LAS CRUCES — The Yucca Council of Boy Scouts of America welcomed scouts and residents from throughout the region to participate in its annual Prepared. For Life. Scout Expo, where participants were taught survival skills, enjoyed live entertainment, games and outdoor activities, and learned about the benefits of scouting Saturday at Young Park.

The first time the annual Scout Expo was held in Las Cruces, organizers aimed to promote leadership and learning in a fun-filled environment while showcasing the positive impact scouting has on youths to members of the community, explained Anthony O. Brown, Cub Master for Pack 179 in Las Cruces.

About 32 Scout units from southern New Mexico and west Texas participated in the event, with more than 90 percent representing Cub Scout packs, Boy Scout troops and Venture Crews from Las Cruces and El Paso, Brown said.

More than 1,000 visitors, including scouts, parents and other members of the community attended the annual event, held for the first year in Las Cruces at Young Park.

"With this being the first year for the event in Las Cruces, we're definitely pleased with the turnout," Brown said.

"We plan to make the Scout Expo in Las Cruces an annual event each fall, while also holding an annual expo in El Paso each spring," Brown said. "This is a great opportunity for scouts and members of the Las Cruces community to become more involved in the expo.



Organizers plan to start planning next year's event almost immediately following Saturday's Scout Expo.

"We would have liked to see about 5,000 attend this year's expo, but I think the fact that the Southern New Mexico State Fair is going on simultaneously and the fact that it was our first year hosting the event in Las Cruces hurt attendance," Brown explained. "We're planning to put 12 months worth of work into getting the word out and preparing for next year's Scout Expo."

There was no shortage of educational and fun-filled activities for youngsters of all ages to enjoy during the day-long expo. Activities included games like box hockey, face painting, arts and crafts, educational demonstrations on how to start a campfire without matches, Native American dancing, live musical entertainment and magic shows, tomahawk throwing, canoe rides, an obstacle course, instructions on fishing by the state Department of Game and Fish, and even sailboat races.

"These activities are pretty standard at our annual expo," Brown explained. "The kids all have a blast and, more importantly, they're learning. Even while playing the games, they're learning sportsmanship and playing fairly."

He continued, "Everything here is fun, but with a purpose. That's a big thing the Boy Scouts emphasizes. Yes, the kids are laughing and having a great time, but they're also learning skills that they'll use throughout their whole lives."

The organization aims to use this teaching method to develop the next generation of young leaders in the community, he said.

The adventure began for scouts on Friday evening at Young Park where about 120 camped outdoors in tents. More than 200 scouts were expected to enjoy the great outdoors again Saturday night with a campout following the annual Expo, Brown said.

The New Mexico State University Air Force ROTC was on hand to blast a cannon marking the start of a 5K Fun Run held at the beginning of the Scout Expo, Brown said. The Museum of Natural History and the state Bureau of Reclamation were also among many organizations to educate those who attended the event on subjects including water conservation.

Like the many local law enforcement agencies that attended the Scout Expo, the Mesilla Fire Department brought its brush truck and Fire Prevention Safety Trailer and partnered with the Las Cruces Fire Department to demonstrate fire safety tips to youngsters.

"This is the start of Fire Prevention Week, so what better time to teach children what to do in case of a fire?" said Mesilla Fire Chief Kevin Hoban.

Demonstrations were held hourly during the Scout Expo where children watched a short video with instructions on how to be "Rabbit Ready" in the event of a fire, Hoban explained. 

"Rabbit Ready means having two ways to get out of the home when there's a fire, in case one of those exits is blocked," he said.

Smoke simulated by a fog machine inside the Fire Prevention Safety Trailer, along with smoke alarms and a door heated so that it feels warm to the touch gave children the opportunity to experience what a real house fire is like, Hoban explained.

The newest active member of the Organ Mountain Technical Rescue Squad, Chris Larkin, 18, a member of Venture Crew 385, puts the skills learned during his time with the coed division of Boy Scouts to good use rescuing backpackers and rock climbers in dangerous situations.

Joining the Las Cruces-based Venture Crew, which accepts young men and women between the ages of 14 and 20, when he was just 14 years old, Larkin said, "I really enjoy the challenges and the adventures. I love to go rock climbing, backpacking, snow shoeing and skiing."

Conrad Brooks, 12, and fellow members of Boy Scout Troop 173, from Las Cruces, were tasked with manning canoes afloat in Young Park's lake, an activity that they also oversee during the annual Renaissance ArtsFaire.

"My favorite part was the canoe race earlier," Brooks said. "I'm pretty good at canoeing, but I was going against the older boys, so I came in last. But it was still really fun."

A member of the troop for more than a year, Brooks said, "I've been learning how to do a lot of things. It's exciting. Especially when we go camping."

For 10-year-old Gage Young, a member of Cub Scout Pack 179, the Pinewood Derby race was "one of my favorite things to do."

The pack will also host its annual Soap Box Derby race on Nov. 17 in Las Cruces.

Joining the troop when he was in first grade, Young said, "It's a lot of fun. I've learned how to tie knots, which was very complicated. I also learned how to start a campfire last year."

He continued, "I'm going to stay with the Scouts until I'm an Eagle Scout. I really like it."

Members of the American Heritage Girls Troop 0316, a Christ-centered character development program for girls ages 5 to 18, also participated in the Scout Expo on Saturday.

Founded almost 20 years ago, the organization has since signed a memorandum of mutual support with Boy Scouts of America and offers similar leadership-development activities for girls in Las Cruces, explained Rose Fierro, assistant to troop coordinator for Troop 0316.

"They're our future leaders. I really believe that a child can never be what they've never seen. That's why it's so important that they see strong role models setting the right example," she said.

American Heritage Girls member Catherine Goldblatt, 11, said of the expo, "We've really enjoyed it. We played games, watched a magic show, went fishing and helped others making crafts at our booth."

For more information on the Boy Scouts of America Yucca Council, visit