KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Thousands of scouts and adult leaders from around the country who are members of the Boy Scout’s Order of the Arrow are in Knoxville this week for their national conference.

It’s been 22 years since the National Order of the Arrow Conference was last held in Knoxville. WATE’s Don Dare, who is an Order of the Arrow member, visited the campus to find out what the scouts will be doing throughout the week.

The Order of the Arrow began more than 100 years ago. OA, as it is known, recognizes scouts who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives and emphasizes camping and service.

“This national gathering of the National Order of the Arrow is our opportunity that we hold every other year for people to gather as one organization and have a week of fun and fellowship to bring all of our best minds together to create ideas to better our future, and better our organization,” said Tim Reiss, national OA chief.

Nearly 6,000 OA members and nearly another 1,000 adult members will participate in various activities around the campus all week. Patch trading is a favorite of both young and older OA members. Wherever you see a gathering, they’re trading patches.

“I love the community here. Everyone gets along with people from all over the nation talking. It’s also different; you don’t get that everywhere,” said Emily Sallustio from Orlando, Fla.

Different members expressed how important it was to network and speak with other people from different places.

“I love meeting new people. I think one of my favorite things is you can scan people, and you get to meet people you never knew before. I think I just met someone from Colorado; it’s crazy,” said Reece Fulton, an Arkansas OA member.

The OA members have come from across the United States. This week their adventures center around activities on and off the campus. There are about 105,000 active members located in lodges affiliated with local councils across the country.

“The young men and women we serve we’re the honor society of boy scouts. They are the best of the best. They are dedicated to the same principles of brotherhood, cheerfulness, and service,” said Chris Grove, national OA chairman.

Over the weekend, an OA service team from the host council and Great Smoky Mountain Council in Knoxville assisted in proving the muscle power to set up exhibits and activities planned around the campus and the World Fair’s Exhibition Hall.

“Our job is to aid and support all the other committees in helping NOAC as a whole be a complete success. The service corps that we have is about 140 people spanning from the local Arrowmen from here Knoxville Tennesse to gentlemen in the national area council,” said Teddy Moneymaker, OA service team leader.

NOACs are always held on university campuses. The University of Tennessee has now hosted four of these national events. This is also the first NOAC held since 2018 since the previous event was cancelled due to the pandemic.