Originally created 04/18/99

Boys assemble for Scoutfest



AIKEN -- Rich O'Donnell sat with quiet confidence Saturday as he sized up his competition.

A third win on the pinewood derby circuit would cap a great first year in the Cub Scouts. The simple wooden car with the skull and crossbones on its hood had proved to be a winner in its first two runs. But Saturday's match at the 1999 Scoutfest would be an uphill battle from the start.

The 9-year-old rookie had one thing going for him, though: His car was metallic blue -- one of the luckiest colors of the afternoon.

Placing the car on the third lane of the plywood track, he gave Ole Blue a rub for good luck, and a giant smile washed away the seriousness on his face. Sitting rail side was his brother John, who spent Saturday afternoon at the Aiken County Jaycee Fairgrounds waiting for the competition.

"C'mon Rich," he yelled. "You can do it."

In a close race, Rich did win. But it wasn't enough to bring home the trophy. Out of four races, he won only two. And instead of a trophy, he won a ribbon for participation.

"I'm still a winner," he said. "I came as far as I could go."

When he got home to North Augusta, the car went back to its hiding place: somewhere over the microwave out of harm's way.

The annual Scoutfest, hosted by the Georgia-Carolina Boy Scouts of America, brought out 30 Boy Scout troops and 15 Cub Scout packs.

Even boys who aren't in the Scouts, like Nicholas Chipman, turned out for the event.

"I wasn't sure if I wanted to be in the Boy Scouts, so I came out today to make up my mind," he said.

"I like building things, but I hate bugs," the 9-year-old said.

So his dad Kevin, who long ago was one badge shy of becoming an Eagle Scout, brought him to Scoutfest to prove that scouting and bugs don't necessarily go hand in hand.

In addition to the pinewood derby, there were also outdoor cooking demonstrations, pioneering, fire safety and rope climbing.

"The great thing about these events is that everybody goes home a winner," said Ted Johnson, a district executive for the Georgia-Carolina Council. "Everyone here has the potential to become a great future leader."

Chasiti Kirkland is a reporter for The Augusta Chronicle. She can be reached at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.