Lonnette VanBruggen, Fargo, N.D., rolls the log. keeping her balance better than most in the log-rolling contest at Bay Jammer at Great Lakes Memorial Marina. EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
Lonnette VanBruggen, Fargo, N.D., rolls the log. keeping her balance better than most in the log-rolling contest at Bay Jammer at Great Lakes Memorial Marina. EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
MENOMINEE - The 63rd annual Bay Jammers event took Menominee's waterfront by storm this weekend. Nearly 300 youngsters from Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and North Dakota took part.

"The group from Fargo, N.D., is a new group that decided to come this year, so was the group from Fort Wayne, Ind.," said event chairman Telly Villas.

The fun all started Friday night at the bandshell with a lip synching competition. Scouts taking part not only had to mouth the lyrics of the song but also had to put together costumes and choreography.

"The kids did an excellent job," said Villas. "One of the comments on one of the score sheets was, 'I've been doing this for four years and it's one of the best I've ever seen.'

'I think that shows exactly what these kids come down and do. Excellence is one of their goals and I think they hit it with LipJam this year."

The musical skits were interspersed with impromptu questions for king and queen candidates. The answers drew a variety of responses from laughter to amazement. One young man surprised the crowd by belting out a few lines of his favorite Johnny Cash song, "Ring of Fire."

"I've been honored and delighted to judge LipJam for the past four years. The skits are entertaining and usually funny, too," said Mary Johns, Executive Director, Marinette/Menominee Area Chamber of Commerce. "The Scouts are incredibly talented and appealing and they bring a fresh approach to the music and dancing. Sometimes you just want to get up and dance with them."

But there's a lot more to the annual Bay Jammer event than light-hearted entertainment. There's also an incredible amount of physical competition. Swimming, log rolling, tug-of-war, volleyball and more than a dozen other events keep the young visitors busy.

"I liked the different variety of activities, there's something for everybody," said Sean Driscoll of Fort Wayne, Ind. The 18-year-old Eagle Scout took part in several events including the triathlon, marlin spike canoe race, pulling and maneuvering, tug-of-war and LipJam.

Driscoll has been in scouting since the fourth grade and is now the president of Venture Crew 2344.

Venture Crew 224 out of Fargo arrived with five Scouts, three crew leaders and a ton of gear. Sharon Van Bruggen and her husband Rodney only found out about the event eight months ago. They pitched the idea to the kids and the next thing you know the Scouts were holding brat and rummage sales and cleaning yards to help raise money for the trip.

"I like the program. I think it's great," said Sharon. "I wish we would have known about it sooner. However, I think, all in all, it's good. I'm glad we came."

A tight event schedule didn't allow for sight-seeing around the community but it did give young people from different parts of the country an opportunity to interact.

"It's so packed with activities, there's not a lot of downtime," said Driscoll. "It would be nice if we could get more Ventures to come to this."

Kevin Shadle, crew advisor for Troop 2344 in Fort Wayne said the location was perfect. "Close proximity is nice. The fact that it was basically right along the marina here, I'm impressed."

While the weekend was hot, the event managed to avoid any stormy weather. "The weather has been awesome," said Shadle. "I was really worried about how they said it was going to rain last (Saturday) night."

Driving hundreds of miles in a hot car to visit a city you've never heard of and to spend three days with people you've never met isn't exactly on the top of the fun list for most 17-year-olds.

But Alex Nilles isn't most 17-year-olds. The Scout from Fargo soaked up as much as he could from his first Bay Jammer experience. He took part in the mini-Olympics, volleyball, sand sculpture and canoe race and he said he'd like to come back again next year and do it all over again.

Nilles said he enjoyed meeting and talking with fellow Scouts. "It really helps with social interaction because you meet all these new people from all these different places."

The camaraderie of the young people didn't escape the eyes of one community leader. "Bay Jammer participants in general give me faith that our future is in good - and talented - hands," said Johns of the chamber.

Next year's event is already in the planning stages.