Winnsboro was the destination Saturday for youth from across the nation as Boy Scouts gathered for the second ever merit badge extravaganza to be held in Winnsboro.
Sponsored by Troop 49 from Fairfield County, the Saturday event included stations where scouts could choose from 23 different merit badges to earn.
Troops came from the Carolinas and as far away as Baltimore, Md. and as near by as N.C. and Ga. 130 scouts attended as did four Girl Scouts and a female Venture Scout.
According to Laura Bost, a Troop 49 leader who helped coordinate the event, “Merit badge clinics such as this are held across the country, to provide Boy Scouts with an opportunity to experience topics covered by the 130 merit badges currently offered by Boy Scouts of America. In Troop 49 we opted to highlight opportunities unique to the community and focus on merit badges which Scouts may not otherwise have an opportunity to experience.”
Participants could take as many four classes on that Saturday.
Organizers made sure to find members of the community who were experts in their fields to teach those classes. Several teachers also were scout leaders, including Fairfield County Sheriff Deputy D.J. Wilson.
Richard Winn Academy held the opening ceremonies as well as the bulk of the merit badge stations. There, scouts learned wood carving basics and knife safety.
If they had a B average or showed documented improvement in all their classes, they could pursue a scholarship badge which included learning Internet research and how to use other academic resources.
Scouts worked on chess merit badges, architectural merit badges, participated in CPR classes that also were available to adults, learned first aid and studied aviation.
“Participants in the metal work class were lucky enough to receive some hands-on training by master blacksmith Joe Wilkes and made a Dutch oven hook and trivet in class,” Bost said. “The aviation class toured the Fairfield County Airport and the architecture class visited The Straw Bale House designed by Christy Buchanan’s students at Midlands Technical College.”
Other classes held at Richard Winn Academy included American labor, art, cinematography, coin collecting, computers, engineering, orienteering, personal management and surveying. The first aid and personal management badges are required of all eagle scouts.
Later in the day some scouts attended the Fairfield Career and Technology Center for a class in automotive maintenance class. Other scouts worked on a nuclear science merit badge at the V.C. Summer nuclear facility.
Area businesses teamed up for the event, offering special deals to scouts and their families as well as special hotel rates.
Terry Vickers with the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce welcomed the youth and invited them on two driving tours of Winnsboro that offered them more history to see than the previous year’s walking tours. She also presented the scouts with guest bags filled with information and handouts.
Some scouts opted to camp at the South Carolina Railroad Museum which pitched in to the event as a campsite and as a popular merit badge destination.
Others camped near Lake Wateree, so many areas of the county were touched by these young people and their leaders.
The event was well-attended and the youth were enthusiastic about the opportunity to expand their skills and knowledge.