It will be like a whole new high school rolled into town on Friday and Saturday.
A very literate high school.
Nearly 800 students from across the state will be in Missoula this weekend for the umpteenth annual MCPS Garden City Invitational speech and debate tournament, which will pit the best actors, arguers, debaters, humorists, speakers and Socratic methodologists against each other in the largest tournament of its kind in Montana.
In the speech-and-debate world, this weekend's event, which takes place at Big Sky and Sentinel high schools, is sort of like the Masters golf tournament - an invitational and major event in the season.
"Most of the kids are well on their way to developing their skills," said tournament chairwoman Libby Oliver, who also coaches the Sentinel speech-and-debate team. "Their cases and speeches are finished, and now they're really starting to polish them off."
For two days beginning Friday, the students will test the oratorical skills against each other in face-to-face, group and team competitions that will occupy "nearly every single room" at Big Sky and Sentinel, said Oliver.
Every AA school in the state has sent a team, along with numerous class C, B and A schools - including class B-C favorites Loyola High School, which will be gunning for its 29th consecutive state title early next year.
Dozens of volunteers have stepped forward to serve as judges, but more are still needed over the tournament's two days - especially for the Friday evening and Saturday morning events.
"We were doing really well," said Oliver, "until the Griz won."
Montana plays Northern Iowa in the quarterfinals of the FCS football championship on Friday night.
But remember, said Oliver:
"If you care about the Griz, we'll have a TV in the schools, so you'll be able to check in between events."
Oliver, who chairs the world languages department at Sentinel, said any adult who "knows what a good speaker is and knows what a convincing argument is" can volunteer.
"We have a lot of teachers who volunteer and we're thankful for that, but I would say that might be a quarter to 35 percent of our judges," she said. "Everybody else is from the community - parents, UM students and lots of people who've done speech and debate in the past."
Reporter Jamie Kelly can be reached at 523-5254 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.