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Think-Off celebration June 12-13

Preparations for the two-day celebration of the Great American Think-Off debate are underway. The two-day celebration leads off with the Think-Off concert Friday, June 12 at 7:30 p.m., featuring the Cafe Accordion Orchestra. An optional dinner before the concert will be served at the Mills Creamery beginning at 5:30 p.m. Tickets to the concert are $10 advance sale and $12 at the door. Saturday at 7 p.m. the Think-Off debate will be held at the school auditorium. Tickets for the debate are $10 advance sale and $12 at the door. Through this Saturday, June 6 special discount tickets may be purchased for the two events together for $18. Call 218-385-3339 for tickets.

Café Accordion Orchestra (CAO) performs an eclectic mix of vintage Swing, Latin, American, and French Café Music. Their music evokes the repertoire of the Bal Musette orchestras, the bands that were popular in Parisian cafés and bistros in the 1920's through 1950's. The heart of this repertoire is the romantic, gypsy-influenced valse-musette or swing waltz. CAO complements the musettes with swing, ballads, tangos, paso dobles, boleros, rumbas, and cumbias to create a wonderfully varied show. While they inject their music with good humor and expressive abandon, their high level of musicianship and passion for performance makes them an entertaining concert act as well as a great dance band.

Café Accordion Orchestra is led by Dan Newton on accordion and vocals with Brian Barnes on guitar and vocals, Eric Mohring on mandolin, fiddle and vocals, Erik Lillestol on bass and Joe Steinger on percussion. The members have a combined total of over a century of experience with the likes of Prairie Home Companion, Stoney Lonesome, Bone Tones, The Nationals, Jumbo Ya Ya, Ethnic Dance.

On Saturday, the final four finalists debate the question:

"Is it ever wrong to do the right thing?"

The four contestants have amazingly varied backgrounds. One is a civil rights attorney. Another a retail businsessman. A third is a career Air Force Master Sargeant. And the fourth is a former journalist and environmental activist. Their essays were selected by the cultural center panel of reviewers from over 500 submitted to this year's contest.

Arguing that, yes, it is sometimes wrong to do the right thing are George Holley of Tucson, Arizona and John Pollock of Montgomery, Alabama.

George Holley was born in Roswell, NM in 1951. In 1969 Holley enrolled in The University of Arizona and completed a BS degree in economics. After graduation, he was employed by E.F. Hutton, a New York Stock Exchange Member Firm, in Tucson AZ. In 1994 he left the brokerage business and purchased a retail franchise. Mr. Holley enjoys playing golf, traveling and various areas of study including philosophy, religion and current events.

John Pollock is the ABA Civil Right to Counsel Fellow for the Public Justice Center (PJC) in Baltimore, MD, where he works to establish the right for indigent people to have a lawyer when their essential rights (housing, child custody, benefits) are threatened. Previously he worked for the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Central Alabama Fair Housing Center. John graduated from Wesleyan University in 1994 and Northeastern University School of Law in 2005. He currently lives in Montgomery, Alabama and telecommutes for PJC, although he is a displaced Yankee from "up North" (raised in New York, post-college years in Boston).

Erik G. Schultz of Washington, D.C. and Rick Nichols from Leavenworth, Kansas both argue that, no, it is never wrong to do the right thing.

Erik G. Schultz was born in 1972 has completed tours in the United Sates Air Force in Texas, Saudi Arabia, California, Alaska and Iraq. Erik, a 15-year Master Sergeant, is enrolled at the National Defense Intelligence College in Washington D.C., earning an undergraduate degree in National Defense. Erik is married and the father of two boys, a son at the US Air Force Academy studying to become a pilot and jump master and another who is an honor roll student in junior high and an accomplished athlete.

Rick Nichols is an essayist, environmental activist and former employment coach of adults with disabilities. Rick Nichols came full circle in 2001 when he returned to the city of his birth, Leavenworth, Kansas, with the purchase of a historic home overlooking the Missouri River. Rick belongs to Leavenworth's First Presbyterian Church, where he serves as a deacon; the Kansas City Press Club; and the Sierra Club. He is a graduate of Olathe (Kan.) High School, where he participated in debate and forensics, and the University of Kansas. Rick is a part-time respite care provider and the operator of a part-time ice cream business.