30th Annual Think-Off Debate
Saturday, June 10, 2023 @ 7pm
Held @ NYM School Auditorium
2023 Think-Off Kicks-Off Friday, June 9

The 2023 Great American Think-Off debate will be held at the New York Mills School Auditorium on Saturday, June 10th, 2023 at 7:00 p.m.  Doors open to the public at 6:00 p.m.  All are invited to attend the debate and cast your vote to help select America’s Greatest Thinker for 2023!

The Think-Off Weekend will kick off on Friday, June 9th, 2023 with a variety of fun activities open to the public, including a chance to meet the finalists at a welcome reception held at the Cultural Center beginning at 6pm. More kick-off details are below.

This year’s Think-Off question is:

Which is more important to protect: the environment or the economy?

This timely philosophical topic will be debated by the 2023 finalists (in alphabetical order): Gretchen Mayer of Mansfield, SD; Douglas McClain of Fergus Falls, MN; Allen Taylor of Colorado Springs, CO; and Timur Usenov of Maple Grove, MN.  Gretchen Mayer and Doug McClain will argue that the environment is more important to protect, while Allen Taylor and Timur Usenov will argue that protecting the economy is more important. Click below to learn more about these four finalists.

Read more about the 2023 finalists here >


Moderator Katie Lange

We are pleased to announce this year’s Think-Off moderator, Katie Lange. Katie is currently the Employment Brand Marketing & Communications Coordinator at KLN Family Brands in neighboring Perham, MN.

Prior to joining KLN, Katie worked in broadcast news as an award-winning Speech Communications professional with more than 10 years of experience as an Anchor, Reporter, and Producer.

She is a lover of adventure and a lifelong learner. As an avid outdoor enthusiast, she enjoys all that northern Minnesota has to offer. If you happen to see her out and about, be sure to say “Hi!”


Tickets to attend the debate are on sale NOW!  Adult tickets are $12 in advance or $15 at the door; students are $5. The New York Mills School is located at 209 Hayes Avenue in New York Mills, and attendees should use the middle “Sports Center” doors marked by the flying eagle sculpture. Click the button below to buy tickets online.

Buy Think-Off Tickets


Immediately following the debate, all are welcome to gather at the Cultural Center to enjoy light refreshments and a cash bar and engage the finalists and fellow audience members in further discussion.

Once again this year, in order to be more accessible to a broad audience, we plan to livestream the debate on our YouTube channel.

Can’t make the live debate? Tune in here! >


If you do choose to log on virtually, please consider making a donation in lieu of purchasing a ticket, to help us continue our work in cultivating the arts and civil discourse in rural America!

Donate now to support civil discourse >


Here’s a link to the 2022 debate to give you an idea of what to expect:

Check out last year’s Think-Off debate on YouTube >



Think-Off Kick-Off Friday, June 9, 2023

Join us in kicking off the 2023 Great American Think-Off weekend on Friday, June 9th!

  • 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. Mobile Sign Shop: Our friends next door at the New York Mills Public Library will be hosting Springboard for the Arts’ Mobile Sign Shop with teaching artist Peter Haakon Thompson. Free to attend and open to all. Make some art in the great outdoors!
  • 5:15 p.m. Historic Downtown NYM Walking Tour: Join Otter Tail County Historical Society Executive Director Chris Schuelke for a historic walking tour beginning outside the Cultural Center. Cost is $8/person paid to OTC Historical Society. Start the Think-Off weekend with a leisurely stroll through downtown New York Mills!
  • 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Finalists & Artists Reception: Meet & greet the Think-Off Finalists and Regional Artists featured in our current Gallery exhibit, The Only Home We’ve Known. Enjoy a taco bar by The Otter (freewill donation) and a cash bar. Artist talks and finalist introductions will begin at 6:30. Free to attend & open to all!
  • 7:30 – 9:00 p.m. Live Music Outdoors: Weather permitting, we’ll continue the celebration outdoors, enjoying live music by local band, The Confused, on the Cultural Center back deck. Free to attend and all are welcome!


Photo courtesy of Ready Go Art, a pilot program of Springboard for the Arts.

More about the NYM Library Mobile Sign Shop Event:

Free and open to all! The Mobile Sign Shop is housed on a trailer which will be parked outside the Library, next door to the Cultural Center. Participants will create their own, customized, carved wooden signs, inspired by the vernacular of Northern Minnesota cabin signs.  This program is sponsored by the New York Mills Public Library and Viking Library System. This project was funded in part or in whole with monies from Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage fund. Learn more: readygoart.com/tools/mobile-sign-shop/



More about the Historic Walking Tour:

When Otter Tail County Commissioners held their first meeting in September 1868, there was no New York Mills. It was a dense forest of white pine, red and white oak, tamarack, ash, and balsam. The seemingly endless resource of timber led to the formation of the New York Mills Company, based out of Olean, New York. The company established sawmills making New York Mills a company town. By the early 20th century the town became a destination for Finnish immigrants. Public saunas, a strong cooperative movement, and an independent political spirit characterized the community. For more information on the tour contact the Historical Society at 218-736-6038.


More about the Gallery Show:

“The Only Home We’ve Known” Regional Artist Gallery Show >


More about the band, The Confused:

The Confused is a space funk fusion band fronted by brothers Chad and Luke Hofland. Riding into the 2023 spring and summer on the excitement of their first full-length album ‘Nothing For Certain,’ the Minneapolis-based band has established their original sound with a mix of genres and feels. Often taking influences from a multitude of styles, the band uses funk-rock grooves paired with jazz-influenced improvisation, and bosa nova breakdowns to ethereal space-rock sections.

Hailing from deep in the woods of central Minnesota, the band’s fronters write songs about travel, love, music, dimension portals, and daily struggles with work and politics. Backed by a strong percussion section, keys, bass, guitar, and saxophones, the 8-piece group utilizes a subtle approach to a larger group. Choosing from a library of old and new originals, the live show is dynamic and upbeat, fun and danceable. Remember, we’re all a little confused.

Band members include Chad Hofland – Vox/Bass, Luke Hofland – Vox/Guitar, Adam Johnson – Keyboard, Jon Ross – Drum Kit, Glee Schultz – Vox, Zach Shears – Aux Percussion, Erik Saxton – Tenor Saxophone, Mason Meyers – Baritone Saxophone.

We are pleased to present The Confused outdoors on the back deck of the Cultural Center from 7:30 – 9:00 p.m. on Friday, June 9th to wrap up our Think-Off Kick-Off evening! Join us outdoors for live local music in the great outdoors!


For a list of the past 29 years of Think-Off questions, click below.

Think-Off History >


We would like to thank Mid-State Auto Auction for being our major event sponsor once again this year. Mid-State’s annual support of this event makes it possible for us to continue to support civil discourse in rural Minnesota. Thank you Mid-State!

We would also like to thank the following local businesses and organizations for their partnerships/sponsorships of the Great American Think-Off (list will be updated as sponsors are added). We are so grateful for our community’s support!

  • Whistle Stop Bed & Breakfast (hosts finalists)
  • Grass Roots Ottertail (provides flowers & plants at event)
  • New York Mills Public Schools (venue partner)
  • Overflow Creative (design partner)
  • Farmers & Merchants State Bank
  • New York Mills Civic & Commerce Association


Questions or want more information? Give us a call at 218-385-3339.

This activity is made possible in part by the voters of Minnesota through an operating support grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.