BURNHAM - It's time to celebrate, Adventures in Odyssey fans.
For the radio drama's 25th birthday, producers decided to give their listeners a present - the chance to be in a show.
Auditions are being held across the country this summer, including at Friendship Bookstore in Burnham.
For those who aren't familiar with Odyssey, the faith-based radio series follows characters who visit the town's ice cream shop, Whit's End, and its kindly owner, John Avery "Whit" Whittaker.
Through stories about tests in school and summer camp pranks or intriguing sagas about international conspiracies, Odyssey writers aim to both entertain and teach lessons of faith.
In 1987 when the show began, many were skeptical about its successful in an age of television, movies and other visual entertainment, according to a press release from Focus on the Family, which produces the show. But the show proved the critics wrong.
Today, Odyssey airs in 45 countries and in three languages. More than 2 million listeners tune in weekly.
When thinking about Odyssey's 25th anniversary, Brock Eastman, resource marketing manager for the show, said they wanted to do something to thank their fans.
"We decided to turn the celebration around on fans and make the celebration about the fans," Eastman said. "The 'Get in the Show' auditions ... are the opportunity to give one child a voice."
The "Get in the Show: Ultimate Casting Call" auditions are a first for Adventures in Odyssey, and stores across in the U.S. are hosting events, he said.
Friendship Bookstore in Burnham is one of about a dozen audition sites in Pennsylvania.
"We do quite well with the (Adventures in Odyssey) product," owner Theil Kauffman said. "I thought the auditions were a neat thing."
Auditioners are welcome to try out any Saturday this summer at the store. They must be between age 6 and 15, and must bring a video recording device such as a cell phone or camcorder.
The two-part scripts are available online or at the bookstore. All contestants will receive a free CD with two dramas and a song by Phil Joel.
The top 12 auditions will be announced Oct. 1, and fans will get the chance to vote for the top three voices. One winner will be chosen to participate in Album 58. More information is available online at www.whitsend.org/getintheshow.
Eastman offered two tips for auditioning: Practice before you go, and remember to let your emotions show in your voice.
Just like everything else they do, the Odyssey producers want the auditions to be a teachable moment, Eastman said.
Though there will be only one winner, the contest is meant to encourage every child to use their talents for God - the ultimate call, Eastman said.
The show's website has tips for parents about encouraging their child's talents, and more ideas will be uploaded throughout the year, he said.
Eastman, who grew up listening to Odyssey, said God even gave him an opportunity to use his talents for the show - not as a voice actor or a producer, but in marketing.
One of his favorite moments on the job was getting to redesign the album packaging for his favorite show, Camp What-a-Nut.
He also gets to see some of the fanmail - letters, photos and even cookies. Many people share stories about how their lives were changed through the show, he said.
"Recently, we received a letter from a fan about how Whit filled the role of a dad for him, because his real father wasn't there," Eastman said.
The characters become alive in listener's imaginations, he said. The writers strive to develop that connection to children's lives often going through multiple drafts, Eastman said.
The popularity of the show he attributes, in part, to its uniqueness.
"It allows listeners to use their imaginations in ways that TV and video games don't, to see a story in a different way," Eastman said.
Odyssey has achieved a status as one of the longest running radio dramas in history thanks to its fans.
"God has clearly blessed this program," Eastman said. "Thank you to the fans ... for what they've done for Odyssey."
To listen locally, Adventures in Odyssey airs from Monday to Friday at 6 p.m. on WGRC 90.9 FM, at 4:30 p.m. on WQJU 107.1 FM, or 4:30 p.m. on WTLR 89.9 FM. For more listings, visit www.whitsend.org.