Lawton_Elmer Thomas Park is closed this weekend - but not for everyone. Thousands of Boy Scouts have invaded Lawton for a once in a lifetime event. It's a "Camporee" to celebrate Oklahoma's Centennial, and the 100th Anniversary of Scouting.
If you drive by the park this weekend, you'll see the tent city. Scouts from all over Oklahoma and North Texas are making it their home for the next two days and between all the kids, parents and scoutmasters, organizers are expecting between four and five thousand people. A lot of people were still arriving Friday night - in fact - they weren't even supposed to begin arriving until evening. However, there were hundreds of early birds.
For many kids it's part of growing up. For young adults, it's a second family. "I've known him since I was 5 he's been a friend of mine for twelve years and I'm only 17." Logan Engelmann and Andrew MagBee have been growing up together as scouts and have even achieved the organizations highest honor - Eagle Scout.
The two say it's taught them the value of friendship, character, building friendships, leadership and team skills. It took time to learn these valuable qualities and Scoutmaster Scott Warren hopes this next generation of scouts will follow in their footsteps. "We get out here, set up tents and do all that. The cooking and camping and fires, and all that, but we learn to work together and respect each other, respect for each other, giving people dignity," said Warren.
And, in a day when modern technology has become such a normal part of our everyday lives, these scouts say their passion is not dying. They see a strong future ahead. "When they know there's an opportunity like this it's hard to pass up. They leave the Nintendo at home and come out and have a lot of fun," one of the Camporee revelers said. "When does scouting end? It never ends. They say one hour a week but we've found that's not necessarily true."
With thousands camping in the park, city and county emergency management have set up shop at Elmer Thomas Park to keep everyone safe in case trouble emerges. LPD says its officers and sentinels will be making regular rounds along with the Sheriff's Department. Emergency management has also set up a mobile command center.
Area volunteer firefighters will also be hauling in portable water for the scouts.