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30 years of Odyssey of the Mind to be heralded with city street fair before state contest

By GREG HAYES

It's a celebration of both its return to the city and its 30 years of existence in the state that is going beyond the imagination of its organizers.

On April 10, the Pennsylvania Odyssey of the Mind state tournament will return for a second year to the Williamsport Area High School.

Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program that "fosters creative thinking and problem-solving skills among participating students from kindergarten through college," according to the program's Web site.

Each year, students are presented with five new competitive problems and judged on how creatively and accurately they develop a solution. This year's problems are: "Nature Trail'r," "Return to the Gift of Flight," "Discovered Treasures," "Column Structure" and "Food Court."

Among the 155 teams qualified to attend the state tournament, 10 local school districts and organizations have secured their spot at the competition after showcasing their critical thinking skills at the regional competition at Mansfield University on March 13.

Jerry Owens of Williamsport, director of the state tournament, said 1,042 students are expected to attend the event.

Upon bringing the tournament here last year from Altoona, where the state tournament was held for 20 years, organizers were determined to create not just a tournament but a community event.

"The community has responded in ways we never could have imagined," Owens said.

To help commemorate the program's 30 years in the state, the city and a band of local businesses and organizations are planning two public events that will herald the tournament's arrival Friday night.

The program's state chapter is hosting a street fair, an event sponsored by the city. It will be held on West Fourth Street between Hepburn and William streets.

The fair will run from 5 to 8 p.m., featuring a variety of food vendors and music by the Billtown Bus Stop Radio Hour Artists of the Year as well as the Williamsport Area High School Improv troupe "Without a Cue."

In addition, Squonk Opera, a multimedia performance troupe from Pittsburgh, will cap off the evening's celebration beginning at 8 p.m. at the Community Arts Center, by exhibiting its latest performance of "Mayhem and Majesty."

The opera - led by vocalist Autumn Ayers, a former South Williampsort resident - has performed in more than 200 venues throughout the country and on Broadway, as well as having toured Europe and Asia.

The group's latest show is an exploration of music, with "mesmerizing projections and constantly transforming scenery" to visually represent the emotional reactions to music, according to the opera's Web site.

The group describes "Mayhem and Majesty" as having the ability to "take your eyes to the wondrous place your ears have long kept secret."

According to event organizer Henriette Evans, the group's musical ingenuity and performance mimics "the spirit and creativity that OotM instills in the kids."

"Odyssey of the Mind participants have to explore the depth of their creativity to present the solution to their problem while using minimal resources," she added.

In jest, Owens said his son Jeremy describes the Squonk Opera as "Odyssey of the Mind on steroids and a professional budget."

Tickets are available for purchase online or at the box office at the Community Arts Center, and will be sold at the door the night of the concert one hour before the show.

For photos, video and more information on the Squonk Opera, visit www.squonkopera.org.

Area teams set to perform at the state competition, along with their regional finishes:

Williamsport Area School District

Division II, Curtin Middle School, Food Court, first.

Loyalsock Township District

Division I, Schick Elementary School, Nature Trail'r, second.

Division II, Loyalsock Middle School, Nature Trail'r, first.

Division II, Loyalsock Middle School, Return to the Gift of Flight, first.

Division II, Loyalsock Middle School, Food Court, second.

Division III, Loyalsock High School, Discovered Treasures, first.

St. John Neumann Regional Academy

Division I, St. John Neumann Elementary School, Nature Trail'r, first.

Division III, St. John Neumann High School, Return to the Gift of Flight, first.

Division II, St. John Neumann High School, Discovered Treasures, first.

Division I, St. John Neumann Elementary School, Food Court, first.

Montgomery Area School District

Division III, Montgomery High School, Nature Trail'r, second.

Division I, Montgomery Elementary School, Column Structure, first.

Division II, Montgomery Middle School, Column Structure, first.

Division III, Montgomery High School, Column Structure, first.

Montoursville Area School District

Division I, Loyalsock Valley Elementary School, Discovered Treasures, first.

Division I, Lyter Elementary School, Food Court, third.

Community Theatre League

Division III, Community Theatre League, Food Court, second.

Southern Tioga School District

Division I, Liberty Elementary School, Return to the Gift of Flight, first.

Division II, Liberty Elementary School, Return to the Gift of Flight, second.

Wellsboro Area School District

Division II, Wellsboro Middle School Team B, Column Structure, second.

Millville School District

Division I, Millville Elementary School, Return to the Gift of Flight, second.

Lewisburg Area School District

Division III, Lewisburg High School, Discovered Treasures, second.

Division I, Linntown Intermediate School, Column Structure, second.

Division III, Lewisburg High School, Column Structure, second.


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