Evo forest came alive with Scouts and Guides on Friday. To the sounds of bagpipes, drums, and yells, each sub-camp’s hoards made their way into the Arena, in an orderly fashion, to take their places before the Opening could kick-off.

Along the way, we asked some participants to reflect on the journey they’d undertaken to get to Kajo and its first arena event. “Well, it took a while, ” admitted Jenny, one of nine participants from Kajo’s Australian Contingent, from the LOISTE sub-camp, “48 hours in flights, but we’re glad to be here now.” “Yeh! We’re ready to settle in”, added fellow Australian, Rebecca.

As participants entered the arena, they began to realise the sheer awesomeness of the scale of 13,000 Scouts, all in one place. Many Insta-storying tik-tokers were to be seen panning their smartphones over the view before them, as they followed the directions of the stewards to find a place to sit.

The emcees on stage helped to build the anticipation. Shouting out sub-camp names so they would swing their scarves around. They also demonstrated self-shoulder rubs. Self-care is important, even in big events. Whenever the audience would see themselves on the big screen they waved, whooped and hollered. Some future Scouts, from the HIUKKANEN village, wore ear defenders, and sat in the lap of a parent, enjoying the show and clapping along to the lights and the sounds. 

”It’s so amazing to be here with so many Scouts,” said Caitlyn, from 6th Peace Arch Scouting in BC, Canada while finding a place among her FETONI campers. “I’m looking forward to sleeping afterwards,” added Lewin from the same Group. 

Before the main Opening, the warm up was mostly monolingually Finnish. With really long Finnish words on screen. But the visiting Scouts were undeterred. “I haven’t got a clue what’s going on”, said SÄDE’s Ronnie, from Essex Scouts in the UK,  “but what a time to be alive!”.  Katie from the same Group agreed:“We’re here for the vibes!”. 

Ready for the show to kick-off, Niels of 3rd Edmonton, described his first day at Kajo: “I sat in the woods and ate too many carrots,” he said, ”Finns really care about our eyesight!”. “This arena is confusing and exhilarating, but I’m having a great time!”. 

Before long, everyone had found their seat, and the Opening show commenced.The list of previous Finnborees was shown on screen, starting with Karelia in 1979 and ended with 2016’s Roihu’s logo disintegrating, and reforming into that of Kajo 2022. The jamboree band performed with dancers. Somebody shouted “Soittakaa Paranoid!”. 

The opening scenes of the story of Valo followed. Valo, a Scout, on her first camp, away from her parents, and her friends isn’t sure about coming to such a strange event. The negative voice of Kurra in her mind tells her to doubt herself, and to retreat to the safety of the darkness. Their story will continue during the week.

A key goal of Kajo is accessibility, so the scripted performances, while mainly in Finnish, included sur-titles in Swedish and English, with some signers translating into Finnish Sign Language. 

The Kajotaan theme song (which is also tri-lingual), was complemented by thousands of participants holding compact discs reflecting the stage lights, lighting up the now darkened sky. While swinging her scarf one last time, Saga from SÄDE, had a mishap. “My scarf was swinging on just my finger,” she explains, “but the watch on it  was too heavy and caused the scarf to go flying through the air.” She managed to rescue it a few moments later.  

As the show ended, and the participants started to file away back to their sites, FOTONI’s Thomas, from the Pink Panther Explorers in Edinburgh summed up the evening. “It was nice to see a lot of different nations come together in one big event.”  

Text: Ger Hennessy

Photo: Noora Kankare