Girl Scouts prepare for 100th anniversary
Monday, March 28, 2011
Posted by: jennifer punch
Retrieved from: http://savannahnow.com/news/2011-03-26/girl-scouts-prepare-100th-anniversary
Expect sea of girls in blue, green and khaki as Girl Scouts prepare for golden anniversary
By G.G. Rigsby
Savannah has lots of Girl Scout visitors, but soon it’s going to have even more.
They’re gearing up for their 100th anniversary a year from this spring, and what better place to spend it than the city where the organization began?
"It’s insane,” said Fran Powell Harold, who has been director of Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low’s birthplace for 29 years.
"The phone is ringing off the hook. We have no openings.”
Even though the anniversary is a year away — on March 12, 2012 — the birthplace already has five times the usual number of reservations for tours next year – more than 10,000.
Five thousand uniformed girls — a sea of blue, green and khaki — are expected to walk across the Talmadge Memorial Bridge on Saturday, March 10, 2012, to symbolically "bridge” to the second century of the girl scouts.
Many are expected to stay for a sunrise service in Forsyth Park two days later on March 12, the actual 100th birthday.
"If you’re into Girl Scouts, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Joe Marinelli, president of Visit Savannah. "For Scouts and past Scouts and for Savannah, it’s a big deal.”
"It’s business that fills many of the suburban and affordable hotels,” he said.
"It’s great business for hotels on the Southside and at the airport.” Restaurants, retail stores and other tourism attractions also benefit from such visits.
The economic impact of Girl Scout visitors is hard to estimate because, Harold said, no specific studies have been done.
But she said the number of visitors to the Low house has risen from 20,000 a year 29 years ago to 63,000 a year in 2010, a 10-percent increase over 2009.
She said Scouts tend to stay at least three nights and many, especially the ones from farther away, stay a week and are known for filling their days with activities.
"They do everything,” she said. "They want to make those girls tired so they’ll fall asleep at night.”
Girl Scouts typically go on dolphin cruises, go to the Marine Science Center on Tybee, climb the Tybee Lighthouse and take ghost walks and carriage rides.
"It’s huge,” Harold said of the economic impact. "It’s like having 13 or 14 conventions of 1,000 people.”
The Low house is doing its best to accommodate as many girls as possible during the anniversary year. It usually has five full tours a day, has upped that to six and still is completely booked on many days.
Add three walk-through tours each day and people who drop by without reservations, and up to 800 people a day tour the house.
The staff will offer abbreviated tours the week of the anniversary. They hope 1,200 people will be able to see the house on those days.
The celebration also has translated into more bookings this year. Want to visit the house in June or July of this year? If your troop is small, you might be able to tag along with a larger group.
Otherwise, August is the earliest opening.
Harold said she’s trying to fit in as many tours as possible.
Troops must pay three months in advance, and there will be cancellations.
"We’ll have people who couldn’t raise the money to come,” she said. "And we don’t know where gas prices are going.
New books to raise Scouts’ profile
Four major biographies of Low are scheduled to be released at the end of this year and in 2012.
"It won’t be ‘The Book,’ but I think it’ll increase interest in Savannah as a destination,” Harold said. "And we might finally get a movie about her life.”
Harold said Low is inspiring to everyone, especially since she was 51 years old when she founded the Girl Scouts.
"It’s never too late in life,” Harold said.
The bridge walk may attract even more attention.
Ruby Gettinger, a Savannah woman who has a reality show on the Style network that follows her struggles to lose weight, has met with Harold to talk about walking with the girls across the Talmadge Bridge.
Gettinger doesn’t remember being a Scout, but she has a photo of herself in a Scout uniform.
She would like to help girls learn about healthy eating and living and to love themselves no matter what size they are, Harold said.
The local council, the Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia, has been celebrating the upcoming anniversary for three years.
Starting in 2009, they focused on community service, setting a goal of completing 100,000 hours by the anniversary and have completed more than 69,000 hours.
They held food, book and clothing drives. They visited nursing homes and sent cookies to service members overseas.
This year, the focus is on "history and heritage,” with a drive to reconnect with Girl Scout alumnae, who are encouraged to get involved again.
The last year, themed "Bridging to the Future,” begins with a trip to Houston, for the national convention of the Girl Scouts of the USA this November.
The Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia, which has 15,000 members in 125 counties, will host events for girls of all ages and invite them to Low’s birthplace.
Those young female visitors often turn into Savannah residents.
"I can’t tell you how many people have told me they moved to Savannah because they came here with their Girl Scout troop,” Harold said. "They fall in love with the city and want to go to college here.”
One example — Tara Panzo, marketing manager for the local Girl Scout council. She grew up near Pittsburgh and first came to Savannah with 30 Scouts in the summer after seventh grade.
During the visit, she and her mother learned about the Savannah College of Art and Design, where she wound up going to college.
"Here I am today,” she said, "all because of Girl Scouts.”
• Bridge ceremony and party: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 10, 2012. Girl Scouts ages 10 and up will walk from Hutchinson Island, across the Talmadge Memorial Bridge, to downtown Savannah to symbolically "bridge” to the second century of the organization. A sing-along in Forsyth Park will follow, led by Melinda Caroll of Hawaii, a composer and performer of Girl Scout songs.
• Sunrise ceremony: Monday, March 12, 2012. Girl Scouts will celebrate the official 100th anniversary at Forsyth Park.
• National camporee: June 24-29, 2012. Girl Scouts from across the nation will spend a week celebrating the 100th anniversary at the Georgia Garrison Training Center at Fort Stewart.
• Coin: 2013. The U.S. Mint will produce 350,000 silver dollar coins honoring the Girl Scouts, with $10 from the sale of each coin going to fund renovations at the Juliette Gordon Low birthplace.
Last year, the number of visitors to the Juliette Gordon Low birthplace increased by 10 percent, to 63,431. Of those, 13,480 were Girl Scouts in troops and 3,681 were Girl Scouts not in troops. Troops from 44 different states visited. Individual Girl Scouts came from all 50 states.
Girls ages 5 to 18 must accept the Girl Scout promise and law and pay a $12 membership fee or have someone pay it on their behalf.
FAMOUS GIRL SCOUTS
Melissa Sue Anderson
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Sandra Day O’Connor
Jada Pinkett Smith
Sally K. Ride
Mary Tyler Moore
Source: Girl Scouts of the USA
On my honor, I will try:
To serve God and my country,
To help people at all times,
And to live by the Girl Scout Law.
I will do my best to be
honest and fair,
friendly and helpful,
considerate and caring,
courageous and strong, and
responsible for what I say and do,
respect myself and others,
use resources wisely,
make the world a better place, and
be a sister to every Girl Scout.
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