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updated: 7/9/2011 11:05 AM

DuPage park districts organize teen texting contest

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How fast can you text? Do your thumbs fly over the keys when sending a message from your cellphone? How does your "texterity" measure up?

Texting competitions are the newest thing for teens at local park districts.

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Texting refers to sending typed notes from one cellphone to another. The message is short to accommodate the readout screen. Millions of people text every day. Teens could account for a good portion, so why not put those skills to the test?

A texting competition is among the first events for teens organized jointly by the park districts serving Lisle, Westmont, Woodridge, Bolingbrook and Downers Grove. Several other events are planned for late summer and early fall.

"Maybe teens will find something they are very good at and we can highlight it," said Steve Golembiewski, recreation coordinator for Westmont Park District.

In 2009, a 15-year-old from Iowa texted the entire chorus of "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" in record time to win the National Texting Championship. The local park districts do not have such a grandiose plan to join Nationals, but the winner will earn local bragging rights.

Somewhat like a spelling bee, a texting contest will give teens and preteens something to pique their interests.

Both speed and accuracy will be on the line for teens and preteens who participate in the Texting Competition from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, July 23, at the Westmont Park District Community Center, 75 E. Richmond St. in Westmont.

The action-packed challenge is for students entering grades six to 12. Participants must use their own cellphone and are responsible for any costs accrued. The registration deadline is Saturday, July 16, at any of the five park districts. Priced right, the fee is $5 for residents of the five districts, $10 for others.

"We will have rounds in the competition," Golembiewski said. "For every mistake, you add on two seconds to the stop watch. The person that finishes first gets three points, second place two points and third gets a point."

The competition will go through multiple rounds and the highest score advances until a single person comes out on top.

A Google search shows some phrases or messages in similar texting contests include Mary Poppins' tongue-tripping word 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."

A 160-character phrase was, "The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human," which took this columnist 49 seconds to type on a computer keyboard with all 10 fingers.

According to Sara Wilcox, public relations and marketing assistant at Guinness World Records in New York City, the organization has several texting records.

The Fastest Text Message of a prescribed 160-character text message is 34.65 seconds, achieved by Frode Ness from Norway at a Norwegian championship in Oslo in November, 2010. The fastest time to write a text message on a touch-screen mobile phone of a 160-character message is 25.94 seconds, achieved by Melissa Thompson in London last August.

The fastest typing on a smartphone record is held by Grace Pak, who typed a prescribed 264-character text on a QWERTY mobile phone in 56.67 seconds in Willow Grove, Pa., last month.

"Our Texting Competition is a first-run program, to try it out and see what kind of interest it can generate," said Mike Gianatasio, recreation supervisor at Lisle Park District.

Park districts are forever looking for programs that will engage teens and connect with their ever-changing tastes. By banding together, the local districts are able to try programs and events that might not draw enough interest from residents of a single district.

"In park districts, we have really come together to offer teen programs in multiple districts to see if they can run," said Golembiewski. "We found out that we all get a few kids registering for our programs, but not enough to run. It is the worst thing to keep canceling things because then people do not even sign up."

Beyond the texting contest, the five park districts are having other combined teen activities, including a Rinkside Lock-in with an overnight at Rinkside Sports in Gurnee with unlimited arcade games, laser tag, cosmic ice skating, pizza, soda and continental breakfast. The event is from 9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11, to 7 a.m. Friday, Aug. 12. The fee is $45 for residents, $69 for others.

Another united park district activity for teens is a paintball trip to Chicagoland Paintball, a facility for all skill levels. The event is planned for noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10. The cost for residents is $50, $75 for others.

Please consult individual park districts' schedules for details and registration.

Perhaps, if the texting competition is a fantastic success, park organizers of adult events might take note and offer a typing contest on a keyboard for anyone over the age of 40 with chunky fingers.

The phrase could be, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog," which uses all 26 letters of the alphabet.

Getting a solid buzz for park district classes for teens may be a challenge, but when organizers think outside the box and pool their creative ideas, all teens come up winning.

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