COLUMBIA — The presence of more than one hundred Boy Scouts meant that military personnel were not the only people in uniform at the Memorial Day Salute to Veterans Airshow Sunday. Four area Boy Scout troops were present to continue the long-standing tradition of volunteer work during the Memorial Day weekend celebration.
Three of the troops were from Columbia, and one was from Jefferson City. The Scouts, who ranged in age from 10 to 18 years old, worked in partnership with local vendors; the Scouts were responsible for running the concession and souvenir stands that served the general public for the duration of the event.
"An easy 10 years, we've been coming to work at this air show," said Mike Crocker , a Troop 11 scoutmaster out of Jefferson City.
The partnership between the Boy Scouts and vendors serves a dual purpose that benefits both parties. The vendors allow the Scouts to man their booths for the weekend, and, in exchange, the Scouts receive a small share of the profits.
"It's one of those win-win situations," said Kim Potzmann, assistant scoutmaster of Columbia-based Troop 707. "We earn a bit of money for the troop, and we give back to the community that we're a part of. That's what it's about for us: coming out and being a part of the air show."
Troop 11 Scoutmaster Les Fortenberry, of Jefferson City, said that it is one of the biggest fundraisers of the year for the participating troops. The money earned during the air show will go toward equipment and camping gear for the boys. Fortenberry said their goal is to "try to provide all of the equipment so that the cost doesn't have to be passed down to families."
Some of the money raised also helps to fund scholarships for Scouts from low-income families.
"We don't ever want funding to prevent any Scout from being able to participate," Fortenberry said.
In addition to the financial benefits, the air show also presents an opportunity for Scouts to earn service hours needed for rank advancement.
"The guys love doing the service, and a big part of Scouting is the service," said Scoutmaster Chip Sandstedt. "In this case, it's service to the community and to our troops."
For the younger Scouts, the air show is often their first exposure to customer service work and presents an opportunity for hands-on learning.
"They get the opportunity to step up and take things a little more seriously than they would at school, they interact with people they don't know, and they work together," Fortenberry said.
The event provides older Scouts and Eagle Scouts an opportunity to demonstrate their leadership skills and give back to the program. The rank of Eagle Scout is well-respected by many organizations, especially the military. Fortenberry said that the Boy Scouts have always felt a close tie to the military
“It’s amazing to see how many of the Eagle Scouts go on to join the military,” he said.
As Sunday's airshow was themed around military aviation, it gave the boys an opportunity to interact with veterans and active military personnel.
“If you hang around long enough, invariably you’ll have a military vet come up and say, ‘You know, I’m an Eagle Scout, too,’ and it’s a special connection they’ve got,” Fortenberry said.
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