SHF Radio: 2013 National Jamboree @ The Summit Trade-O-Ree

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On the show we have several guests who are on live to talk about the 2013 National Scout Jamboree Trade-O-Ree to be held in Mt. Hope, West Virginia just a few miles from the gates to the Summit Bechtel Reserve. The town Mayor Michael Martin will be joined by TOR organizers Todd Kelly and Richard Mori to talk about the history of the area and what the Summit means to the area. Having grown up in Mt. Hope including doing some camping as a Scout in the mountains around the Summit Michael brings a unique perspective to this topic. Todd and Richard will share TOR updates as we turn the calendar closer to the July 2013 event.

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The player above will allow you to listen to the entire interview with Todd Kelly regarding the TOR. I have a partial transcript of the interview posted below but on this page you can listen to the show and also get the contact information for Todd Kelly regarding the 2013 Mt. Hope Trade-O-Ree that will be held outside the Summit Bechtel Reserve.

email: todd@bigrockpubs.com

Event email: info@bigrockpubs.com (several people have access to this account, so that any of a number of people can answer questions)

Todd’s phone number: (404) 441-3738

http://mthopetor.com  or http://mounthopetor.com

Facebook page = http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mt-Hope-Trade-O-Ree/429796593734908?fref=ts

Twitter = https://twitter.com/MtHopeTOR

When did you get the inspiration to try and organize this TOR?

Near the 2010 Jamboree, several of the dealers met for breakfast and discussed how we would hold an event in the new WV location. At that early time, nobody really knew anything about the area, and none of the dealers that were there recalled ever attending a trade o ree in West Virginia.

Nobody really stood up and said they would take charge, so the plans did not materialize. A few months later, Richard Mori and I were talking and decided to at least go to West Virginia and see what the area was like – see if there were potential venues, hotels/motels, restaurants. Looking at the map, we were able to identify the location of the Bechtel property, and saw that it was about 45 minutes south of Charleston, the state capital, and not far from Beckley.

A lot of people I talked to from Atlanta knew about Beckley, because of its proximity to the vast resources of the New River Gorge National Recreation area. Many of my friends had done whitewater, climbing, backpacking, even a few had attended an annual music festival called Clifftop that is a VERY big music festival.

My previous West Virginia experience included driving through there once on my way to a family wedding in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

 When did you make your first trip up to Mt. Hope and what kind of reception did you get when you approached the locals about the idea?

Remember, that from the original announcement, the National BSA folks had been saying that the Summit property was “outside Beckley, WV”. That’s where we started our research.

So, Richard Mori stopped in Beckley and began exploring the area in February or March of 2011, on his way back from Florida. Richard lives in New Hampshire, and understandably, spends a lot of the winter in Florida.

He and I do several shows together in late January (Chris Jensen’s show, Orlando, West Palm Beach, and occasionally another one.) and he drove back through WV on his way back to New England.

He identified that Beckley was probably the most logical place to hold a possible Trade O Ree and so that’s where we originally focused our efforts. He began making some really good contacts. Both Richard and I are former professional scouters, and we kind of approached this project as though we were new district executives moving to a new council where they don’t know anybody. We have always been VERY CAREFUL to make sure that the people we meet understand from the outset that we do not work for the Boy Scouts, nor do we represent what is going on at the Summit. We stress to everyone we meet that we are part of what National calls the “third party memorabilia market”. I’m not sure who coined that phrase, but I think it is pretty accurate description of what we all as dealers and collectors do.

So, we kept making contacts, making inquiries, and generally getting good receptions where we went. We met bank presidents, shop owners, college faculty members, mechanics, Professional scouters from the Jamboree Division. (BTW the Jamboree Division of National office opened an office and storefront/information booth in the Crossroads Mall in Beckley in Spring 2011) and all kinds of other people.

It’s kind of funny now, but by the time I made my first visit there in April 2011, every place we went that was a potential venue, had already been reserved for July 2013. In my experience, being two years out, you’d have pretty good success in getting a venue; however not in this case. We had a pretty good idea who was reserving all the hotel ballrooms, and other conference venues, but we kept plugging away.

In the meantime, Richard and I combined some of our inventory and opened booths in two of the larger Antique Malls in the area – the Beckley Antique Mall, and Nancy’s Attic in DT Beckley. Both are great malls and each has its own look and feel, but we are really glad we did that, because we have had a good number of calls from local people who got our contact information from one of the malls – people who have something to sell, or who want something identified or appraised, or just have a story to tell or want to help in some way.

I mentioned that we were unable to secure a venue in Beckley. Well, it turns out that our inability to land a location in Beckley was to be to our advantage in the long run. Because sometime last winter (Jan/Feb 2012) we got a voice mail out of the blue from someone we both know pretty well, who is in a National BSA position, who said we should talk to the Mayor. I’m willing to talk to anybody, but the message didn’t tell us which TOWN he was talking about.

After a series of calls to just about every town in the area, we figured out that the mayor he was talking about was Michael Martin of Mt. Hope.

