“It Sparks With Us” opening show launches largest NOAC ever
By Zach Brown
Monday, some 15,000 Arrowmen packed into a single building for the first time in Order of the Arrow history. Michigan State University’s Breslin Student Events Center was bathed in sashes as enthusiastic Arrowmen eagerly waited the kick-off of the OA’s most anticipated event.
Monday’s opening show for the 2015 National Order of the Arrow Conference was the catalyst for this history-making gathering and set the stage for the OA’s week-long centennial celebration.
The opening show was called “It Sparks with Us.” It symbolized the use of the Spark device that everyone is using this week to learn and to meet people. Spark was created to not only create a healthy competitive environment but to help connect Arrowmen from across the nation. It was also designed to help build a social network and encourage networking after the event.
Upon arrival at MSU, every Arrowman was also given a special red centennial sash. The OA created the sashes as a symbol of unity as we celebrate our centennial here at NOAC. The sashes boast a common design with the dates of the Order’s anniversary stitched to replace the bars on the brotherhood sash. Likewise, the centennial totem takes the place of a Vigil Honor triangle on the sashes. Since they are part of the centennial celebration, the red sashes are only to be worn this week at NOAC.
The show began with a vibrant display of both spirit and unrivaled OA pride as 2015 Region Chiefs Joey Dierdorf, Alex Leach, Matt Bell and Nathan Lee led hundreds of Arrowmen across the stage, each carrying a banner from their home lodges. Cheers from the audience could be heard in a resounding roar as contingents searched for and celebrated their home lodge’s banner, signaling a century of fellowship and cheerful service.
Donnie Stephens, the 2015 national vice chief, then strode onto the stage to present the keynote speech. In his remarks, he focused on the importance of the century of service the Order has continuously provided to Scouting units nationwide. He also dove into the importance of member retention in both units and home lodges. Both points were introduced as keys for Arrowmen to take home and help shape the Order’s next century, reflecting once more on the theme of the conference, “It Starts with Us.”
Keeping the show’s momentum upbeat, 2015 National Chief Alex Call led the crowd in sending a message to Japan, where the World Jamboree is being hosted this week. The message consisted of emojis, or Japanese-style emoticons, that helped send a message from the Order while breaking the language barrier.
Following NOAC’s communication with the jamboree, Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brock appeared to speak of his gratitude to the OA and the importance of its service to Scouting over time. He also highlighted the effort of ArrowCorps5, a project under which Arrowmen served to build and repair trails in five national forests.
To end the show, Call returned and issued the final charge for the week. His words echoed the significance of the conference as he challenged everyone inside the Breslin Center to spend every second of their lives to embody the Order’s ideals.