CLINTON — Clinton’s Exelon Power Station was invaded by a record-setting 225 BSA Scouts attending the annual merit badge fair over the weekend, studying everything from nuclear science to welding and 27 other subjects in between.
Clinton BSA Troop 1142 plays host and organizer to the yearly summer event.
Scouts came from as far away as Las Vegas, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri and Indiana to join the Scouts from the Illinois area, including a number of girls who have joined since February, when BSA opened its ranks to female troops.
Ultimately, about 450 participated in the event, counting volunteers, parents, leaders and some Exelon employees who helped deliver several classes.
Attendance topped last year’s count of 212 attendees, which had broken any previous records for the 30 years the Clinton Power Station has acted as the sponsor.
“I was extremely happy with the days turnout. We had concerns that the hot weather would turn some away however it didn’t really affect us that much,” said Ron Armstrong, Scoutmaster for Clinton’s BSA Troop 1142.
The event has grown into a community event since its inception, with the boys and girls working with the local John Deere dealership, in Clinton (AHW LLC) on Farm Mechanics; drafting, welding, chemistry and programming at the high school, railroading at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church and C&P printing at the YMCA.
The fair uses nearly every open space Exelon has available to hold classes, using four on-site buildings and 19 classrooms along with the cafeteria and other spaces. Every year it proves a challenge because last minute activities by the power plant force room changes even the morning of the event.
“We would not be able to make this event possible without Exelon’s help. The use of their facilities is indispensable and without there generous donations we would have to charge scouts a great deal more to attend,” said Armstrong. “We had some really positive feedback this year with comments about how organized and smoothly ran the event was ran.”
The weather did prove an additional extreme challenge, with heat indices topping 110. The high temperatures caused part of the orienteering class involving an afternoon hike to be cancelled for safety reasons along with not using the Clinton Fire Departments burn facility for demonstrations. Staying hydrated was the safety phrase for the day.
“Scouts spend a lot of time outside in all kinds of weather. Granted, this weekend was definitely on the extreme side of hot. We made sure that everyone had plenty of cold water, stayed hydrated and had access to air conditioning. Luckily nobody had any major problems,” said Armstrong.
Plans are already underway for next year’s program.