PROVO—For Boy Scouts, receiving the Eagle Scout award is a big deal, but the Court of Honor at Friday night's Stadium of Fire was literally the biggest of them all — ever.
A total of 260 young men became Eagle Scouts at the ceremony held in honor of the Boy Scouts of America's 100th anniversary. The Court of Honor set a record for the most to receive the award at the same time, with recipients coming from 10 states and 14 Boy Scout councils to participate.
"For those who wonder if Scouting is still around, this is a great way to say, 'We sure are,'" Bob Mazzuca, chief Scout executive of the Boy Scouts of America, told the Deseret News. "This is sort of a reaffirmation to the American people of the value that Scouting adds."
The ceremony was filled with milestones. Woody Woodward, at 98 the oldest living Eagle Scout, opened the ceremony. And thousands of Eagle Scouts in the audience of 50,000 stood during the ceremony to participate in the traditional Eagle's Nest — also the largest ever — each holding an image of the award as the Scouts received their awards.
"Congratulations, guys," Mazzuca told recipients. "Good going."
Life Scout David Reeves ignited the Stadium of Fire's Flame of Freedom by firing a flaming arrow, suspended on an invisible wire, into a massive metal torch. Later in the program, the audience was treated to a video detailing an act of service from the Eagle Scouts.
In addition to the time they spent working on their Eagle Scout projects, the recipients were all invited to serve again. Those who could met up at Camp Williams, where they revamped the soldiers center and installed a playground for children during the last two weeks of June. Each participating Scout contributed between 50 to 200 hours of service, officials said.
"This is sort of a reaffirmation to the American people of the value that Scouting adds," Mazzuca said.
Officials from the Utah National Parks Council initially expected about 100 Boy Scouts to participate as they began to plan the event with the Freedom Festival, said John Gailey, the council's program director.
"The interest far exceeded that," he said. "We started getting Eagles applying from all over the country."
As Boy Scout officials planned the event, Gailey said, they met and heard from many Eagle Scouts who expressed their enthusiasm for the event — including Stadium of Fire performer Eric Dodge, himself an Eagle Scout.
"It's really amazing," Gailey said. "It's really shown me the brotherhood that exists of obtaining that rank."
Though much has changed over the past 100 years, the organization is just as relevant as it was when it was created a century ago, Mazzuca said. "All of the things that we do with young people … we've never needed that more than today," he said.
Mazzuca believes that relevance will continue as the program adapts its delivery to changing technology and emerging populations. "I see Scouting, even 100 years from now, playing the same role it plays today in providing the core values that are embedded in the Scout Oath and Law," he said.