March 6, 2019

Tenth Annual Pi Day Event Is More Varied Than Ever

PI PEOPLE: The annual Pi Day Princeton draws pint-sized and full-sized Albert Einstein impersonators. The Look-Alike Contest is just one of the many pi-related events taking place Saturday, March 9, and on the famous mathematician’s actual birthday, March 14.

By Anne Levin

Since starting Pi Day Princeton a decade ago, founder Mimi Omiecinski has uncovered more fascinating facts about Albert Einstein than she ever imagined. Among her most recent discoveries is the great theoretical physicist and mathematician’s fondness for building houses of cards in his Mercer Street backyard.

So it makes perfect sense that a House of Cards competition is on the roster of this year’s Pi Day activities, which begin Saturday, March 9 and continue on Thursday, March 14, which is Einstein’s birthday as well as the first three digits of the mathematical constant known as pi (3.14).

“I’m learning things about him all the time,” said Omiecinski, whose Princeton Tour Company is behind the annual observance. “There are Pi Day celebrations all over the world, but we’re the only one that’s in his hometown. And we’ve got all these famous, award-winning mathematicians here. It just makes so much sense.”

Einstein was born in Germany and emigrated to the United States, because of anti-Semitism, in 1933. He settled in Princeton and lived at 112 Mercer Street. He was an integral part of the Institute for Advanced Study until his death in 1955.

Princeton’s Pi Day is the only one to award prize money — $314.15 — to the winner of the annual Pre-Teen Pi Recitation Contest, Omiecinski said. The winner of the popular Einstein Look-Alike Contest, which will take place at noon in The Nassau Inn, will also be awarded $314.15.

Highlights of this year’s Pi Day(s) include the annual Surprise Birthday Party for Einstein, also at the Nassau Inn; the Apple Pie Eating Contest at McCaffrey’s Market; a “Pi-rade” through Palmer Square led by the winner of the Pi Recitation Event; a Children’s Book Signing at Princeton Public Library; a Pie-Throwing Event on Palmer Square Green; a Nerd Herd Pub Crawl; Pi Day Pop Up Wedding/Vow Renewal Ceremonies; an interactive STEAM-inspired workshop; and much more.

“One thing that’s really interesting this year is that we have a world record holder, the first person in the world to break 10,000 digits in reciting pi,” said Omiecinski. David Fiore will speak at 1 p.m. on Saturday at the Nassau Inn, in a program titled “What is Pi? How Memory Works.”

“It’s a little like having a magician expose how their magic trick works,” Omiecinski said. “I am living for 1 p.m. when David Fiore is going to help me get to double digits. If I can do that, I’ll feel like it’s okay that I run this event.”

Omiecinski came up with the idea for celebrating Pi Day in Princeton after starting her tour company in town over a decade ago. “When you’re a tour lady, you’re busy walking and shamelessly name-dropping when the weather’s nice,” she said. “But when it’s not nice, during the colder months, you try to figure out some other things to do. I was fascinated by Einstein and wanted to come up with ways to make him more relatable, to focus on his character as well as his incredible work.”

She approached Princeton Public Library, and the first event was planned. “So it was my mom and me, making a list of what we could do to celebrate the day,” Omiecinski recalled. “As it turned out, it was the day of a hurricane, and everybody was at the library to charge their phones. So we had a lot of people. You could say it was the perfect storm, in a way.”

An Einstein in Princeton Guided Walking Tour; an Einstein Salon and innovators Gallery at Updike Farmstead; a Pizza Pi Competition; Best Apple Pie in Princeton Contest; a tour of the Landau store’s Albert Einstein Museum; a Princeton School Gardens Cooperative Fundraiser at LiLLiPIE’s in Princeton Shopping Center; a talk with Seth Fletcher, author of Einstein’s Shadow, at the library; and a Motown-inspired musical performance at the Paul Robeson Center for the Arts, are all on the agenda.

“We’ve got people coming from D.C., from Kansas, from Tennessee,” Omiecinski said. “There’s an entire family coming from Nashville. Einstein is our most beloved genius, so we’re ready to celebrate.”