like a Jamboree is always a gamble in regards to costs. Insurance can fluctuate, food and operating costs although quoted can sometimes change. There are so many things that can go wrong. It’s a testament to volunteer leaders on the National level. They said the Jamboree must happen and they labored within severely reduced budgets to make it happen. Because of the BSA’s financial position, credit was not as freely available. This was reflected in some of the items not being available or available in short supply in the Trading Posts.
 
What Changed in Scouting since the 2017 Jamboree
In 2018 the LDS Church (the Mormons) ended their 100+ year old affiliation with Scouting. The Church reportedly had 400,000 registered Scouts, (Cubs-Scouts-Ventures) and leaders. That figure represents almost 18% of Scouting's membership. In the west, Councils lost a high percentage of their membership and leadership. LDS units had always been strong Jamboree participants. It’s estimated that at previous Jamborees, LDS Scouts might account for 5,000+ attendees. Leaders in the church stated that Scouting left the church, referring to policy changes. On the surface that seems reasonable except that high level LDS Church members have been on nearly every Executive Board of the BSA, both local and National. Some hoped that the Mormons might reconsider, but with the BSA’s continued emphasis on Diversity that won’t happen.

In 2018 Scouting admitted younger females into the Cub Scout program. In 2019 Scouting admitted females age 11-17 to all aspects of the Scouting program. Female Ventures had attended for several Jamborees and female leaders had been welcome for years. Boy Scouts of America name was changed to Scouting BSA.

Operating the Summit had been a question since the beginning. Benefactors, donors and the State of West Virginia were magnificent in making the Summit a reality. It was designed to be a Philmont-East, but Philmont is endowed and operates almost at capacity. Operating costs at the Summit are astronomical. For the Summit to be viable it must be widely used, a Jamboree every 4 years won’t pay the bills.

In 2020 Scouting filed for bankruptcy following an avalanche of child abuse claims spearheaded by national law firms. In March of 2023 the lawsuits were settled leaving the National BSA almost a billion dollars in debt. Local Councils raised $400 million, often by the sale of camp properties, but the remainder is carried by the National organization. As a result of the bankruptcy a wedge was driven between Scouting and some sponsoring institutions. Units were not welcome at some Methodist, Presbyterian and Catholic churches.

The lawsuit seemed to be about child abuse, but when the history is written it will become clear this was another thinly veiled attempt to put the BSA out of business. There were unquestionably cases of child abuse but the scale that the plaintiffs attorneys alleged was breathtaking. Any Scout that had been harshly spoken to by a leader filed a claim. It was impossible to litigate all the claims. The decision was made that the priority must be to save the program. As usually happens in cases like this, there will probably be little money for those that were actually harmed. Attorneys fees will consume most of the money.

In November 2020, the BSA issued a statement condemning racism, recognizing Black Lives Matter and opening a Diversity Department. Scouters questioned why the BSA was getting involved in what some believed to be a divisive issue. The BSA has had an enlightened attitude towards minorities since the earliest years. It seemed to many that the BSA was apologizing for something that it had nothing to apologize for. Millions of dollars have been poured into Councils in an attempt to increase African American membership. With registration fees being $105 there will be no more ghost units paid for by Foundations money.

Because of the quarantines during Covid, units did not meet, dues were not collected and membership plummeted. New Cub units that feed Scout units were not organized. Covid was devastating to Scouting.
I outlined how individual Councils budgets were severely strained in 2017. In 2023 a medium sized Council might have a $1 million dollar operating budget, but might only be serving 3000 youth. Operating costs of $1 million divided by 3000 means that each Scout professional is costing the Council about $300 per Scout. Local Scouters complain of not seeing benefits from these kinds of costs.

Because of the bankruptcy the National Council has financial difficulties. In 2019 national registration was $33. In 2020 the registration fee was doubled to $66 with a one time additional fee of $25. In 2021 the fee was raised to $72 and in 2022 to $75, and $25 fee. In 2023 Registration was raised to $80, the $25 fee making it $105. Some Councils add additional local surcharges. It is unknown how this will affect membership.
2023 Scout Jamboree Neckerchiefs
I commented several Jamborees ago that neckerchiefs seemed to be on the way out, but many were worn in 2023. More USA Scouts are wearing neckerchiefs in the European style, without slides. I’ve never seen this in my council, but it’s visible in many 2023 Jamboree pictures.
World Friendship Patch
(to the left) -This ring went around the World Friendship patch. With so many Scouts visiting from outside the USA, most Jamboree Scouts would qualify for it. Supplies ran short at the Jamboree.

(to the right) - Pre-Jamboree promotional patch. Not believed to have been issued by the National BSA. Probably a private issue made by a local Council.
World Jamboree Patch

A number of the Scouts attending the National Jamboree were going to the World Jamboree. They received a patch of the World Jamboree design with 2023 NSJ at the bottom. Thanks Tico Perez.

Reports from the World Jamboree were disappointing. Difficulties were first blamed on heat, but later severe health and safety deficiencies were found. The BSA has been holding Jamborees for 86 years. It’s a testament to all involved that nothing like this has ever happened in the USA.
Patches for the National level dignitaries
2023 Dignitary patches
2023 Dignitary patches
Patches were again made for high level Jamboree Scouters. Primarily used as friendship exchanges.
The BSA Regions were eliminated in 2021. They were replaced by 16 National Service Territories. This didn’t effect the 2023 Jamboree since units had not camped by Regions since 2013, although Regions issued insignia for the 2017 Jamboree.
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Paul Myers Goshen, Indiana
gimogash@comcast.net