Michael has been mayor of Mt Hope for a long time (I think about 20 years) and he grew up in Troop 91 in Mt Hope back in the 1960’s. One of his scout leaders, Mr Charles Kidd, is currently on the City Council. Everybody who makes it to the Trade O Ree is going to get a kick out of Mayor Martin – and maybe an even bigger kick out of Mr. Kidd. Michael Martin, in addition to being mayor, is also a SAG member – screen actor’s guild, and he starred in an Academy Award nominated short film a couple years ago, called “Down in Number 5”. I have been joking with him recently that with his long white hair and his southern charm, he kind of reminds me of cross between Matlock and Will Geer, you remember, the Grandfather from The Waltons in the 70’s?

We called Mayor Martin and scheduled time to meet with him on our next visit. By the time we finally sat down with him in his office, we had been “on the ground” in the area for nearly a year, visiting about once every six weeks or so.

Michael let us know that the City of Mt Hope was in the process of conducting a project to annex the Boy Scout property in to the city and that his city had secured permission to use the phrase “Gateway to the Summit” on its police cars, letterhead, patches, signs, etc.

In fact, the water for the Summit site will come from the City of Mt Hope and I believe that the city police department will be providing a good deal of security around the jamboree.

So, Michael made us aware of all this, and told us that the city had a vision for a big activity that could be held “outside the confines of the Jamboree site”, but down in the town. His goal was to “bring people out on to the streets of his town” and to get people to know the name of Mt Hope.

We explained to him about what a Trade O Ree is, and how we could partner with the city, if the city liked the idea, and we were off to the races. Within about two hours from our initial meeting, Michael had called the Police Chief, Tom Peel into the meeting, we had visited the stadium and a couple other smaller venues in town, had met more business owners, and had an informal agreement that we would hold the Trade O Ree in Mt Hope.

How did you settle on the old football stadium as the site for the show?

We toured that stadium that afternoon – you can see the photos on our Facebook page – just search Mt Hope Trade O Ree and Like us to be able to view the photos. Michael is pictured in one, looking out over the football field.

We have secured the endorsement of the City Council to co-sponsor our event, and the members of the council have been very enthusiastic about our plans.

What facilities are available at the stadium and the town that people will want to know about.

Mt Hope Municipal stadium was built in the 1930’s, as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps projects during the Great Depression. It is a granite fortress. Really. Huge granite walls surround the entire stadium and it is dug into the side of a mountain. There is only access through one end zone – where the main gates are, and there is a loop road that goes around the top of the bleachers on both sides of the field. The bleachers are cut into the hillsides, and the field itself is crowned for drainage and the city maintains it impeccably. The city lost its high school a few years ago, but the city still preserves the passion for its Mt Hope High School Mustangs every where you look. Apparently, they were a powerhouse team in their day. The sign out front of the stadium is full of championships and winning teams.

Access by vehicle is available – handicap parking will be “inside the gates”. There’s plenty of parking just outside the stadium as well.

The stadium itself is just a few blocks from the main street that runs through downtown Mt. Hope. The town itself is very charming. At present, there are a lot of vacant storefronts in downtown area, but I suspect that as time goes by, people will start to realize the economic impact of the Summit in the area and that by 2017 Jamboree, many of those storefronts will be filled with shops, boutiques and restaurants.

Camping will be available both inside the gates for dealers and outside the gates in two large fields immediately across the street from the stadium.

Shower facilities are available inside the stadium, and a large concessions stand will be manned by volunteers from the city during the trade o ree.

What are the hours for the show and how does this jive with the flow of visitors and contingents coming and going to the Jamboree.

Right now, the plan is for the show to be open from noon-midnight each day, from Saturday, July 13th, through Sunday, July 21st. Based on what I have been reading, the troops will start arriving on Monday and Tuesday the 15th and 16th.

The city is finalizing a plan to have a shuttle come from the site to the Trade O Ree and from offsite visitors’ parking to the Trade O Ree. Hopefully, that will give us unprecedented access to the people we need to attract, who want to come to our event, visitors, staff, etc.

There are several other venues in Mt. Hope that we want to direct traffic to as well, like Bon-Bons Confectionery and Hardware store, which is an incredible slice of Americana. They originally opened in 1920 and have been in continuous operation ever since, owned by the same family. Mrs. Phyllis Bonifacio, who is the current owner, is the widow of the son of the original owners. She is in her 80’s and still goes in to work the counter every morning Mon-Saturday. I have gotten to know her and her sons over the past year or so and they have an incredible family history – The Original Mr. Bonifacio came to the US in 1914 arriving at Ellis Island from Italy as a shoemaker. His wife came over shortly after. He originally had a small cobbler shop in neighboring Glen Jean, WV, but moved to Mt Hope in 1920. The original Bon-Bon’s was a cobbler shop, where Mr. Bonifacio made and repaired shoes. Over the years he added a candy counter, a beer garden and in 1930, he bought a used 1910 marble soda fountain from another store that went out of business, and that soda fountain is still there and in use today. You can go see it when you visit the Trade O Ree. Anyway, when his son Floyd returned from World War II, Mr. Bonifacio passed away around that time, and Floyd ran the store until his death in 2011. What is also cool is that Floyd and Phyllis not only owned Bon-Bon’s, but they also operated both movie theaters that were in town, beginning in the mid-1950’s and they collected movie posters from about every movie that ever came through town. I have been working with their two sons Dean and Doug about how we could put together a museum of those posters. Doug and Dean estimate that there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 1500 posters. Amazing slice of Americana.

