Pi Day Gala
The Pi Day Gala with the Alferd Packer Memorial String Band will be held at 7 p.m. March 14 at Theatre Lawrence, 1501 New Hampshire. The cost is $10 for adults, $3.14 for students and those who bring a pie for the pie contest get in free.
Why settle for a basketball autographed by Bill Self when you can have a pair of sneakers worn by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak during a game of Segway polo.
So believes Matt Kirby, a member of The Alferd Packer Memorial String Band, the group organizing a local Pi Day Gala for March 14.
The event is the first of its kind in Lawrence, or as the organizers like to say its the negative third Pi Day Celebration (but we’ll get to that math joke later).
For those who don’t remember high school math, the Greek letter Pi is the symbol used to denote the ratio of the circumference of a circle. An irrational number, Pi goes on forever and never repeats, which helps explains the fascination with it.
“It develops for people a sense of the nature of the world and a sense of depth,” Kirby said.
When kept to two decimals Pi is 3.14, making March 14 the perfect day to celebrate the number and the fields of math and science it represents.
The Lawrence celebration will incorporate the many sides of Pi with a “nerdmorabilia” auction, a Pi reciting contest and short acts by some of Lawrence’s best known performers. There will also be the most delicious kind of “Pi,” the pastry baked goods version.
Wozniak’s sneakers are just one of the many “nerdmorabilia” items being collected for the auction. The tan sneakers decorated with the Pi symbol come with a photo of Wozniak wearing a number 3.14 jersey and standing with his Segway polo teammates.
“How awesome is that,” Kirby said of scoring Wozniak’s sneakers for the auction.
Also on the auction block is an ant farm signed by Pulitzer Prize winning Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson and a piece of electronics that had been destined for the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s most powerful particle accelerator.
“These are the superstars of science,” Kirby said.
Kirby acknowledges it’s not your usual Lawrence benefit auction fare. But neither is Pi Day.
“We are very much celebrating math and science,” Kirby said.
The auction proceeds go to the Lawrence school district's annual science fair.
The Alferd Packer Memorial String Band is well versed in celebrating esoteric holidays.
For 25 years, the band had been greeting last-minute tax filers at the downtown Lawrence post office. Their April 15 performance was a Lawrence staple and received coverage in the New York Times.
However, with more people filing online and the post office forced to close earlier in the day due to budget cuts, the party just wasn’t the same in recent years.
So this year, the group picked another not-so-famous holiday to honor, Pi Day.
“We wanted to do something else to replace it with and this is what we came up with,” band mate Steve Mason said.
Mason describes the band as being composed of “math and science nerds.” Case in point, several years ago, Kirby and Mason got to talking about the number Pi.
“We started kicking around ideas for a song about it. Then I was away for a long weekend with not much to do and I sat down and wrote a song,” Mason said. “We brought it back to the band and the band did their magic on it.”
The song, which is sung by Kirby, turned into the tittle of their album and a crowd favorite.
“It became our song we tend to end our shows with and we keep adding more humor to it as we go,” Mason said.
The band hopes Pi Day has the same staying power as the Tax Day celebration.
Mason said he would like to see a “monster show” in 2015 when the date will line up with the decimals in Pi even better (3.1415). Since that celebration is three years away, the group dubbed this one the negative third anniversary. But it was a reference that was a little hard for folks to catch.
“We dropped the negative third, because people were confused,” Mason said.
As for the 2015 event, Kirby has already determined an appropriate venue. Inside the first 32 digits of Pi is the telephone number for the East Lawrence Recreation Center.