Now, Girl Scouts are a peculiar people full of verve and life. When gathered together, there is an electric excitement and a significant lack of sleep. Nearly every activity is set about with a song, most silly and full of nonsense. When help is needed, they dig in together and fulfill the day’s work with cheer. They also have a peculiar fascination with duct tape.
Every two years, approximately 1500 girls from 9-17 and 500 adults migrate from throughout California’s central coast region to participate in an enormous and epic event called Kaleidoscope.
On Friday is the gathering of hundreds of troops, laughing and talking together as they set up camp. Late into the night, giggling and talking occurs, all in anticipation of Saturday.
Saturday brings a flurry of activity as the troops demonstrate their skills which have been practiced for at least a year. These include knot tying, fire building, first aid, outdoor survival, compass orienteering, and lashing . In between, they join craft workshops, buy paraphernalia at the Trading Post, play games, sing songs, and have an all around fantastic time. At the close of the day, everyone gathers together to eat dinner, and join a good show. If still awake enough, they join astronomers and look at the stars. Then, the night dark except for the bright moon, they trail off, flashlight in hand, to their tents and settle in for a well-earned rest.
The sun rises, and troops roll from their beds, sore, tired, but still excited. They pack away their tents and supplies. Some participate in the One-Pot Cook Off, demonstrating their ability to cook a full meal in one single pot or dutch oven. With awards announced, they turn home and begin looking forward to the next Kaleidoscope.
This past weekend (April 26-28, 2013), we once more went through the epic cycle that is Kaleidoscope.
The Kaleidoscopes Of The Past
In 1991, my mom was a troop leader for my two older sisters and went with them to Kaleidoscope. My older sisters came back singing camp songs, talking constantly about how much fun they had, and how large it was. At seven years old, I had no idea of the event’s size and scale.
With anticipation, I embarked to this event during junior high, when I was in a troop with my two older sisters. While I enjoyed my troop, we were ill-prepared for the journey, and the endless downpour accompanying the weekend. On Saturday, we made a valiant effort to participate, until several streams converged upon our tent and flooded through, soaking our clothes and bedding.
Upon our return home, to our dry and sunny house, we opened up the back of the truck and a cascade of water spilled out. Then, during my sophomore year of high school, I went with a well-prepared troop on a sunny and bright weekend.
Like many other troops, my troop trained for skills challenges during the whole year, all with the goal of reaching the highest achievement level: Mountaineer.
Mountaineer is a near-impossible achievement, requiring participating in all possible skills challenges, and achieving above 85% in each category. It takes determination, endless hours of practice, teamwork, and cheerfulness.
That year, we came close, but came close, and achieved the next level down: Trailblazer. This is still a great accomplishment, but also sets in a determination to reach the highest level.
Two years later, my senior year of high school, we returned and accomplished our goal. This final year as a girl participant was the most fun. I had a positive, hard-working group to work with, including a friend of mine who is legally blind – we may have been given extra points on orienteering due to her. We came up with a series of anthems and songs, including a variation on The Pirate King from Pirates of Penzance:
“We’re the Mango Mountaineers! And it is, it is a glorious thing to be a Mountaineer.”
This troop of girls is a large factor of my own modern ridiculousness.
As a girl, Kaleidoscope isn’t just about challenging yourself. It is also about connecting to people from other areas, and seeing other girls your age who are as absolutely ridiculous as you are, who are willing to be silly and have fun.
The following Kaleidoscope (2004) was my first time going as an adult volunteer. My two older sisters had volunteered to be over Skills Challenges – the ice cream of the sundae of the weekend. I stood at one end of the Survivor challenge and gave points for knots all day.
In 2006, I led tours of Kaleidoscope, my two older sisters began transitioning out of running skills challenges, but my mom transitioned into coordinating the village hosts.
While all positions on the Steering Committee are intense and important, Village Host Coordinator is one of the most challenging and time consuming at the event itself. On site, the camping areas are separated into into five villages based on color, each village containing 3-500 people.
Before the event, my mom had to make sure there were at least two hosts for each village, and they had the supplies the needed. At the event, she had to drive around all afternoon and late into the night as troops are coming in, solve problems, and calm the uncalmable.
It is an intense job.
While my family’s involvement had steadily increased from the 2004 Kaleidoscope to the 2006 one, my involvement skyrocketed during a post-mortem conversation about the Saturday Evening Program.
The Shadow of The Program
If Skills Challenges are the ice cream of Kaleidoscope’s sundae, the Saturday Evening Program is the whipped cream. The event would still be fun without it, but it creates a culminating moment to look forward to. The Saturday Evening Program is the opportunity for the whole group to gather together, let loose, and celebrate their hard work and achievements.
In 2000, 2002 and 2004, a D.J. was hired. As a girl, my high school aged troop would sneak off. We did not want to hang around with younger girls dancing to N’sync and Backstreet Boys. Many people disappeared part way through.
In 2006, persons in the local council who will not be named, and no longer work locally, decided they would hire a famous Girl Scout songstress to do the show. While she is talented, the types of songs and type of show was geared for the younger demographic in the crowd.
Also, she was expensive.
I did not see the show myself, because one of the Village Hosts had a friend die, so I ended up being her riding home buddy. So, when my family returned on Sunday, I got a full description of the show.
This is when I made the mistake of opening my mouth.
“Why don’t we do the program like a traditional campfire program, with skits and camp songs?”
These are dangerous words due to one of my family’s philosophies: If you have a complaint or suggestion, then you should step forward and do something about it. Otherwise, don’t say anything.
This is how I came to be the Entertainment Coordinator for Kaleidoscope.
The Fields Of Kaleidoscope
The first program I ran was in 2008. I hired three of my camp counselor friends – Stuff, Ishtar, and Pee Wee – and paid them in brownies and t-shirts. We were unable to get skits that would work for a roughly 2,000 person crowd filling a whole field. However, we were energetic and bright as we led them in classic camp songs. There were improvements to be made in the program, but it went okay overall.
Using my experience and connections, we were able to upgrade the show in 2010. A group called Songshare came – they are a group of women who love Girl Scout camp songs. They came, they sang with guitars and enthusiasm, we had fun skits. It was a fun, lively program, people were polite and friendly, and it was a good time.
Overall, it was a great year. The show ran smoothly. I had spent the year assisting my second youngest sister’s troop in training for Kaleidoscope, and they achieved the level of Mountaineer. The whole event itself had few hick-ups or snares, and the weather was comfortable.
This now brings us to last weekend and Kaleidoscope 2013
The Show Goes South
For 2013, it was my intention to have Songshare come again and work their magic. However, life intervened, and on Monday I received an apologetic e-mail stating they had to cancel on me. They cancelled for legitimate reasons and unexpected circumstances, but it still left me in a tight situation.
I had four days.
Four days to complete the show,
Four days to get my own things packed,
Four days to find someone to do the show,
And at Kaleidoscope bind them…*
Tune in later for Part 2: The Breaking Of The Show
Do you have any local events that are traditions for your families? Have you participated in events this epic? Have you been to an event like this? If you found a ring lying on the ground and it turned you invisible, what would you do with it?
*”Bind” as in binding into a good show, not “bind” as in kidnapping people. Kidnapping is not something Girl Scouts do.
Side Note: If you imagine Cate Blanchett reading this post to you, it’s much more epic.