The Cultural Center in New York Mills brings four essay-contest finalists to the cozy town of armchair philosophy for the 26th Annual Great American Think-Off this June.

The Think-Off Weekend is jump-started with the Think-Off Kick-Off party at the Barn park shelter in the New York Mills Sculpture Park on Friday, June 8 from 7 to 10 p.m. Attendees can meet the finalists and crack open their weekend for free at this party! Live music is by Andra Suchy. Food is available to purchase and a cash bar is available.

Preceding the Kick-Off Party, the Otter Tail County Historical Society sponsors a tour of historic downtown New York Mills on Friday, June 8 at 6 p.m. The tour begins in front of the Cultural Center and costs $5.

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The debate is Saturday, June 9 at 7 p.m. in the James W. Mann Center for Performing Arts at the New York Mills School, with a free reception to follow at the Center. Ashley Hanson will serve as the moderator.

As a social practice theater artist, community organizer, and advocate for arts in rural areas, Ashley Hanson currently serves as the director of the Small Town CAIR (City Artist in Residence) program in Granite Falls, Minn. She co-founded PlaceBase Productions, which creates original musical productions celebrating small town life, and founded the Department of Public Transformation, a national arts collective which supports rural-based artists. Hanson, a recently-named 2018 Obama Foundation Fellow, believes strongly in the power of people, places, and play.

During the debate, the four finalists argue their side of the question, "Which plays a larger role in shaping one's life: success or failure?" Two finalists assert that success plays a larger role in shaping one's life and two finalists proffer that failure does. The debaters are (in alphabetical order): Tonya Abari of Nashville, Tenn.; Anthony Berryhill of Austin, Texas; Mark Bland of Virginia Beach, Va.; and Rudy San Miguel of New Orleans, La.. Bland and San Miguel argue for success while Abari and Berryhill argue for failure as the larger role-player in one's life.

Tickets to see the debate are $12 in advance, $15 at the door, and $5 for students. All audience members get to vote in the contest to decide who is named America's Greatest Thinker for 2018 and whether it is success or failure which shapes one's life the most.

For more information please call the Cultural Center at (218) 385-3339, visit the Center's website at, or buy tickets at