The Boy Scouts of America, Greater Tampa Bay Area Council may have said “let it snow” to organizers of the Snow Bash at its 1,300-acre Sand Hill Scout Reservation near Brooksville, but that’s leaving some to wonder why it rained on the parade of the Brooksville Raid organizers.
In June, COVID-19 concerns were one of the primary reasons the Scouts gave for denying use of the reservation for the 2021 Civil War reenactment set for January, resulting in its cancellation.
But the Scouts are hosting the SEED Foundation’s Snow Bash public event Nov. 28 at the reservation. Travis Johnston, president of the North Pinellas Scouts Sertoma Club, which puts on the raid, is confused. The reenactment has been held at the reservation for years and the 2021 event would have been the 40th raid.
“COVID was the No. 1 reason given (by the Scouts for canceling the raid) and lack of profit was second,” said Johnston, whose club has given $180,000 to the Scouts over the past 20 years. That’s in addition to money the Scouts have made from camping and other fees from the public attending the raid, he added.
Johnston said he received a text from Tampa Scout Council CEO Jim Rees on June 18. It opened with “I hope you are well and that you have navigated the challenges of COVID-19 effectively.” It concluded with the scout council committee “will not continue with this event (the raid) at Sand Hill Scout Reservation.” In a phone call following the news, Johnston said he was told COVID-19 concerns were the main reason, along with a lack of profit from the event.
Johnston said while the pandemic and profit were the two reasons given to him by the Scouts, he and some others don’t think it was a coincidence that the withdrawal came three days after the Boy Scouts of America’s June 15 message stating support for Black Lives Matter. The racial justice movement under the BLM banner has been critical of Civil War monuments and tributes that might be seen as glorifying a pro-slavery Confederacy. Johnston and fans of the raid wondered if the Scouts saw the raid as politically problematic.
Johnston believes that despite COVID-19 concerns in June, it was too early to cancel use of the reservation six months out. He said it is “interesting” that the Scouts gave a green light to the Snow Bash even though COVID-19 remains a problem. Current data shows the virus spiking in Florida, a rise in cases beginning at the end of September statewide and mirrored in Hernando County.
Johnston said his club has not approached the Scouts and believes the Scout Council would not reconsider for the 2021 raid. But in light of it allowing the Snow Bash despite COVID-19, he “would be curious to know what they would say.”
Rees did not respond to text and voice messages seeking a comment for this story.
Johnston said his club continues to look for a new site for the raid and has a few prospects, though none will pan out by January. If the raid does ever return, it won’t be until at least 2022, he said.
Johnston said his club may reapply to use the Sand Hill reservation for the 2022 event, but added he’s not hopeful.