1/27/2014

Making Your Blue & Gold Banquet Fun!



Back in the day, Blue & Gold Banquets in our pack were a BIG DEAL.  Next to Pinewood Derby, the banquet was definitely the most fun cub scouting event of the year.  When I shared this sentiment with other scouting families, however, I used to get some pretty odd looks.  Turns out there's no real standard for what comprises a Blue & Gold Banquet, and some of them can be, frankly, pretty dull: little more than awards ceremonies with food.  (We actually don't do any awards that night, reserving the night for fellowship and fun!)

Thought I'd go ahead and share some of the things we've done for Blue & Gold Banquet over the years, in hopes that other packs may be inspired to try something new and maybe a little bit more memorable!
  1. Theme.  I understand that it's common to adopt a theme ("Out of this world" or "Go West, Young Man") but we always thought this felt a little birthday-partyish.  (Which is technically okay, because the event does celebrate Scouting's birthday.)  We've always stuck to the same theme, year in and year out: "The History of Scouting."  It's simple, apt, and memorable.
  2. Invitation ideas.  We always have the boys create these by hand.  The pack can choose one design or each den can create their own.  My favorite was when we used construction paper squares and had the boys decorate them as neckerchiefs.  After they were done, we curled them into tubes and fastened them with leather cording tied in a square knot.  
  3. Table Decoration ideas.  Years ago we bought a bunch of blue cloth cheap and, using a fleur de lis stamp from a craft store and gold fabric paint, created a set of blue tableclothes that we now use year after year.  The only other decoration supplied by the pack is blue and yellow balloons, but it's amazing how festive they can make even a school cafeteria look when deployed liberally.  Each den then designs/creates their own placemats & we have a contest to see which den can create the most .... shall we say, "memorable" ... centerpieces.  Past winners have included a erupting volcano; a paper mache mountain covered with plastic bears, tigers, and wolves; a diorama featuring boy scouts fighting dinosaurs (dubious historical accuracy, but VERY funny); a tiger dressed in a cub scout uniform; and a small tree stump with rapelling army men painted in webelo scout uniforms.  Some dens spend months planning and executing their centerpieces!
  4. Food ideas.  I admit, this is something we usually don't spend a lot of time on.  Either we do a pot luck or have the event catered by a local restaurant.  Our most popular menues have been Italian fare (catered by a local italian restaurant), cookout foods (potluck), and pancake dinners (cooked in situ by the cub scout dads, with potluck for the sides).  Usually we have someone (a volunteer or a bakery) prepare a "Happy Birthday Scouting!" cake, but once or twice we've left this out and substituted a cake decorating contest instead: the cake that the most "scoutiest" wins.  (Honestly, the certificate we hand out says "Most Scoutiest".) 
  5. Activity Ideas.  Bored kids are fidgetty kids, and fidgetty kids make for a bad banquet.  One thing we always try to emphasize is having lots of activities underway before the eating begins to keep the boys busy.  Here are some of our go-to activities. 
    1. Boy Scout Trivia Contest.  Questions are on a page folks pick up at the front door.  Kids can work with their friends or parents to answer the questions.  At some point we announce the answers (along with a little history) and the team with the most right answers wins something "scouty".  I've posted a list of our go-to scouting trivia questions here.
    2. Boy Scout Crossword/Word Search/etc.  Also at the door we have piles of paper-based games for the kids to enjoy - word searches, crosswords, etc.  The trick is to add some topical references and humor: "Name the color of the tent that collapsed on Mr. Frank at the lake campout" or "Name the scout who won "best bellyflop" at the pool party".
    3. Boy Scout Museum.  So many of our dads were scouts themselves, we like to set up tables where they can display their own scouting relics.  So many great anecdotes and conversations ensue!
    4. Slide Show.  In yet another corner of the venue, we set up a slide show with photos of events from the past year.  The kids love remembering their past adventures.
    5. Getting to Know You Activities.  Usually we have a couple of these "getting to know you" activities in our back pocket, just in case dinner is delayed.  Here are the two we use most often:
      1.  "Find someone who ..." Print 4x4 matrix on paper.  Fill squares with random characteristics: has a big sister, keeps a rodent as a pet, is left handed, etc.  Kids  run around trying to find people who possess each characteristic - only rule is that you can only use each kid once (forcing kids to talk to other members of the troop they may not usually interact with).  Scouts who match names to every characteristic on the sheet win a small prize. (Trail mix bar or the like.)
      2. "Who am I?"  Write the name of animals on 3x5 index cards and attach them to the backs of the scouts with masking tape.  At "Go!" scouts have to figure out which animal they are by asking their fellow scouts to answer questions.  The hitch: They can only ask yes/no questions.  The more weird the animals (worm, parrot, beetle, wasp, hamster, gekko, toad), the longer the game will last.  If you're planning on playing multiple rounds, you'll need a LOT of creatures since the game quickly gets dull once the kids have the creatures memorized.
  6. Plays & productions.  We always include a play about the history of scouting.  The two we use most frequently are below - click on the name to connect to the scripts.  (The scripts were written by us, so there's no copyright enfringement if you use them ... I guess just don't sell them or anything!)
    1. The History of Scouting
    2. The Three Ghosts of Scouting (an homage to A Christmas Carol)
  7. The Main Event.  At one time we used to hire entertainers, which the boys enjoyed but which tended to be expensive.  More recently we've been stealing television game shows (past and present) and turning them into scouting game shows.  Below are three that were particularly successful, but feel free to get creative and create your own
    1. Scouting Feud.  Modelled after Family Fued.  Months in advance, we poll kids/adults and get their answers to easy/funny scouting-related questions (Name the worst thing that can happen on a camping trip; Name something a scout does with a knife; name the hardest thing about camping; name the animal you least want to run into on a scout camping trip; if you had to change "Webelos" to an animal name, what animal would you pick?  etc.)  Dens compete against each other to see who can earn the most points.  (Ex: Round one: Tigers vs. Wolves, using easy questions.  Round two: Bears vs. Webs, using harder questions.)  We've built a wood panel with 6 slide-open doors which sits on top of a big pad of chart paper on which we write the categies and answers in marker - one page per round.  One of the mom's can double as Vanna White .... or, one of your male scout leaders in a wig and gown is always an option!
    2. Scouting Fear Factor.  Modelled after Fear Factor.  This takes some setting up, but once created, you can use it every year.  (In fact, the kids will beg you to do it every year!)  Set up some kind of game board with 2 chart pads side by side.  On one chart pad, write questions.  On the other chart pad, write "stunts" that the losing den can perform.  One den per round.  Each den gets asked thee questions.  Each time, they can choose to earn points by either answering question correctly or doing stunt.  (Don't make questions too easy; you want them to do the stunts!)  Some favorite stunts include:
      1. Mystery box.  Scouts have 60secs to dress one of their own in whatever clothes they find in the closed "mystery box".  We like to have at least 4 boxes standing by:  a scuba gear box, a box with girls' clothes, a box with princess clothes, and a box with pieces from assorted Halloween costumes
      2. Animal challenge: tie a worm in a (loose) knot; outline your name in worms; fetch a toad from a deep box and kiss him
      3. Eat this!  Have a variety of disgusting items prepared - ant candy (can be ordered online), french fries with syrup, pudding with live flowers (be sure they're edible!), a drink that combines milk/catsup/syrup which you prepare as the kids watch and groan ...
    3. Scout Minute to Win It.  Like the above game, but the challenges can be less funny/gross!  Lots of ideas available on the internet

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