Two teams have somewhat of an advantage in this Thursday evening's TIMES NEWS Citizen Bee - they both have two returning participants.

Jim Thorpe's Kayla Susko and Bronson Ford and Marian Catholic's Tim Miller and Andrew Kelly were participants and in last year's competition, but none of them finished in the top four.

The competition tests participants' knowledge of U.S. history, economics, geography, Pa. studies, local history and current events.

Perhaps two individuals have an even greater advantage because they have participated in the Citizen Bee for several years. Weatherly's Matthew Caccese will participate for his fourth and final time and Northern Lehigh's Vaugh Reese will make his third appearance as a participant. His freshman year, Reese was an alternate for his school's team.

Several other teams have returning participants: Brandon Poole, Carbon Career & Technical Institute; Peter Petrack, Lehighton; and Tyler Butkus, Tamaqua.

Panther Valley is sporting an entirely new team and Palmerton's team consists of all freshmen.

This is the 18th year the TIMES NEWS has sponsored the Citizen Bee. At one time, the Citizen Bee involved local, state and national competitions. When the national and state competitions disappeared, TIMES NEWS publisher Fred Masenheimer decided to continue the local competition.

Each school is allowed three contestants and one alternate who may participate if one of the other three cannot attend. Schools participating are Carbon Career & Technical Institute, Jim Thorpe, Marian Catholic, Northern Lehigh, Palmerton, Lehighton, Panther Valley, Tamaqua and Weatherly.

Last year Jason Gates from Panther Valley High School, placed first; Michael Hoffman of Northern Lehigh, second; Schuyler Schmidt of Tamaqua, third; and Brent Green of Palmerton, fourth.

The Citizen Bee is held in Courtroom No. 1 in the Carbon County Court House. The public is invited to attend. The oral round of questions generally begins around 7:15 p.m. Registration begins at 6 p.m. The written exam begins at 6:30.

The local Citizen Bee is coordinated by George Taylor, editor of the Bethlehem Press weekly newspaper published by the Times News' Lehigh Valley Press newspaper group.

See a slide show of last year's competition at www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjongKbUwPs.