BRISTOL — Undeterred by frigid winds and steady snowfall, more than 100 Boy Scouts from in and around Elkhart County converged on Bonneyville Mill County Park Saturday morning to participate in the 2019 Klondike Derby and winter campout.

The annual three-day event featured Scouts from the Pioneer Trails District of LaSalle Council, which includes troops from Elkhart County as well as Cass County, Michigan.

“Today, we’re doing the Klondike, which is basically a sled race for the kids. Last I checked, we’ve got about 120 kids out here today,” said Doug Weaver, a Scout leader with Troop 117 out of Elkhart. “The overall goal with the derby is learning how to survive in the cold, so this weather is great. This is perfect Klondike weather. The temperature’s about 25 degrees right now, it’s snowing. ... This is ideal. A year or two ago, I think it was around 60 degrees and a mud bog. So this is great.”

The Scouts kicked off their three-day event early Friday evening, gathering at the Bristol park to get their gear unpacked and tents set up before settling in for the night.

Waking early Saturday morning, the Scouts shook off the cold and began what would be the main event of the trip, the 2019 Klondike Derby, where Scouts break into teams and move between numerous stations set up across the grounds where they then demonstrate their skills in everything from fire-starting and log-sawing to spike-driving and tent-building.

As a way to help move their gear from station to station during the event, each team was also required to build their own sled using either traditional or nontraditional designs. The sleds were then filled with any equipment they felt they might need to help with their skill tests, and pulled from station to station by the Scouts.

“During the derby, the Scouts are judged on their teamwork, Scout spirit and ability to handle the challenges at each station,” Weaver said. “With each challenge, they earn what we call gold nuggets, which are basically rocks painted gold. We did 2,000 of them, and the top three teams with the most gold nuggets at the end of the event will receive prizes.”

For Sam Wygant, a member of Boy Scouts Troop 12 out of New Paris, Saturday’s snowfall made for a perfect sledding experience, which just happened to be his favorite part of the annual derby.

“The snow’s pretty nice, but I’m pretty cold,” Wygant said, bracing against gusts of swirling snow and wind as he and his fellow troop members made their way to their next challenge early Saturday morning. “I’ve done the Klondike in the past and I’d say pulling the sled around is definitely my favorite part.”

As for Danny Peters, a member of Boy Scouts Troop 4 out of Wakarusa, the chance to just be out in nature and compete against Scouts from other troops in the area was his favorite part of the Klondike experience.

“I just like being here, doing all the events and things with the other Scouts,” Peters said of the derby. “And this year’s snow is better than last year’s, so it’s been great.”

John Kline can be reached at john.kline@goshennews.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 315. Follow John on Twitter @jkline_TGN

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