Rochester boy scouts give back with annual turkey dinner

Nov 14, 2022

ROCHESTER — Down a muddy path and into the woods near Snipatuit Pond in Rochester, the Boy Scouts of Troop 31 spent the morning of Saturday, Nov. 12 preparing a feast. 

The troop of 20 registered Boy Scouts placed eight turkeys inside clean aluminum garbage cans. Then, they tied the lids shut with wire and roasted the birds over a 15-foot fire pit in the forest. 

This was in preparation for the Scouts’ annual turkey dinner, a tradition so old that none of the scout leaders present remember when it started, said Scout Leader Kevin Gretton.

Every year, explained Gretton, the boys of Troop 31 head out into the forest and cook up a Thanksgiving meal for the Rochester community. 

“It’s a way to say thank you to all the groups and all the people that have supported the troop throughout the year,” said Gretton, who was on cherry cobbler duty, cooking the dessert in a dutch oven. 

Meanwhile, Scout Leader Ed Brown cooked up a few batches of brownies inside a cardboard oven that was wrapped in foil and loaded with hot coals.

Usually the boys spend the entire weekend camping outdoors, said Gretton, but due to high winds and the threat of falling branches, the troop got to head home each night. 

Scoutmaster Kevin Thompson said that the Rochester Boy Scouts are not a “one-man show in any way, shape or form.” Past Eagle Scouts who aged out of the program and parents of scouts joined the team to cook food at the fire pit. 

“Most troops think that the scoutmaster does it all, but everybody does awesome stuff — everybody's got a role, and they'll do what they got to do,” said Thompson. “[We are] trying to show the kids how it's supposed to be done instead of just telling them.”

After the Scouts cooked the food, hungry parents, community members and Boy Scouts filed into the Rochester Grange Hall and sat at three 30-seat tables, ready to eat and celebrate the community. 

Guests enjoyed all the usual Thanksgiving staples like mashed potatoes, stuffing, squash and cranberry sauce along with their turkey. 

Volunteers, like Krystle Empey, spent hours in the kitchen at the Grange Hall preparing “all the fixings.”

“We get here around 10 a.m. and start cooking. We have the older boys come down and peel potatoes for us so that they're more involved,” Empey said.

Scout Blake Gagne, who first became a Cub Scout in 2013, said that his favorite part of the event was finally getting to eat after a long day in the woods. 

The night was capped by the Scouts’ “Court of Honor,” a ceremony where merit badges and promotions were awarded to the scouts in attendance. 

Many Scouts took home badges in areas like small boat sailing, basketry, camping and environmental science while a few younger members of the troop were promoted to full-fledged Boy Scouts.

“[This event showcases] to the town what we're doing,” said Thompson, who presided over the Court of Honor. “We're here to help the town, we're here to help the community as a whole wherever we can.”