A group of Boy Scouts left Columbus rather tentatively on a sailing adventure in the Florida Keys this spring. They returned as confident, bold leaders.

Virginia Moats, a longtime leader with the Boy Scouts of America Hoosier Trails Council, loves to see such transformations as she accompanies the youngsters. In fact, she says Scouts’ lessons of character development never have been more needed than today.

“I get to tell parents when we return (from such trips), ‘I promise you that I brought you back a different kid,’” Moats said.

Such fulfilling outings are one reason why Moats coordinates the annual Boy Scouts of America Hoosier Trails Council Wine-a-Ree wine and beer-tasting festival from noon to 6 p.m. Nov. 5 at The Commons, 300 Washington St. in Columbus. The event, which includes silent auction, attracted about 900 people last year and netted $28,000, Moats said.

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Jon Ocheltree, senior district executive with the Bloomington-based Hoosier Trails Council’s Lenni Lenappe District, mentioned that the event has become area Scouts’ largest fundraiser by far.

“Nothing else we do even comes close,” Ocheltree said. “It fills a much-needed gap in our budget.”

Money covers everything from maintenance at Maumee Scout Reservation in Norman to supplies for a broad range of merit badges.

“All nonprofits these days need everything they can get (financially),” Ocheltree said.

The Wine-a-Ree vendor line-up will include 13 wineries, four craft breweries and three specialized craft vendors, Moats said. Plus, First Class Catering in Columbus will provide lighter-fare food.

The addition of craft breweries has not only expanded the crowd but slightly mixed the demographic, Moats said.

“It actually seems to be attracting more guys,” Moats said. “Up until recently, the target audience had been women.”

Females still constitute most of the crowd at the gathering, though.

The auction will include items such as an autographed John Mellencamp guitar, courtesy of This Old Guitar Store in Seymour, a week’s stay at a Florida condo and tours from de Tours of Indiana Wines.

To help make sure attendees show restraint and to make certain there are no problems, three uniformed police officers are on hand throughout the day, organizers said.

“But we’ve never, ever had a problem in our seven years,” Moats said.

Ticket prices are $5 higher than last year. Part of the reason for the hike is to keep the crowd, which comes and goes throughout the day, from growing too large at any one point in The Commons, Moats said.

She expects attendance and proceeds to remain strong.

Cheers to the Scouts

What: Eighth Annual Boy Scouts of America Hoosier Trails Council Wine-a-Ree wine and beer-tasting festival. The fundraiser features a variety of wineries and craft beer brewers serving their product — and selling for customers to take home.

When: Noon to 6 p.m. Nov. 5.

Where: The Commons, 300 Washington St. in Columbus.

Food: Light fare provided by First Class Catering in Columbus.

Also: A few craft vendors also will be on hand selling their items.

Tickets: $25 in advance at hoosiertrailsbsa.org and $30 at the door.

Information: hoosiertrailsbsa.org.

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.