Buzz Builds for Fifth Spelling Bee
The tension has reached the boiling -- make that the buzzing -- point.
The fifth annual Moore County Spelling Bee for Literacy takes place at 7 p.m. Thursday in Owens Auditorium at Sandhills Community College.
Organizers are encouraging participants to bring family members, friends and acquaintances to help pack the auditorium.
The Pilot has been the title sponsor and chief promoter of the event since its inception.
The bee was moved from the Sunrise Theater in downtown Southern Pines, where it had been held the last four years, to help accommodate a larger crowd. Last year, 60 people were turned away at the door because the Sunrise Theater couldn't take any more.
Admission is free, but donations to the Literacy Council are welcome.
Local businesses, organizations and clubs have recruited teams of three spellers each to compete for the title of "Bee Champion." Judges for this year's contest are Tom Compa, Linda Pearson and Buddy Spong.
Pre-show entertainment will be provided by the Union Pines pep band and the Golf Capital Chorus. Susan Sherrard, the executive director of the Moore County Literacy Council, will make the opening statements before turning the show over to David Woronoff, publisher of the Pilot, who is serving as master of ceremonies for the evening.
This year, Dr. John Dempsey, president of Sandhills Commun-ity College, will serve as the master of pronunciation.
"I'm told John Dempsey will be master of pronunciation this year, so we won't have to worry about David Woronoff's mispronunciations," joked Jay St. John, headmaster at Episcopal Day School and member of the EDS "Enthusiastic Determined Spellers."
Seventeen teams are signed up for this year's event, including some new entries.
The defending champions, the Southern Pines Rotary Club's "Wizards of Wordage," will be back to defend their title. The team members are Rick McDermott, Lisa Brown and Brant Clifton.
St. John is confident that his team will make a great showing.
"We'll go head-to-head, take on all comers," he said. "If they give us Latin root words, we'll be OK."
The "Pink Ladies" of the Carthage Rotary Club are representing another cause at the event. By wearing all pink, the ladies are hoping to raise breast cancer awareness. Sharon Dalton said she and team member Kelly Dunlap have been preparing at work.
"Kelly and I have been testing each other on strange words we come across during the day," Dalton said.
Rebecca Lapping is the third member of the Pink Ladies.
The "Lords of Literacy," representing the Friends of Longleaf, are looking to recapture the award for best costume this year, a prize they took home in the 2005 spelling bee.
"I think we'll look pretty good this year," said Emily Hauslohner of the Lords' costumes, "We've got a little surprise planned."
Hauslohner and her teammates, Don Lock and Sally Freeman, have been preparing by doing a lot of crossword puzzles and word searches and testing themselves on lists of spelling words from the Internet.
"We'll be riding on Steve Bouser's strong and capable shoulders," said Pat Taylor, a member of The Pilot's "Printer's Devils" when asked about his team's strategy. Darlene Stark rounds out The Pilot's team.
The Spelling Bee for Literacy is one of two major fundraisers for the Moore County Literacy Council, a nonprofit organization that provides free tutoring and other services to help adults who are "functionally illiterate" improve their reading and writing skills.
"Functionally illiterate" adults cannot read a newspaper, fill out a job application, or help their children with homework. About 22 percent of adults in Moore County are functionally illiterate, according to the Department of Education.
The Literacy Council matches trained volunteer tutors to students.
All students have access to one-on-one tutoring once a week. They can use the computer lab for language training four days and three evenings per week.
During the 2007-2008 reporting year, 56 percent of students in the federally funded program at the Literacy Council advanced at least one level, bringing them in much higher than the state goal of 34 percent.
All but one of the goal-based students at the MCLC accomplished the goals they had set.
The Moore County Literacy Council depends on local contributions for the majority of its funds, with contributions, fundraisers and local foundations making up 69 percent of their revenue.
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