Scout racers negotiated hairpin turns, “spinouts” and heaping spoonfuls of applesauce, dodged plastic crustaceans and stuffed animals, and, occasionally, grass-skirted Boy Scouts or leaders en route to the checkered flag and plenty of good, mostly clean fun during the Pack 69 “Cub-Annapolis” held Dec. 7 at Vogelweh Elementary School.
Around 80 Scouts from the Vogelweh-based pack — consisting almost entirely of U.S. military families, parents, adult volunteers, brothers and sisters — participated in the annual event, traditionally held the month prior to the prestigious Pinewood Derby.
Scouts compete as dens, which transform into “pit crews” for the race. Racers bearing cardboard “cars” stride across a “track” delineated by tape and plastic cones, pausing between laps for pit “services” including snacks, drinks and grooming. The pit crew mobilizes to feed, wash and groom racers according to specified requirements during each stop.
Adult leaders and Boy Scout volunteers injected “road hazards,” ranging from “spinouts” to “road kill” to natural debris. They also penalize Scouts who run rather than walk, push, “cut” or commit other infractions of Scout circuit guidelines.
Organizers adopted a “tropical” theme for this year’s race, adorning the erstwhile school cafeteria with paper and plastic island flora and fauna. A racer might collide with an inflatable palm tree or totem pole while swerving to avoid a plastic crab. Several adult leaders and Boy Scout volunteers jumped the proverbial shark, donning grass skirts and even strategically placed coconut cups. Leaders described the Caribbean theme as a nod not to Jimmy Buffet but to recent history.
“Two years ago the weather was so bad we had to cancel the Cub-Annapolis,” said Maj. Michael J. Swienton of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, the Pack “cubmaster,” or senior adult leader. “So we came up with the tropical theme partly out of irony and partly to cheer everyone up with the cold weather and dark skies. It didn’t fit the auto racing theme perfectly, but it was fun and reminded everyone of summer.”
Whether or not they thought of beaches or palm trees, Scouts and family members alike embraced the spirit of innovation and friendly den rivalry. Reversing last year’s triumph by first-grade Tiger Cubs, the “WEBLOS” den, consisting mainly of fourth-graders, took the checkered flag in 2014. Wherever the dens finished in Barbarossa Cup point standings, the Scouts and Pack emerged well ahead in the spirit of sportsmanship.
“I think it went very well,” said Tammy Vandeway, Pack treasurer and chief event organizer. “We tried to make it more like a real race track and add in some unique aspects of auto racing. The boys did a great job putting the cars together and decorating them. It encouraged some creativity and teamwork, and everyone had a lot of fun.”
The event embodied the customary Scouting blend of organized horseplay, campy humor, practical innovation and character-building. The dens created “vehicles” ranging from spaceships to pizza delivery buggies to sleek roadsters for the event, cutting, painting and assembling as necessary. Adult leaders emphasized the December theme of “respect” along with U.S. history — the race coincided with the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor — and civics throughout the afternoon. Teamwork lay at the heart of the entire enterprise, during both the preparatory phase and the race itself.
“It’s one of the best team-building events they do all year,” said Sgt. 1st Class Clay Vanlangendonck of Company C, 53rd Signal Battalion, an adult volunteer who brandished road signs during the race. “They all have to work together to achieve success. I think it brings a lot of the young boys out of their shell and allows them to participate as part of a team. It’s fun and develops team spirit.”
“Ideally, they’ve learned some lessons about teamwork, sportsmanship and respect,” Swienton added. “From here, we move into the heart of the Scouting year. After the holidays, we have the Pinewood Derby, Blue and Gold, and the Raingutter Regatta and then the big event graduation or ‘cross over’ for those WEBLOS advancing to the ranks of Boy Scouts. The dens are pretty well organized. They’ve coalesced into teams, and they’re ready for next year’s events.”
The Scouts absorbed lessons of teamwork, character and citizenship; but above all, they had fun – lots of it.
“I liked how we got to compete by dens,” said Luke Brandon, 10, who piloted the winning “car” to triumph. “We had to trust each other. It was really fun trying to keep your mind and dodging all the obstacles. But the applesauce gave me a
“I liked the racing,” added Wolf Scout Jason Vanlangendonck, 7. “I was on the pit crew, so I had to wash the windshield. The hard part was I sprayed one side but couldn’t spray the other side. It was one of the most fun things for Scouts.”