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Cub Scout Bryan Lafever, 10, participates in derby racing during Scout-O-Rama at the Jackson County Fairgrounds in Central Point on Saturday. Julia Moore / Mail Tribune photo - Julia Moore

Scout-O-Rama a showcase for skills

Building a top-notch pinewood derby car can take weeks, but in under 15 minutes any kid can get a taste of a quintessential scouting activity, said Sarge Gallegos, a Boy Scout leader overseeing a row of boys and girls pounding wheels onto blocks of wood at the 2010 Scout-O-Rama on Saturday.

Inside the Mace Pavilion at the Jackson County Fairgrounds and Exposition Park, a line of eager children each grabbed a block of plywood, pre-drilled with tiny holes awaiting axles, and a little bag of wheels, nails and washers.

Gallegos explained how to tap the nails in lightly so each wheel could spin smoothly, offering up his own fingers for hammer-swinging youngsters who needed a steadying hand to hold a nail and stopping one lad intent on pounding several large screws into the top of his experimental car.

"You need a screwdriver for those," Gallegos said, handing over the appropriate tool.

The budding automotive designers affixed washers for extra weight, looking for the edge that would send their contraptions speeding down a sloping track.

Eight-year-old Tallen Christensen and his dad, Jared Christensen, swapped tips on the merits of various wheel placements.

"He loves that kind of stuff," Jared Christensen said. "He's a fix-it man. He loves to take stuff apart and put it back together."

By noon Saturday, Tallen, who has been involved in Scouting for a year, had already raced a foam boat down a length of rain gutter and launched a water rocket made from a two-liter soda bottle powered by a combination of water and air pressure.

And there were plenty of other activities to try.

Scouting units from across Jackson County, also known as the Big Pines District of the Crater Lake Council of the Boy Scouts of America, showcased activities. Scouts and anyone else who wanted to could try their hand at rope making, tomahawk throwing, climbing a rock wall, guiding loads on pulleys, inching across a rope bridge, lashing together sticks to make structures, building birdhouses and cooking over campfires or in Dutch ovens.

"We have activities for kids of every age," said Rob Merriman, district director.

Scouts and leaders from across the county put together this year's Scout-O-Rama to celebrate 100 years of scouting.

While the Scout-O-Rama is an annual event in many places, Jackson County hadn't had one for seven years. The event previously had popped up in various locations — the Medford Armory, Rogue Valley Mall, Walmart parking lot — before dwindling away.

"We wanted to get it going again," Merriman said, explaining that it gives members a chance to see what other units are doing and lets the public experience Scouting.

He said the local district now serves about 2,100 youth in Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, an after-school curriculum called "Learning for Life" and two coed programs for high school students and young adults — career-oriented Explorers and hobby- and leadership-focused Venturing crews. Enrollment in Scout programs has grown 15 percent in the past two years here, he said.

"People ask all the time 'Are we still relevant?' " Merriman said. "We have 100 years of tested and proven programs that teach leadership and good decision-making."

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 541-776-4485, or e-mail aburke@mailtribune.com.

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