Mile Square Regional Park became a land of adventure Saturday as droves of young boys in khaki and blue turned out to scuba dive, rappel from a tower and brave a rickety rope bridge.
It was all part of the Scout-O-Rama, an annual outing sponsored by the Orange County Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Organizers estimated that 30,000 Scouts, friends and relatives participated Saturday in what was described as the largest-ever turnout for the event.
"Scout-O-Rama's always fun, it's always educational and it's always interesting," said Steve Woodyard of Cypress, the father of two Scouts: Nick, 15, and Christopher, 13.
The festivities drew youngsters from across the county: Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs set up booths showing off such diverse skills as solar cooking, knot-tying, flagpole-building and rubber-band gun shooting.
Cypress Troop 670, which the Woodyards belong to, had built a Ferris-wheel-like contraption that rapidly spun two youngsters at a time toward the ground and back up again.
A sign at the entrance warned: "Here lie the remains of the last Scout who didn't hold on tight."
The boys' father said he thinks Scouting helps build future leaders.
"It's good for the young Cub Scouts, especially, to come out here, because they can see what they can get from Scouting if they stick with it," Woodyard said. "They learn to do things for themselves."
As the line for the Ferris wheel grew ever longer, dozens of kids raced to a row of fire engines. Firefighters from one truck had set up foam-spraying equipment and billows of silky, white bubbles spilled all over the ground.
"Bubbles," the children shrieked, rolling in the foam and trying to throw handfuls of it on parents, who tried to keep their distance from the soggy stuff.
The scuba diving instruction booth, new to this year's Scout-O-Rama, was another hot attraction. Youths watched a 12-minute video about scuba diving, then changed into swim trunks and hopped into a 2,000-gallon, three-foot tall pool of water.
Scout Tris Huffnagle of Troop 28 was eager to slip on a face mask and a yellow oxygen tank and take his first stab at scuba diving. But the experience was bracing for the 12-year-old. "The water's too cold," he said afterward, hurrying to find a towel.
Across the field in "Cub Scout Land," Janet Browne of Newport Beach sat in the shade of the Pack 330 booth, helping kids make colorful key chains with bottle openers attached. She said she is still just as thrilled about the Boy Scouts as when her family first got involved eight years ago.
"This is marvelous," Browne said. "I just think it's a worthwhile family experience, individual experience and community experience."
"They get to meet kids from other communities when they come here," agreed Vikki Holmes, a Scout-O-Rama spokeswoman. "It gives them something positive to work toward instead of all the negative things out there."