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Havin' a Blast
Scouts showcase skills at annual event

LAWRENCEVILLE - Several Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs from the Northeast Georgia Council gathered at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds on Saturday to showcase their skills at the annual ScoutBlast event.

Many groups performed cooking demonstrations. Members of Troop 595 in Lawrenceville offered chili and pot roast to passers-by. The food was cooked in cast iron pots placed on top of coal fires.

"Dutch oven cooking is a good thing for Scouts to do when camping," said Jordan Wood, the troop's senior patrol leader and a 16-year-old Mill Creek High School student. "You can make everything from cakes to main dishes and side dishes."

Troop 56 of Lawrenceville ran out of its biscuit donuts, but children were having fun with the water balloon catapult Scouts assembled, said Jim Backstrom, the troop's scoutmaster.

Backstrom said the daylong event is a good way to advertise scouting activities. Dean Patterson, a 16-year-old Collins Hill High School student and member of the troop, agreed.

"You get to meet a lot of other people and show off what troops can do," Patterson said. "It's a great event."

Daniel Rose, the den leader of Pack 557 in Lilburn, said the event provides an opportunity for troops and packs to develop ways to do things differently, but mostly the day is about having fun.

"That's what Scouts should be about," Rose said.

While the Scouts networked, another group put its skills to the test. The Gwinnett Fire Explorer Cadets raced against other Explorers in competitions such as tool identification, knots and rope tying and hose rolling.

Like the Boy Scouts, the Explorers were showcasing their talents and skills, said Capt. Thomas Rutledge, spokesman for the Gwinnett County Fire Department.

The Gwinnett group earned several individual and group awards, including first place in building a water chute, second in the rapid dress competition, second in tool identification, third in hose rolling, third in the bucket brigade race and third in tug-of-war.

Explorer Cadet Assistant Chief Ashley Smith, a 17-year-old Brookwood High School student, said the events helped them compare themselves with other groups from Jefferson, Henry County and Sharps Chapel, Tenn.

The bucket brigade race was particularly challenging, she said, because participants had to carry and lift buckets of water to fill a barrel. The event tested the Explorers' strength and endurance.

Smith said she became an Explorer because she is interested in becoming a firefighter.

"My parents are police officers. I want to help people like they do, but I wanted to take my own path," she said.

Rutledge said he hopes more groups will join the competition next year. This was the second year the Gwinnett Fire Explorer Cadets were at ScoutBlast, but the first year they competed against other groups.

Kevin Brantley, the assistant chief of the Sharps Chapel Volunteer Fire Department, said they made the four-hour trip to Gwinnett because they like to give the Junior Explorers a chance to get out, meet other departments and make friends.

Through the program, the Explorers help out on calls and participate in fundraisers, which helps them develop a better understanding of fire service, Brantley said.

"The most important thing they learn is communication and getting along with others," he said.