By LIBBY CLUETT
Last weekend, about 350 bicycle racers descended on Mineral Wells; this week, add a zero and, once again, an estimated 3,500 students will convene at Mineral Wells High School Saturday for the 2013 Destination ImagiNation Greater Fort Worth Regional Tournament.
North Texas students, elementary through high school, come from an area extending from Venus to Paris and Maypearl to Abilene.
Saturday's competition will be the state’s largest DI regional meet, according to Jacki Bandy, site director for the Mineral Wells DI Regional Competition. Like last year's tournament, the meet brings in over 200 teams – comprised of about seven students each – all competing in a variety of creative challenges.
Bandy said she hopes the public can come watch the DI competition and see some creative kids at work in Mineral Wells. Among the teams are those from Abilene, Weatherford, Fort Worth, Northwest, Eagle Mountain-Saginaw, Brock, Springtown, Weatherford, Breckenridge, Wylie, Burleson, Castleberry, Cleburne, Mansfield, Midlothian, Red Oak, Venus and Waxahachie ISDs.
MWISD has five teams competing – two from MWHS and three from Mineral Wells Junior High.
Teams compete in a variety of challenges, including structural, technical, scientific, fine arts and improvisational. They all must perform a top-secret instance challenge, as well.
With just a few exceptions, the single top team per challenge from Saturday's tournament will advance to state, which takes place April 12-13 in Katy.
DI Challenges begin at 7:30 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. Awards for the Rising Stars (elementary) start at 5 p.m. and the competitive awards (elementary, middle and high school teams) begin at 7 p.m.
Bandy encourages the community to come out and watch the competitions. She said there will be 18 competitions going on every 20 minutes.
In addition to student competitors, there will be an estimated 300 appraisers, or judges, and parents, teachers and supporters.
If last year was an indicator, this means there will be lots of people in town who will boost the economy by spending some cash or swiping their cards in local stores, restaurants and hotels.
There were several reports of an uptick in dining at restaurants and purchases at other local businesses from last year's DI meet.
The Mineral Wells Area Chamber of Commerce will set up a welcome table at the high school, Bandy said. She suggests that any businesses wanting to share coupons or flyers contact the chamber.
“There were a lot of people excited to come back again,” Bandy said of the regional DI teams. “Everybody that came out last year found our community to be very nice and supportive. Restaurants and businesses welcomed the contestants, and [teams] were excited to visit the fossil park.”
Anyone interested in volunteering or being a part of Destination ImagiNation may contact Bandy at (940) 328-5375. Confirmed volunteers will check in at the DIme store on the MWHS cafeteria stage.