PLEASANTON — What birthday would be complete without a song? And to help celebrate 100 years of the Boy Scouts of America, hundreds of packs and troops obliged Friday with their own version.
Scouts from throughout Northern California kicked off the Northern California 100th Anniversary Jamboree opening ceremony with their own chant at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. Members from as far south as Yosemite to as far north as the Oregon border belted out:
"We got spirit, yes we do. We got spirit, how about you?" The chant grew in volume and enthusiasm as it snaked its way from one end of the bandstand to the next.
This jamboree will be the largest 100th anniversary Scout gathering in the state.
"We are going to explore, get some ice cream and see what suits our fancy," said Adnan Hamwi, a member of Troop 493 from Cupertino. "This is the Boy Scouts version of a carnival."
The three-day celebration features exhibits, interactive demonstrations, food and shows and is meant to celebrate the history of the Boys Scouts in America. It is where tents and teepees comfortably mix with corn dog and lemonade booths.
An expected 16,750 people preregistered for the event, but organizers expect possibly thousands more to show up over the weekend, said Ken Mehlhorn, Scout executive/CEO of the San Francisco Bay Area Council.
About 2,000 Scouts arrived and pitched their tents Thursday night. About 8,000 attending Scouts are expected to be camped at the fairgrounds this weekend.
"(Thursday) was one of the more comfortable nights of camping," said Davis Freitas, 18, a Scout from Troop 81 in Patterson. "It got pretty cold last night, but I only woke up three times, so that is considered a good night."
The event took two years to plan with 11 councils from various areas of Northern California helping to put together the event.
"We wanted to be part of something that will never happen again in our lifetime," said Mike Garrett, an assistant scout master for Troop 342 from the Santa Clara Council. "We will never be able to celebrate like this again."
The first activity that Hamwi and two of his fellow troop members, Jonathan Wong and Timothy Fisher, tackled was one of the more unique activities and one of the newest way for Scouts to earn a merit badge — by scuba diving.
"It was a new world," said Hamwi, a first-time scuba diver. "You can feel the tank shift on your back, but you feel so light. like a feather."
Scouts, 14 and older, can spend between 10-15 minutes in a four-foot deep, 20-by-30 foot pool scuba diving.
The "Be a Diver" pool, which moves around the country for demonstrations, had divers from Bay Area dive shops there to demonstrate on Friday, including those from Pleasanton's Dive N Trips.
In addition to scuba diving, at this weekend's event, Scouts and visitors can try their hand at BMX racing, lassoing, ax-throwing and knot-tying to name a few.
"This celebration is where everything comes together into one," said Fisher. "You meet people and learn activities. Where else can you go scuba diving and get a funnel cake?"
Robert Jordan covers Dublin and Pleasanton. Contact him at 925-847-2184.