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CAN YOU STUMP THESE STUDENTS? MIDDLE-SCHOOLERS TO COMPETE IN FAIR'S ACADEMIC RODEO.

Byline: Cecilia Chan Staff Writer

Although it's been decades since Hal Beavers left school, he needs to read everything he can get his hands on - medical dictionaries, books on antonyms and synonyms, newspapers, computer programs on English and math . . .

Beavers is the man behind the brain-teasing questions that will be asked today of six teams of students competing at the fourth annual Academic Rodeo on the grounds of the Ventura County Fair.

``I'm not an academic,'' said Beaver, 70, superintendent of Youth in Action, which oversees the Academic Rodeo. ``When I was a kid I would rather be out playing.''

However, that changed when Beavers, who was unhappy with the quality of questions purchased from a company back East for the academic challenge quiz, decided two years ago to undertake the endeavor himself.

``I work on it seven days a week, 52 weeks a year,'' he said. ``Every newspaper I read I sit down and take notes.''

The Oxnard resident even picks the brains of people he knows in the teaching field for questions.

As a result, the retired airline employee has compiled 53 pages of questions covering geography, science, history, math and current events for the Academic Rodeo, which consists of two quizzes and a spelling bee.

``There is nothing we will not ask about,'' he said. Although students will be challenged with age-appropriate questions, there will be some that will stretch their minds.

Six schools will compete in this year's contest: Sequoia Middle School in Newbury Park, Mira Monte 4H in Ojai, Ocean View Junior High in Oxnard, ACHEV (home school) in Camarillo and Cabrillo Middle School and St. Augustine Academy, both in Ventura.

The schools pick their own team of students to compete in the quiz, as well as in a spelling bee Sunday. A competition with teams from three other county fairs will take place Aug. 14 with more than $4,000 in cash prizes at stake.

The team to beat this year is ACHEV, which walked away with first place in 1998 and 1996.

The quiz will be timed with each team getting a chance to answer 20 questions in three minutes. The event also will include a TV quiz show format in which teams of two opposing schools will pair up in a head-to-head competition.

The first-place school will receive $700, second place, $500; and third, 300. Each student on the first-place team also will receive $100 and a trophy cast in the likeness of Rodin's ``Thinker.'' Second-place teammates will get $75 each and third-place students will get $50 each.

The fair donated the cash prizes, although Beavers doesn't know how long that will last and is looking for future sponsors.

This is the first year for Sequoia Middle School to participate.

``I chose a group of kids who work well together and are high-achievers,'' said Jeanne Boe, school counselor. ``They are very enthusiastic and want to do well for their school.''

Boe is so confident her students will do well she has set aside just one day - this morning - to prepare the team made up of one sixth-grader, three seventh-graders and two eighth-graders. Two members will be alternates.

``They are all-around good students,'' she said. ``So they will be able to do it all.''

Beavers said the Academic Rodeo goes statewide this year, taking root at county fairs.

``This is our answer to the numerous competitions they hold for athletes and never seem to pay attention to the brainy kids,'' Beavers said. ``There is always the basketball star, the baseball star and the football star getting all this attention.''

THE FACTS

The 1999 Ventura County Fair, with the theme ``Reflections of Yesterday,'' will run from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. through Aug. 15 at Seaside Park, Harbor Boulevard and Figueroa Street in Ventura.

Admission is $6 for adults; $3 for seniors age 55 and over; $3 for children ages 6-12; and children 5 and under are free.

Off-site parking is available with free shuttle service at the following locations: San Buenaventura State Beach ($5), Ventura County Government Center, Buenaventura Mall, Ventura High School and at the corner of Harbor Boulevard and Schooner.

For information, call (805) 648-3376 or log on to www.seasidepark.org.

All entertainment is free with fair admission:

VENTURA COUNTY FAIR 1999 - GRANDSTAND ENTERTAINMENT

7:30 p.m. today - Toby Keith.

3 p.m. Sunday - Banda La Costena and Yolanda del Rio.

7:30 p.m. Monday - The Beach Boys.

1 p.m. Tuesday - Harry Connick Sr. and the Nelson Riddle Orchestra.

7:30 p.m. Wednesday - Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

7:30 p.m. Thursday - Chris LeDoux with special guest Mark Wills.

7 p.m. Friday - PRCA Rodeo.

2 and 7 p.m. Aug. 14 - PRCA Rodeo.

2 and 7 p.m. Aug. 15 - PRCA Rodeo featuring a special ``Salute to Mexico.''

EXHIBITS

Today - Dudley House.

Sunday - Ventura County Museum of History and Art.

CONTESTS AND COMPETITIONS

Today - Diaper Derby, 1:30 p.m., entry fee $1.

Sunday - Look-alike Contest, 1 p.m., entry fee $1 per pair.

Monday - 1 p.m, World Equine Beauty Pageant, a maximum of 20 horses representing many counties of origin will be judged on beauty only. Pre-entry required.

Tuesday - 11:30 a.m., Senior Dance Contest. No entry fee; 1 p.m., Sunkist Best Lemon Pie, no entry fee.

Wednesday - 2 p.m., Best Hot Sandwich. Pre-entry required; 6 p.m., Adult Showmanship, 4-H and FFA exhibitors try their hands at controlling livestock. Entry fee $2.

Thursday - 12 p.m., Death by Chocolate. Pre-entry required; 6:30 p.m., Hog Calling, entry fee $2.

Friday 3 p.m., National Spam Competition. No entry fee, pre-entry required; 7 p.m., Karaoke Contest, entry fee $4.

Aug. 14 - 12 p.m, VIP Lemon Pie Contest, firefighters will test their skills; 4 p.m., World Professional Arm-Wrestling Championships. Pre entry required.

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Box: THE FACTS (see text)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 7, 1999
Words:987
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