Making Blue & Gold affordable

The season for Blue & Gold Banquets is upon us. The Blue & Gold tradition is to celebrate the birthday of Scouting in the United States. It was on February 8, 1910, that the Boy Scouts of  America was established, and the first Scout troops formed that year. Twenty years later, the younger-boy program, Cub Scouting, was instituted, and the Blue & Gold Banquet came along as a way to celebrate each year.

There are no hard and fast rules about how to plan and carry out a Blue & Gold banquet. Some packs go over the top, with catered dinners, top notch entertainment and expertly decorated banquet halls. Others celebrate in a low-key manner – sometimes just a cake or cupcakes at a pack meeting.

The most important ingredient, however, is Scout-centered. Recognizing the Scouts for their achievements should be a big part of the party. Recognizing adults for their involvement is important as well. But it’s all about the Scouts, so don’t lose that focus.

With last fall’s major increase in BSA registration fees, which came along after most units had set their annual budgets, many are feeling the pinch financially and are looking for ways to stretch their dollars while still having a memorable celebration of Scouting. Here are some ideas to help your Blue & Gold Banquet sizzle while observing the ninth point of the Scout Law: A Scout is Thrifty.

  • If you’re paying for rental of a banquet facility, look around. Your chartered organization may have room for you. If yours is a church or fraternal organization like the Elks, they may have a hall that you can use. Even if your chartered organization doesn’t have its own, hall, you may be able to use a church or fraternal hall for free or at low cost if you ask them to extend the courtesy to the Scouts (and offer to help with a service project in return). Your city or town may have a civic center, community room, library or other place that can handle your event, often at low or no cost to city residents and organizations.
  • The school that your Scouts attend can probably accommodate you as well. If they do charge a fee, find out if it’s possible to waive the fee, or see if the fee is lower at a different time – say, on a weeknight rather than a weekend when the school may have to pay custodians overtime.
  • If you’re in a warm weather locale, have your banquet outdoors! A park in your community could have a picnic shelter you can use. Our town lets Scout units use otherwise unrented picnic shelters for free.
  • Instead of buying fancy decorations – banners, centerpieces, tablecloths – have your Scouts make them! They may not look professional, but Scout handcrafted decorations say a lot more than something you can buy at the party supply store. And instead of buying tablecloths or placemats, check with  your council office. Our council provides free placemats, printed with Cub Scout camping information, upon request. Maybe yours does too. It’s a great way to promote camping and get free placemats. Or check with a local restaurant – they may donate a couple hundred paper placemats.
  • If you’re having the banquet at a church or social hall with a kitchen, they may have dinnerware that you can use instead of buying paper or plastic plates, silverware and cups. Your crew will probably need to stay after and do the dishes, but it’s a way to cut costs and help reduce trash.
  • If you’ve been catering your event,  consider a potluck instead. Assign each den a category – snacks, salads, side dishes, bread – and just spring for the main course, like chicken or pasta. Often, one of the worries is that there will be too many of one kind of dish, but it almost always works out. Just be sure to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold, and tell your families to do the same.
  • See if there’s a ScoutsBSA troop with a field kitchen that would be willing to come and do your cooking. For just the cost of ingredients you could have a freshly prepared dinner, and the Scouts of the troop can earn service hours.
  • Or a local vocational school with a culinary arts program could be willing to cook for your event as an academic practicum.
  • Instead of a big dinner, you could just have pizza. We have a local pizza chain that offers large pizzas for $5 each. If you ask, they may cut you a deal, since you’ll be ordering a stack of pies. And frankly, most kids would prefer pizza to almost anything else.
  • A big beautiful birthday cake is always an attraction,  but it can get costly. How about having the Scouts do dessert? Our pack had a contest each year where the boys and their dads (or another male adult – no moms allowed) would team up to make and decorate a cake along a Scouting theme. There were some really awesome designs! You can make it a contest if you want, judged either by the Scouts or by invited guests, and a ribbon or prize awarded to the winner. Then, serve the cakes for dessert – just be sure to have your parents explain to the young ones that their masterpieces will be cut up and eaten!
  • The Scout-made cakes could also be auctioned off as a fundraiser for the pack to help defray the cost of the event.
  • You could abandon the dinner idea altogether and just go with an ice cream social. The pack buys the ice cream (or gets it donated from a local dairy) and each den brings toppings – sauce, sprinkles, whipped cream, cones. Who doesn’t like ice cream?
  • Entertainment can be a  big part of your Blue & Gold Banquet. I’ve seen magicians on unicycles, knife and sword acts, yo-yo performers, educational programs involving animals and birds, martial arts demonstrations – even Star Wars characters overseeing a melee where the Scouts bopped each other with foam rubber “light sabers”. While these are all fun activities, they can cost into the hundreds of dollars. An alternative can be to have each den do a skit. Something they chose, planned, rehearsed and perfected in their own way. Dozens, if not hundreds, of ideas are as close as your computer’s search engine (or old Pow-Wow books, if you know what those are). Even if you’ve seen the “Invisible Bench” skit a dozen times, it’s always fun to watch a new crop of Scouts put it on and get a kick out of the comedy. The best reward is the applause that each den receives, and the pride in the parents watching their son or daughter take part.
  • You could also put together a slide or video show of pack activities. Some packs do this each year and it’s fun for parents to watch for the candid shots of their children enjoying Scouting. One of your parents probably has the skills and equipment to do a great job, and it’s part of documenting the fun you’ve had.
  • If your Arrow of Light Scouts are crossing over to a troop, your council’s Order of the Arrow Lodge probably has a ceremonies team that can come to your Blue & Gold and do a crossover ceremony for you. Often their native American-themed presentations are enjoyed by both Scouts and parents, as they are infused with deeper meaning about the Arrow of Light and the trail that lies ahead for the new ScoutsBSA members. If you don’t know how to reach your OA lodge or chapter, ask your unit commissioner or district executive.

What ideas do you have to help make Blue & Gold Banquet financially manageable while keeping the fun factor high? Please leave a comment below and let everyone know what you did in your pack.

This post first appeared on Bobwhite Blather.
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3 Replies to “Making Blue & Gold affordable”

  1. This is great, I was just asking about this, trying to come up with ways to save money and make Blue & Gold free for all our families.

  2. Asking for free rental of a space, for a discount is contrary to BSAs long standing policy of a Scout is expected to pay their own way. Asking for the use of the space at no charge is soliciting a gift as the unit will benefit from it financially and units are not allowed to solicit gifts.

    I believe this is bad advice, that it’s contrary to BSA policy

    1. While soliciting cash gifts is not good policy and is discouraged because it would duplicate and possibly supplant the council’s own fundraising (Community Friends of Scouting, for instance), gifts-in-kind aren’t specifically outlined one way or another in the BSA’s fiscal guidelines for units. It’s generally okay for units to solicit small donations of goods or discounts from a restaurant or something similar, but it would be a good idea to get in touch with your council’s development department first. They may have contacts already in place that could help out, and if there is already a gift-in-kind pledge between the council and the merchant, it wouldn’t make sense for the unit to make the same approach that the council already has.

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