Patches might be what gets you. Or perhaps it’s the pageantry of the awards ceremony, ever so carefully coordinated, that reels you in. For me it was meeting my new friends across the county that got me to attend my first Order of the Arrow (OA) Annual Banquet thirty years ago in 1994.
To be honest, I was a little blown away by what I saw. Hundreds of people in crisp, usually clean Scouting uniforms coming out to a fire hall in Kimberton on a Saturday afternoon to honor their fellow Octoraro Lodge 22 members – it’s not the kind of thing I expected to see as a new Arrowman. What made this event so special that many would make this a focal point of their March calendar?
The tradition goes back to the early days of Octoraro 22 and has been such a necessary and exciting part of our yearly program that even during the COVID pandemic, we found a way to have an annual banquet in 2021, albeit virtual. Nearly 100 years of continuous banquets! The first banquet was held within a year of our founding in 1926, and the event became so popular in some later years that there were 2 banquets – one in the Northeast part of the county and one down by the Oxford area.
The OA is an organization dedicated to support at many levels – to the unit, the council camps, the council, and even the community. Our Brotherhood of Cheerful Servants often give 10,000+ hours to these groups each year, and in the process develop and enhance amazing leaders to deliver this needed service. The Annual Banquet is a way to honor their tireless dedication.
There are awards for all manner of service, including several newer awards meant to give recognition to younger Arrowman who have made their mark in various roles with anywhere from 1 year to 8 years of steadfast elbow grease, grit, and determination. That might be my favorite part – seeing a young Scout who gets into the lodge at 12 or 13 years of age, gives their all, and becomes a venerable leader to the next generation of younger Scouts in just a few short years. It’s also exciting for their friends and family to see them on stage being award a plaque, a trophy, a certificate, or for some, a set of symbolic beads to signify their candidacy to the OA highest’s recognition, the Vigil Honor.
While recognition might be the purpose of the banquet, it is by no means where the banquet’s program starts and stops. There are so many other great things to come and see, from the silent auction featuring great memorabilia and gifts for Scouts, Scouters, and family members, to the fabulous meal, to the guest speakers.
This year’s Octoraro 22 banquet, being held Sunday March 3, 2024 at the Red Clay Room in Kennett Square, will feature a keynote address from Eagle Scout Evan Sharko, a park ranger with the National Park Service who works at the Independence National Historical Park and is a Brotherhood member of the OA. Evan will share with the audience his perspectives about Scouting and the path that led him to becoming a park ranger.
The banquet is indeed a special experience, where you can reconnect with old and new Scouting friends and learn about all the fascinating things going on in the OA and Octoraro Lodge 22. You can surely come for the recognition, but you’ll stay for the banquet of riches: door prizes, fellowship, and entertainment! And of course, patches!
We would love to have you come out to join us at the banquet for an afternoon of fun! You can register here (registration closes 2/17):
Octoraro 22 Annual Lodge Banquet
Sunday March 3, 2024 at the Red Clay Room in Kennett Square, 4 PM – 8 PM