PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A trip to the Aroostook Centre Mall doesn’t usually net information about how to set up a campsite, identify animal tracks or prevent hypothermia if stranded in the wild overnight.
But it did Saturday, as local Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts took over the mall for their annual North Star Scout Skills Show.
Scouts from Washburn, Presque Isle, Caribou, Mapleton and other County towns set up informational tables and interactive booths in the mall as packs and troops displayed skills and activities learned in Scouting units. Displays included information about first aid, nutrition, campsite construction, lashing, navigation and more.
Cub Scout packs also took part in the District Pinewood Derby on Saturday, held in an empty storefront at the mall. During the event, Scouts raced cars they built themselves.
“This is the fourth or fifth year that we have done this,” Matt Ghirarda, district executive of the Katahdin Area Council, said Saturday. “We invite all of the troops and packs, and it is a great chance for them to show off so many different skills.”
The Katahdin Area Council serves more than 4,000 youth in six counties in eastern and northern Maine. The council provides educational programs that instill values and develop social and leadership skills and promotes physical fitness and environmental awareness. This year’s skills show coincides with the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Boy Scouts of America.
Boys in first to fifth grades are eligible to be Cub Scouts, while Boy Scouting is open to boys ages 11-17. Girls can be Scouts through Girl Scouting and Venture Scouting, which is open to young people ages 14-20.
Inside the Presque Isle mall, Dawson Daigle, 12, and Adam Puttkammer, 13, of Fort Kent Troop 189, were explaining how to identify animal tracks. Daigle, who lives in Fort Kent, spent four years as a Cub Scout before advancing to the Boy Scouts.
“I got interested because of all of the activities that you get to do,” he said.
Puttkammer, also of Fort Kent, has been in Scouting since he was 7, attracted mainly by the camping activities.
His father, Michael Puttkammer, also was at the mall Saturday. He was a Scoutmaster in Alaska for three years before the family moved to Maine.
“Scouting teaches the boys leadership skills and teamwork,” he said. “It gives them confidence in their abilities and teaches them to overcome obstacles. It also helps them experience life.”
A short distance from the Fort Kent troop, Washburn Scouts from Pack 162 and Troop 177 were teaching others about nutrition and showcasing lashing skills.
Lashing skills are essential for binding together poles, sticks and other materials to build bridges, ladders and more.
Ghirarda said the skills show is “essential” to showcasing all that Scouting can offer.
“This is fun with a purpose,” he said. “Everything they do, there is a reason behind it. The skills that they learn in Scouting, such as leadership, communication and teamwork, they will carry those with them for the rest of their lives. They will use those skills at home and in the workplace. Scouting builds better leaders for the future.”
The show also serves as a recruiting tool, he said.
“I sometimes hear that Scouting is the best-kept secret,” said Ghirarda. “We are not out in the public eye very much, because troops and packs meet in churches or Masonic halls or other places. The Aroostook Centre Mall has been great to us every year, letting us use storefronts and space to set up displays and conduct demon-strations. It is very helpful to getting the word out.”
Dustin Anderson, 9, moved to Caribou with his family from New Hampshire last year. He said at the mall Saturday that he was considering joining a Scout pack.
“I’ve never done it before, but it looks interesting,” he said. “I love camping and outdoor stuff, so I might like it.”