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Bears, badges and bridges: Grandfather Mountain’s 52nd annual Girl Scout Day

The Wilson Center for Nature Discovery welcomes Girl Scouts to the mountain Sept. 23, 2023.

Sept. 23 was a cloudy, cold and windy day on Grandfather Mountain, but amidst the gloomy weather, or perhaps even in spite of it, was a group of happy and cheerful individuals there to learn about and enjoy the great outdoors. 

The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation hosted their 52nd annual Girl Scout Day at Grandfather Mountain Saturday. Girl Scouts and their troop leaders could enter the park without paying for admission, and family members of the scouts received a discount on their ticket fee. 

Sarah Lowery, the director of communications for the Stewardship Foundation, said the event is in line with the Stewardship Foundation’s mission to engage with younger generations and inspire them to love Grandfather Mountain and the natural world. 

This year, Girl Scout Day ended with a very special ceremony. 

“Something really special about this year is the Bear Scout ceremony that wraps up the day,” Lowery said. 

In 1971, the stewardship foundation adopted the girl scouts, and in return, the scouts presented the mascot of Grandfather Mountain, Mildred the bear, with a unique Girl Scout pin, Lowery said. 

This year, the scouts made the five female bears who live in captivity at Grandfather honorary Girl Scouts as a way of harkening back to the original pinning of Mildred. 

The Bear Scout ceremony took place at the bear exhibit on the stewardship’s campus. The bears were presented with Girl Scout cookies embossed with their names and a plaque recognizing their status as Girl Scouts. 

Jennifer Wilcox, the CEO of Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont, said they have an incredible partnership with

Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation. 

Wilcox said one of the program pillars of girl scouting, dating back to 1912, is getting girls outside.

“When partners like Grandfather Mountain take the opportunity to invite Girl Scouts and their troops and their families to this amazing facility for an all day experience, it is such an amazing way that we are able to provide the opportunity to our girls to just explore the world around them,” she said. 

Before the bears received their tasty treats, Wilcox gave a speech to the crowd of eager young girls and their leaders. 

“Currently, there are 1.7 million Girl Scouts nationwide, and one of the first things they learn when they begin their journey is the Girl Scout Promise and Law, teaching them the core values of what it means to be a Girl Scout,” Wilcox said in her speech.

Members of the crowd salute as they recite the Girl Scout Promise and Law at the Bear Scout ceremony Sept. 23, 2023.
(Briley Turpin )

As Wilcox concluded her speech, the crowd of Girl Scouts from all over the country raised their hands in salute to recite the Girl Scout Promise and Law in front of the five bears.

When the bears were given their cookies at the conclusion of the ceremony, the crowd went wild. There was a tangible feeling of pride and excitement about the mission of the Girl Scouts that expanded beyond the children to everyone who was watching the ceremony. 

In addition to the Bear Scout ceremony, the day was full of fun activities and memorable programs. In the morning, Girl Scouts and their troop leaders could walk through the woods on a scavenger hunt, watch for hawks at the Mile High Swinging Bridge and meet the snakes, tarantulas and frogs. 

In the afternoon, there was a Leave No Trace workshop to teach kids how to protect the environment when exploring nature, a class about the life of a honey bee and an opportunity to see some hawks and owls up close and personal. 

Trish Reed is a former middle school science teacher and an interpretive park guide at the mountain who helped organize Girl Scout Day.

“We just want girls outdoors doing things. Our emphasis today is all about outdoor activities,” Reed said. 

Troops from all over the state and the region flocked to the mountain Saturday to take part in the festivities. Iny Smith, a troop leader from Greenville, South Carolina, brought both of her troops up to the mountain as part of the group’s annual camping trip.

Iny Smith and members of her troop overlooking the bear enclosure during the Bear Scout ceremony Sept. 23, 2023.
(Briley Turpin )

“We drove two and a half hours to be here today, and the girls are just having the best time,” Smith said while the young girls in her troop ran around the Wilson Center for Nature Discovery. “Girl Scouts Peaks to Piedmont has great programs to get the girls involved, so we decided to join in on the fun.”

Carolyn Brickey, the board president Girl Scouts Carolinas Piedmont to Peaks, emphasized how grateful she is to Grandfather Mountain for hosting the girls and their families on the mountain.

“We always love when they open their doors to us during the annual Girl Scout Day, giving the girls access to one of the most unique attractions and outdoor resources here in the mountains of North Carolina,” Brickey said.

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Briley Turpin
Briley Turpin, A&C Editor
Briley Turpin (she/her) is a senior communications major with a criminal justice minor.
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