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Paynesville Press - July 24, 2002

Girl Scouts travel to Washington, D.C.

By Ryan Flanders

Girl Scouts at Washington Monument This summer eight Paynesville Girl Scouts ventured out to Washington, D.C., for the 90th anniversary of the Girl Scouts organization. They participated in the largest ever Girl Scout sing-along at the Washington Monument with 100,000 other girl scouts, and also took the opportunity to tour other national monuments.

Pictured in front of the Washington Monument are (left to right): Courtney Colbert, Amanda Skalicky, Annie Bertram, Lauren Vaske, Lindsey Pelton, Sidney Moser, Jane Leitzman (chaperone), and Carla Leitzman.

The girls went with a group organized by Dawn Blume of Belgrade and the Land O' Lakes Girl Scout Council. Blume had initially anticipated bringing approximately 50 area Girl Scouts, but by the time they left for the trip 178 Girl Scouts from International Falls to Minneapolis had joined the group. By plane, the trip would have cost $900 per person, but by taking three Richfield buses instead, the cost was reduced to a more affordable $350.

Due to security concerns, stemming from the September 11 terrorist attacks, many of the Paynesville girls did not go on the annual eighth grade Washington, D.C., trip last spring. "This was sort of a second chance for some of the girls to see Washington," said Shelby Vaske, chaperone for the Paynesville girls.

Along with Vaske, Jane Leitzman helped chaperone the group, which included Lauren Vaske, Amanda Skalicky, Laura Skalicky, Lindsey Pelton, Courtney Colbert, Annie Bertram, Sidney Moser, and Carla Leitzman.

On the first day in Washington, D.C., after a 27-hour bus ride, the girls went in different directions to explore the city. "We got on the subway and just went all day," said Vaske.

Before touring the national monuments, the girls went as a group to the teenage rock and roll monument - Hard Rock Cafe. "It was right next to the Ford's Theater, so we thought it was a fair trade-off," said Vaske with a smile.

"Everything in D.C. seemed to be in the same place," said Vaske. "You'd turn the corner and there was something else." Vaske's first impression of Washington, D.C., was that it was clean and spotless. "The people were all very helpful," she said.

After doing some shopping, the girls toured the Reagan building and the White House grounds. They were unable to get a tour of the inside of the White House, however, because tours are currently not being given for security purposes.

Because many of the sights in Washington, D.C., were national monuments, they were often free for the public. "I was surprised that most things were free," said Vaske. She thought it was funny that at the national monuments all of the employees were dressed like park rangers.

The group also saw Arlington National Cemetery, the changing of the guard, and JFK's tomb.

"It really was awe inspiring. You see pictures in books, but you can't imagine what the places are really like until you see them in person," said Vaske.

In the evening, the lighting at the monuments was spectacular, said Vaske. Her favorite was the FDR memorial, which made the former president's words seem real with quotes carved in stone.

The group stayed in a dorm at American University, which also helped make the trip more affordable.

The next day the group participated in the celebration of the 90th anniversary of the Girl Scout organization. The sing-along was led by well-known folk singers who were former Girl Scouts themselves. The girls covered the entire area around the Washington Monument, said Vaske.

"I think the girls liked knowing they were part of something bigger," said Vaske.

The sing-along also provided an opportunity for the girls to socialize with other girl scouts from all over the country. As is customary, the girl scouts "swapped" pins and other small items with one another to have something to remember them by. The Paynesville girls swapped Minnesota pins.

The group left the sing-along a bit early because they had tickets for the Holocaust Museum.

On their final day the group traveled to Philadelphia, where the girls were recruited for the Continental Army by Benjamin Franklin during a living historical tour. They were taught how to fight when they were put through musket and bayonet training. "It brought everything to life that they'd seen in pictures or read about," said Vaske.

They also stopped at the Liberty Bell and took a Betsy Ross tour. When the group went to get some Philadelphia pretzels, they by chance stumbled upon a parade, which they soon figured out was held by a Gay Pride organization. "That was an eye opener!" said Vaske.

The groups' eyes were opened by many of the stops on their tour through Washington, D.C. "I think the trip helped the girls to have more pride in their country, and to realize how unique our capital is," said Vaske.

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