Panther Valley High School would seem to have the edge in this year's Citizen Bee. All three PV contestants Stephen Hajcak, Judy Lin and Jake Tokosh participated in last year's contest and one of them took the top prize.

Panther Valley and eight other area schools are sending participants to the 19th annual Citizen Bee May 2 at the Carbon County Courthouse.

The Bee is an educational outreach program sponsored by the TIMES NEWS.

Citizen Bee contestants participate individually, first completing a 30-minute written exam followed by five rounds of oral questions. Cash prizes of $300, $200, $100 and $100 will be presented.

The competition tests participants' knowledge of U.S. history, economics, geography, Pennsylvania studies, local history and current events. This year's participants range from freshmen to seniors.

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.

In addition to Panther Valley, teams from the Carbon Career and Technical Institute and Jim Thorpe, Lehighton, Marian Catholic, Northern Lehigh, Palmerton, Tamaqua and Weatherly high schools will participate.

Last year Tokosh from Panther Valley, placed first; Peter Petrack and Alden Everette from Lehighton, placed second and third respectively; and Andrew Kelly from Marian Catholic, placed fourth.

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.

Assisting with this year's Citizen Bee are Mary Ruth Taylor, Jeff James and Joseph Riccette, written exam proctors; District Judge Edward Lewis, Rep. Jerry Knowles, and District Judge Steve Bayer, judges; Drusilla Laughman, timekeeper; Maureen Donovan, moderator; and Debra Galbraith, scorekeeper.

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. Taylor will also serve as the appeals judge this year.

Blue Ridge TV 13 will be airing the competition May 7 at 8 p.m., May 8 at 3:30 p.m. and May 10 at 7 p.m. The program will be available On Demand by May 10.