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Odyssey is a journey of the mind, complete with costumes

By Raja Abdulrahim

95 teams from across the region come together to test their creativity and problem-solving skills

Goshen -- To the uninitiated, Odyssey of the Mind seems more Halloween party in February than one of the biggest competitions this area's school children compete in.

In one of the many buildings at Orange-Ulster BOCES yesterday where the regional competition was held, the first thing you see is a blue and red glitter sign, propped up against the wall, reading "Welcome To King Burger."

A man walks by carrying a strange blue-painted wood contraption. He's followed by a girl wearing cat ears.

In the hallway, there are crowds of kids in penguin suits, at least one mummy and painted faces.

This Odyssey of the Mind is perhaps more of a journey of the eyes.

Elementary through high school students, in 95 teams, competed yesterday from Orange, Ulster, Sullivan and Dutchess counties.

Though work for the 8-minute skits began in the summer or early fall, it is a competition that doesn't seem to take itself too seriously.

It lacks the large medical or chemical words of the science fair, the long quadratic equations of a math competition or the waxing poetics of an oratorical competition.

Here, creativity is the main course and it comes with a generous side of humor.

Even the judges, often the most austere members of a competitive forum, wear funny props like a sombrero, top hat or a lei. The theme is "Around the World in Eight Minutes," and before a performance, one judge would ask, "Judges, are you ready?"

They answer, in their best child-stuck-in-a-back-seat imitation, "Are we there yet?"

"Oh yeah, you've got to have fun," said Nic Vesely, 14, a ninth-grader in the Pine Bush School District.

"It's laid back," agreed one of his teammates, 15-year-old Dan Stack.

The two, along with other teammates, built a rectangular vehicle made of wood and covered with chicken wire and paper mache. They named it the Capillary Venular System.

They wore their gold medals, indicating a first-place finish and ticket to state level, over bright orange shirts that read: "There are no problems ... Only opportunities to be creative."

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