Preparations Under Way for Annual Spelling Bee
Special to The Pilot
The Literacy Council's website boldly claims that the annual Spelling Bee for Literacy is one of the Sandhills' most anticipated community events.
Hyperbole? Perhaps, but don't tell that to the volunteer team that works year round to create a new event each year.
On Thursday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m. the lights of Owens Auditorium at Sandhills Community College will dim and the audience will roar as trios of hopeful spellers parade down the aisles and mount the stage, each primed to win the coveted Best Spelling Team trophy.
In its seven-year history, the Bee has become the Literacy Council's primary fundraiser. Last year 20 teams entertained an audience of 700 people and raised just over $24,000 to support MCLC's vision of eradicating illiteracy in Moore County.
The Bee is part old-fashioned spelling bee, part variety show. In 2005, when MCLC teamed up with The Pilot to stage a spelling bee to raise much-needed funds for the Literacy Council, no one knew quite what to expect. The basic idea of a light-hearted spelling bee for adults was borrowed from an event a board member had attended elsewhere.
David Woronoff, publisher of The Pilot, thought it sounded like fun and agreed to be master of ceremonies. The Sunrise Theater agreed to provide space. Southern Pines Chief of Police Gerald Galloway, Superintendent of Schools Susan Purser and community leader Linda Hubbard agreed to be judges. Most importantly, 14 teams signed up to compete. In that first year, about half the teams showed up in costumes or matching T-shirts, and every group seemed to have its own contingent of vociferous supporters in the audience. Several teams tried to bribe the judges with candy or money. One contestant really distracted the judges by discarding her skirt to expose shapely legs in fishnet stockings. Clearly the Spelling Bee for Literacy was not destined to mimic the white-knuckle experience many adults remember from elementary school.
In the second year, additional awards were created for Best Costumes and Most Team Spirit. The crowd count became standing-room-only, and many could not get in at all. By 2009, the audience had clearly outgrown the Sunrise. Fortunately, Sandhills Community College stepped up with an offer to use Owens Auditorium - doubling the seating capacity and opening a whole new world of live video streaming opportunities. Wider aisles and the larger stage seemed to inspire teams to ever-bolder proposals.
"Could we enter on motorcycles?" (The answer was "no.")
"Every year of the Bee is different," says Susan Sherard, MCLC executive director and Queen Bee. "The event reflects the diverse personalities and inventiveness of individual teams and talented MCLC volunteers who make it happen."
Master of Ceremonies David Woronoff adds, "The Spelling Bee is a uniquely Southern Pines event. It's infectious, contagious; people want to be a part of it."
The roster of sponsors and teams for 2011 is filling up faster than ever. Stifel Nicolaus leads the group, returning for the second year as a "Keep the Hive Alive" sponsor, now joined by St. Joseph of the Pines.
"It is especially gratifying to have members of the business community step up their level of support for our fight to end illiteracy," says Sherard. "Of course, The Pilot has been with us from the beginning. Without David's enthusiastic 'Yes' back in 2005 and the perennial generous participation of The Pilot editors and staff, it's hard to imagine the Bee could have become what it has."
In 2010, fundraising related to the Spelling Bee provided one quarter of the Literacy Council's entire operating budget.
"The Bee keeps us growing," says Sherard.
MCLC is also supported by United Way, Moore County and the North Carolina Community College System, in addition to individual donors, social organizations and churches. >
For further information about Moore County Literacy Council and how you can become involved as a student, tutor or participant in the Spelling Bee, call (910) 692-5954 or check out MCLC's newly enhanced website: www.mcliteracy.com.
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