A steady stream of students is pouring into a large auditorium, where a familiar rock song is blaring from a distant stage flashing red, yellow and blue lights.

Absent from this shaking-and-moving crowd are students from the Carroll County Career and Technology Center in Westminster.

The students are back in their motel rooms, several miles away from the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center, the site of the dance andthe National Vocational Industrial Clubs of America Skill Olympics.

Their chaperones have imposed an early curfew because the following day are the skill contests, which, in some cases, require students to perform their vocations over several hours.

But the week has not been all work for these Carroll students, who also include post-secondary contestants.

Between the opening and closing ceremonies, meetings, contests, breakfast and dinner programs and other VICA activities, students have stolen moments at the motel pools or health spa.

That was where Westminster High School graduates Sharon Stull and Tina Fick, who competed in the cosmetology contest, spent their afternoons away from studying and competition.

"Laying out in the sun is where we've been," said Sharon, a 19-year-old resident from Silver Run. "It's been relaxing and that's where we're going to be tomorrow."

Although Stacy Davidson and Kathleen Winters, members of the vo-tech's health occupations knowledge bowl team, sunned themselves at the pool, they did not swim -- at least not before the quiz bowl.

Instead, they used the time to study pages of notes on current events and health-related materials -- facts and trivia they must know to compete successfully in the quiz bowl.

"There are 2,000 questions inall," said Stacy, a graduate of Westminster High School and the vo-tech's nursing program.

"And we're responsible to know all the answers," added Winters, a 34-year-old mother of three who is among the three post-secondary students competing at the Skill Olympics.

The women reviewed current events ranging from dates and players in the Persian Gulf war to recent Oscar winners.

Although meetings and other events are often formal and business-like, before and after time allows students, their advisers and instructors to trade VICA pins from other states.

Exchanging VICA pins -- each state has its own VICA symbols -- is like trading baseball cards, said William Weller, collision repair instructor.

"Pin trading sessions get quite hectic sometimes," he said.

Students wear their pins on their lapels and display them on white towels containing a map of the United States.

The most sought-after pins this year were those from Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Alaska.

"I came with ammunition," said Jane Dotson, a cosmetology instructor. "I have an extra Maryland T-shirt.

"That ought to be good for a few extra pins."

The real fun, though, came theevening after the Skill Olympics.

Students, advisers, instructorsand parents boarded the group's charter bus to return to the fairgrounds, not to the competition area, but to Kentucky Kingdom, an amusement park.

After passing through the main gate and concession stands selling pizza, french fries and soda, most of the students scrambled to Bluebird's Bounty, a swinging pirate-like ship.

The loudest screams came from the Carroll County youngsters, dressed in turquoise Maryland VICA T-shirts.

"It's been pretty fun," said Benjamin Eyster, a Liberty High School junior and a residential plumbing student. "It's a release after all the studying.

"I've had enough of sitting in the motel."

Besides crashing bumper cars and finding themselves soaked from water rides, students shopped amusement park stores, picking up T-shirts, fudge and other tokens for souvenirs.

"It's been a stressful week," said Amy Coates, a Liberty High School graduateand a member of the health knowledge bowl. "This is a good time to forget about it for a while."

And that they did.

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