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Two young girls held onto opposite ends of a crosscut saw Saturday afternoon, pulling and pushing with all their might to slice off the end of a log.

They stood inside the Shrine Auditorium, protective goggles strapped to their heads and work gloves on their hands, working together to finish their task. The pair had come to the inaugural Believe in Girls (B.I.G) Expo in Billings, sponsored by Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming to try out all sorts of things.

The sawing booth, manned by female members of the Montana Conservation Corps, drew a steady line of girls and a few boys. Another booth just across the way offered a different kind of experience.

Girls there sat in chairs for a little pampering. Technicians from the Academy of Nail, Skin and Hair painted the girls' nails with a rainbow of colors or lightly made up their young clients' faces.

More than 1,000 girls, boys, parents and Scout leaders visited the five-hour B.I.G. Expo. The kids tried everything from climbing a rock wall to putting a golf ball, panning for gold, playing a race car video game and making an origami bunny.

The idea of the event, said Anna Paige, Girl Scouts communications and marketing specialist, was to show how varied the activities are in which members take part. The local organizations and businesses that ran the 26 booths were asked to provide a hands-on component for the girls to experience, Paige said.

"We want to show the public what Girl Scouting is all about," Paige said.

Girls Scouts, ages 5 to 17, do everything from camping and service projects to traveling to other countries, she said.

"We're building future leaders and there are all types of program opportunities," Paige said.

The girls also listened to singer-songwriter Stephanie Quayle, a Montana-based country recording artist, give them a pep talk about grabbing onto a dream and not letting go.

Quayle told her audience that she started singing when she was very small.

"I didn't know my dream could come true," she said, sitting in a chair on the main floor surrounded by girls.

She traveled to Europe in her mid-teens and got the opportunity to sing with a band. When she came back to the U.S., she decided to put in the hard work to have a singing career.

She encouraged the girls figure out what they love to do and then to give it all they've got. She also told them not to give up, no matter what.

"A lot of people tell you you can't," Quayle said. "Just keep going."

Quayle talked about the importance of school, of teamwork and the value of friendship. She sang a couple of songs for them, and then they scattered to do more activities.

Aila Snyder, 10, a fifth-grade Girl Scout from Miles City, came to the expo with her troop. She enjoyed shooting hoops at one of the booths, she said, and was looking forward to wall climbing.

Debi Freier, a longtime Scout leader from Miles City, brought her troop and the youngest of her four daughters. Her other daughters, now grown, also went through the Scouting program and got a lot out of it.

"Girl Scouts has helped my older girls to be more independent and well-rounded adults," Freier said. "It helped them learn to speak up, and it gave them a lot of confidence."

Back at the Montana Conservation Corps booth, Trista Garrity, an MCC crew leader, helped the young participants saw through the wood. Garrity is a former Girl Scout herself.

"I think it's important for girls to know they can do anything," she said. "We spent the whole summer doing this in the woods."

While on the job she often got comments from people surprised that women did that sort of thing.

"It's what I love to do, and I want to inspire other girls," she said Saturday.

Contact Susan Olp at solp@billingsgazette.com or 657-1281.

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General Assignment and Health Care Reporter

General assignment and healthcare reporter at The Billings Gazette.