Local Boy Scouts prepare for 25th annual winter camp out
By Kenneth Thompson
Most people cringe at the thought of going camping on a frigid January weekend.
Most people, but not local Boy Scouts. They’ve been at it for 25 years.
Nearly 400 scouts from Troup and surrounding counties are packing their sleeping bags and tents for this weekend’s 25th annual Freez-O-Ree, a winter camp-out at Camp Lumpkin off Antioch Road.
“I think this one will be our biggest ever,” said Rodney Brundidge, scout executive for the Yellow Jacket District. “We don’t have anything specially planned for this one, but in my mind it’s special every time. Kids from all kinds of different backgrounds and walks of life come out and learn to work with each other while engaging in games and competitions.”
Campers along with about 200 adult volunteers will arrive Friday night and battle the cold until Sunday afternoon.
“This is definitely one of our funnest events every year,” said Wade Anderson, a 13-year-old West Side Magnet School student and Scouting veteran.
The event definitely encourages scouts to practice their motto: “Be prepared.”
“The Freez-O-Ree has taught me in the past to be very well prepared when packing your stuff, especially your clothing,” he said.
Freez-O-Ree newbies tend to pack light opposed to more experienced campers, said Mike Wilson, scoutmaster of Troop 21, sponsored by First United Methodist Church.
“They learn very fast not to make the mistake of not bringing enough clothing,” Wilson said. “But all of them tend to do a great job at getting their tents and fires up after getting out there. “
The Freez-O-Ree, in fact, traces its beginnings to a friendly competition among troops to see who could handle the coldest weather, he said.
“Anyone can camp out in pleasant warm weather. This is all about learning and developing camaraderie,” he said.
Local scout Robert Harris, 12, recalls attending a Freez-o-Ree during the ice storm in 2005.
“It was very cold,” he said. “Trees and limbs were falling during the storm and we had to move our tents toward the edge of the woods to help shield us from the storm.”
Even the coldest Freez-O-Rees stick with the traditional features, including games popular with local Scouts, former Scoutmaster Bernard Bledsoe said.
“This is peer recognition at its best,” Bledsoe said. “It’s about earning respect and camaraderie from dealing with the cold while competing in games and activities. That will never change no matter what the weather is like.”
One of the most beloved Freez-O-Ree competitions is the “Log Drag,” in which two teams of Scouts pull a rope tied to the end of a log. The winning team will have pulled its log to a designated finish line first and is awarded a small trophy cut from wood.
Other activities include campfire songs and hiking.
“Many of the kids who have never been before have a lot of concerns about the cold weather and aren’t that excited about it,” Brundidge said. “But when they get there, they all typically love it. Even the adults tend to have a lot of fun even though they are challenged not to gripe about the weather because the Scouts so rarely do.”
Brundidge also said though the event hasn’t changed much in 25 years, it has drawn more volunteers each year.
“That’s the great thing about people who volunteer,” he said. “They are all here for the right reasons that don’t have anything to with monetary values. I can always say for sure all of their hearts are fully into it.”
Some of the volunteers’ duties include helping set up tents and cooking meals each day. ‘Pot Luck,’ ‘Dutch Treat’ and ‘Cracker Barrel,’ are some of event’s most well known meals.
The Freez-O-Ree moved to Camp Lumpkin in 1999 after many years at Camp McKenzie in Columbus. Camp Lumpkin features 900 acres of land stretched beside West Point Lake with bike trails and walking trails.
“Lumpkin is a beautiful location,” Brundidge said. “It’s very peaceful and I’d encourage anyone who hasn’t been to visit. It will be pretty cold this weekend, though.”
Kenneth Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (706) 884-7311, Ext. 228.