Trading patches is one of the most popular activities at the National Scout Jamboree. Photo by James V. Carroll

Bartering a part of National Jamboree

Boy Scouts from across the country settled into routine camp life Thursday at the National Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., although activities and entertainment opportunities offered were anything but ordinary.

While the more than 45,000 Scouts in attendance continued to pursue merit badges and other Scouting activities, the Marine Corps Silent Drill Team also treated the boys and young men to a performance. Scouts also enjoyed a scuba experience and climbed into armored military vehicles. Others tried their hand at rock climbing, Navy aircraft simulators, air rifle target shooting and Army PT.

Scouts interested more in spectator sport than rigorous activity had reason to be happy as well. Hendrick Motorsports NASCAR teammates Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. dropped by, and Stewart Hass driver Ryan Neumann's show car was on display at the Army activity area.

But a pastime that appears to rival any jamboree activity involves patches - trading them, to be more precise. It is nearly impossible to traverse the jamboree grounds without encountering small, and large, groups of Scouts circled around a blanket, towel, poncho, or a piece of cardboard littered with patches of all sorts, sizes and colors. Legionnaires barter pins. Boy Scouts trade patches.

The patches might be geographical in nature or represent sequential activities such as past jamborees. They might depict superheroes, the Blues Bothers, or represent individual Scout troops or Scout regions. No matter what type patch one collects, the sought-after embroidered piece of cloth is probably in another Scout's plastic bag waiting for a new owner.

Recognizing the popularity of the patches, many civic, church and veteran organizations - including The American Legion - distribute their own patches to Boy Scouts who visit the National Exhibit tents. Lowell Badgley said he and his fellow Legionnaires would probably hand out 10,000 American Legion patches while at jamboree.

"Our patches are very popular with the Scouts as well as adult Scouting leaders and jamboree staff," Badgley said. "Rumor has it that a single jamboree Legion patch is worth three patches in return."

Accumulating patches is an addictive pursuit to which no one is immune. American Legion National Commander Clarence Hill, who has been visiting Scouts and Legionnaires at the jamboree since arriving in Virginia on Monday, has caught the collecting bug as well.

After receiving a number of gratis patches from Florida Scouts leaders, and purchasing another, Hill at every opportunity has been filling a plastic bag with the multi-colored collectables.