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Home arrow Sports arrow Outdoors & Rec arrow Klondike derby delivers

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Klondike derby delivers

Scouts from troop 586 build a fire at the Klondike Derby. (EMILY QUEBBEMAN photo)
Scouts from troop 586 build a fire at the Klondike Derby. (EMILY QUEBBEMAN photo)

The annual Klondike Derby was a success with a medieval flair 

Water balloons and winter usually don’t mix, but for nine local scouting troops it was all part of the fun. Throw in sleds, jousting and catapults and the scouts’ winter wonderland kept getting better and better. 

The Klondike Derby is an annual scouting event that occurs late in the month of February.  

Approximately 65 scouts and their leaders built snow shelters and slept in them overnight at the Mud Lake campground, close by the Anthony Lakes ski resort. 

The ‘Knights of the Round Table’ themed campout occurred on February 21 and 22, but much of the preparation for the winter camping trip started the weekend before. 

Scoutmaster Bryon Quebbeman, of troop 586 from La Grande, who also planned the Klondike Derby, took his scouts and dug snow shelters that weekend. 

Snow shelters are not simple to build. Quebbeman does not recommend making a snow shelter like the ones the dug for the derby. They take too much energy and time to rely on in an emergency situation. 

“You can get sweaty and wet,” Quebbeman said. “Being wet and cold is far worse than being cold. 

“We literally dig down and make a cave, then dig up and build a sleeping shelf that is above the entrance to your door,” Quebbeman said. “This makes a heat trap and keeps the temperature in the snow shelter about 25 degrees above zero, even in negative 15 degree weather. 

After preparing their shelters, the troops including, several from Baker, Elgin and La Grande, gathered for a night and a day of competition and fun in the snow. 

This was the fourth year that Quebbeman has planned and organized the Klondike Derby. 

“I just volunteer and nobody fights me for it,” Quebbeman said. “I’m just trying to generate excitement and fun for the kids.” 

The derby teaches scouts how to stay warm and support each other. Before a scouts can go on the Klondike, he is required to go to a class to learn about proper clothing and how to avoid frostbite and hypothermia. It covers everything the scouts need for the Klondike — survival, food and first aid. 

“My biggest complaint is when the scouts don’t listen, go roll in the snow and get wet,” Quebbeman said. “No, stay dry or you’ll get cold and that’s no fun.” 

The competitions included Target jousting and throwing a 28 pound hammer. 

“I told the kids it was going to be a very physically challenging event,” Quebbeman said.

For the jousting, the scouts weren’t actually jousting at each other, but at targets instead. 

Quebbeman made an immovable target that the scouts would try to hit with a mock lance — a sturdy long cardboard tube — while standing on the back of a sled being pushed by one or two other scouts. 

“It required team work, your buddy had to push you straight while you held the lance steady and being pushed towards the target,” Quebbeman said.

Two teams would try to hit two different targets at the same time and the team that hit the most, won. 

The hammer was used simply for a distance toss contest. It was homemade from part of a caterpillar axle and a big bolt welded to it to make a hammer. 

“It was a contest of strength. Who can throw the heavy hammer the farthest: How strong are you?” Quebbeman said of the hammer toss. “The kids couldn’t throw it too far, but they had fun trying.” 

Everyone got a turn at doing everything. 

Each year the conditions for the campout can vary greatly. This year the temperature was a balmy 25 and there was no wind. However that can change quickly when dealing with the weather. 

“Last year it was a blizzard, I think it snowed 14 inches overnight,” Quebbeman said. “The year before that there was another blizzard where you couldn’t see 30 feet at times. 

“Two years before that it got 15 below and it warmed up to 10 above the day we did our events.”

At the end of the derby, about a third of the scouts participated in the optional water balloon fight/game of capture the flag. The object of the game was to capture the opposing team’s flag and get it back to your team. 

The scouts built walls of snow, dug trenches, and wore rain ponchos to keep from getting too wet. 

“Kids and water balloons, they love them,” Quebbeman said. 

The water balloon fight was scheduled at the end of the event so those who didn’t want to participate could go home, and those who did participate could return to the warmth of a vehicle. 

However, according to Quebbeman, very few kids actually got hit by the balloons. 

“They weren’t very brave,” Quebbeman said. “They kind of just lobbed water balloons at each other until they were out. 

“When they were out of water balloons, then they got brave and ran out to grab flags.” 

In addition to throwing the water balloons themselves, the scouts could also use two catapults to bombard the opposing team. 

The catapults were first used previously in the derby for a competition, throwing soccer balls at a target. Then for the water balloon fight, they threw half gallon water balloons. Unfortunately, one catapults broke under the weight of a balloon. 

Once the water fight was over everyone packed their stuff up and went home. 

The majority of participants at the Klondike Derby were Boy Scouts. However there was also one Explorer group, which included several girls, present and participating. 

The event taught the scouts and explorers winter survival techniques while providing a very challenging physical set of competitions and challenges. 

“The kids just had fun,” Quebbeman said. “That is the point of scouting, to have fun and learn something.” 

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