How big is the TOR tent, tables etc and how does this compare to the 2010 show at the Eagles Nest?

The TOR itself will be under a huge tent and will encompass about 3500-4000 square feet. There is room for about 150 tables, which is a bit bigger than the show we had a Eagles Lodge in Fredericksburg in 2010, but I think about the size of both TOR’s combined.

I believe that there were just over 200 tables at the NOAC TOR this year, but I think that included some that were not used, or just used for a day or so by the various lodges for trading.

I think we’ll have enough space.

I know you have talked to a lot of the dealers about the show – what were some of their concerns and how have you brought them around?

I’m glad you asked, because most of the comments I have heard have been about the tent situation – concerns about weather, security, access, being on grass. Things like that.

Let me take each of those in turn. It’s been a good while since Chris Jensen had that big Jamboree show in the 80’s or early 90’s under a tent, so many of our dealers are newer to the hobby and haven’t participated in a show that was not in a building. If you visited the OA museum at the 2010 Jamboree, you probably recall that enormous tent. While we may not be quite that upscale, we will certainly be protected from any rain or wind – the tent vendors assure us that they can install the tents such that it would take the biggest windstorm to knock us out. Couple that with being in the shelter of  the stadium itself and I think we’ll be OK.

As far as rain, the field drains very well. AS I said earlier, the field is crowned, which simply means that the center is higher than the edges, so that water drains off the field quickly.

I stood on the field in the middle of a good shower recently, and did not experience any problems. That was WITHOUT the coverage of a tent.

Several people have asked me about the temperatures in July, and being from Atlanta, I’m used to 100 degree days in July. The normal temps in that area are in the 70’s and low 80’s during that time of year. The nights are pretty cool. Now, this past summer was hotter than normal in the area – they had a couple of 100 degree days, but that was abnormal.

I was up there last week and the overnight temps dipped into the 20’s the last night I was there. Last Wednesday, I believe. That’s February weather for me – not early October!

Security is also going to be a concern, and we are addressing that. Just like any other venue, you have to keep people from helping themselves to things that aren’t theirs.

While I can’t guarantee that nobody will have a problem, I can assure the listeners, that this is a concern that we are taking very seriously. I have been working with the chief of Police, who has the support of mayor and council to develop a plan for 24 hour security on site.

Just as an aside, the entire city police department made only 8 arrests the entire month of September this year, and I think most of those were warrants that were discovered from traffic stops. So, we’re not talking about a huge crime area, but like my old Camp Ranger at Rainey Moutain, Carnell Gullett used to tell me, “Locks only keep honest people out.”

So now talk a little more long term, the site is going to be used for the 2017 NJ and the 2019 World Jamboree, what potential for a long term relationship with Mt. Hope do you see for this TOR and other endeavors.

I hope that we bring enough traffic to Mt Hope that they will be excited to work with our trading community at each of the upcoming national events, and even between events. As the BSA develops and implements their plans for year round programming at the Summit, I anticipate that there may be opportunities for intermediate, smaller shows during the summers in between Jamborees.

From personal observation, traffic was way up at our two antique mall booths when Summit Corps was going on over the summer in 2011, and also up during the time period just before and after the shakedown camp-out that was held this past summer.

I think business owners, like the Bonifacios that I talked about earlier at Bon-Bon’s, will definitely benefit from the increased traffic during the jamborees, but also from the year round increase in traffic as well.

I envision Mt Hope becoming kind of like Cimarron NM – in the same positive way that it has become important because it is the home of Philmont. That has relationship has been established for more than 60 years. Makes me wonder what the people in Cimarron thought when the BSA started sending crews out there in the late 40’s. I would imagine that Islamarado, in the Florida Keys is also impacted in a positive way, as the Seabase has become more of a year round training center.

I know from those examples and from my own experience as a camp director and as a council program director that the Boy Scouts, wherever they go, try to be good neighbors and try to make a positive impact on the areas where they locate their facilities.

Knowing the people involved at the national level nowadays, makes me feel very secure that this long tradition is going to continue and will be reflected here in West Virginia as we move forward.

Frankly I’m looking forward to it.  As you know from our regular talks, I have already committed a great deal of time and resources to this Trade O Ree project and hope that people will like what we are doing.

We have a Facebook page now – Like us at Mt Hope Trade O Ree and a Twitter account @mthopetor

Our website mthopetor.com will be up and running by Nov 1 and we will begin accepting reservations for tables and camping shortly after that.

I encourage all our listeners to go and join our mailing list. The way to do it now is to go to our Facebook page and click on the link for our mailing list. We won’t sell your info – and we’ll be conservative, but promise to be effective, with the number of emails we send you.

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