Journey to Binghamton

On Friday afternoon Noah and I headed to Binghamton. Not to be ill-mannered, but Binghamton, NY is hardly a tourist destination. It’s a large, sprawling manufacturing city located in New York State’s southern tier, about 15 miles from the Pennsylvania border and 150 miles from Cold Spring. (I will say that the car ride west along the Susquehanna River was very pretty). It’s not glamorous or even that interesting of a place, but we were’t there to see the sites. We were going to Binghamton so that Noah and his teammates could compete in the New York State Destination Imagination (DI) finals. (You can read about his adventure getting to the state championship in my post from last month here.)

The competition consisted of Noah and his team presenting their central challenge (in the form of a skit), completing an instant challenge (click the link for more information about that) and meeting & hanging out with the other kids  from teams around the state.

Noah’s team (named “Stooges DI-ing for Sardines” (it’s a long story)) presenting for the judges.The kids built the entire set by themselves, including their time-keeping tree (in the middle by the cooler) and the recycled potato-chip bag tree (to the right).

As I’ve mentioned before, Noah loves to travel–distances both near and far–and when he gets to spend the night in a hotel, well in his eyes, it makes for all the better of a trip. This time the hotel we were staying at was packed with dozens of kids in town for the DI tournament, as well Noah’s teammates and their families–who were scattered in rooms up and down the halls of our floor. Talk about a party! Door slammed and elevators ran all night long. My parents drove to Binghamton for the weekend, too, and we shared a delicious pre-competition meal with them at a local hibachi restaurant before heading back to the hotel pool so the kids could blow off some of their nervous energy and have some fun.

Excitement and nervousness meet in the water.

After a good, though truncated, night of sleep (the kids had to report to the competition venue at 7:30am) Noah’s team rocked the first portion of the day (see the first photo above), but then had several hours to wait until their next contest. Luckily, the folks who run DI are creative, energetic and thoughtful folk who knew that allowing 700 kids to run rampant all day would not be a good idea. So, in several classrooms (the event took place in the local public high school) games and mock instant challenges (see above) were set up and the kids could play and watch and get to know one another while having some good old-fashioned, non-device-manufactured fun.

For this game the goal was to put a ping pong ball into cups that were taped to the floor and marked with point values….but without touching the ball. Light-headedness ensued.

I won’t lie, it was a very long day. Even with the distraction of games and a quick trip to Wegman’s (a most amazing supermarket) for lunch, waiting around until their 1:30 instant challenge call and then the 4:30 awards ceremony (so the kids could learn their fate (and whether or not they would be traveling to Knoxville, TN in May for the DI Global Championship)) was tedious. We played games and told stories and wandered the halls. The kids kicked soccer balls around on the grass and talked non-stop–agreeing and disagreeing about the quality of their performances and their chances of winning (the teams that placed 1st and 2nd would move on). Mostly we watched the clock.

Finally, at about 5:15pm the scores were ready and the winners were announced to a excited, exhausted, impatient crowd and…..Noah’s team won!

Noah’s team (standing with the light blue shirts) accept their 2nd place medals while the crowd looks on.

Well, actually, they came in 2nd place in their division/age bracket which means that, if the fundraising goes well this month, we’ll be headed south for a week at the end of May.

At the Global Tournament, over a thousand DI teams gather from around the world to create and think and problem solve and make stuff out of duct tape (there’s even a Guinness Book of World Records attempt (involving duct tape) taking place), but I’ll tell you more about that adventure as its time gets closer.

For now, we’re just basking in the glory of the win.

Standing for their official team victory photo.

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