Joy to Bee-Hold: New Format Tightens Spelling Event
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious would have been a snap.
Ukulele, milquetoast, philanderer and patronymic proved more difficult as bee-ers dropped like flies at the eighth annual Spelling Bee for Literacy held Thursday night at Sandhills Community College.
The format was tougher and tighter, with less droning.
“We ran on a bit too long last year,” explained master of ceremonies and Pilot publisher David Woronoff, sporting yellow tie and cummerbund, as he thanked people for bee-ing there.
“I’m practicing safe sox,” Woronoff grinned, revealing yellow hosiery.
The audience, surprised by beefed-up difficulty, gasped when Hot and Healthy Yoga missed rigmarole on the first round. Elegiac sank defending champions Sandhills Children’s Center.
By 8:30 p.m., the Longleaf Letterheads were the last team afloat after The Country Bookshop, dressed as pirates, deep-sixed on limnology, a science dealing with the chemical properties of fresh waters.
“Incredulous,” exclaimed Letterhead Jeanne Crowell. “And I can spell that.”
“Surprised,” added teammate Emily Hauslohner.
“Wonderful,” concluded Don Lock of the first-place finish
The compressed format — no intermission and no “bribing” of judges (Janet Kenworthy and Baxter Clement), who this year remained secret — did not truncate the fun, or the noise.
Newbees on the block, the Queen Bees from Boles Funeral Home, stung the crowd with their props: rhinestone shovels, a coffin holding the Grim Reaper and an antique white ambulance/hearse parked out front. The 80-strong Boles contingent made enough noise with their clackers to wake the dead.
“We’re future customers,” laughed Marie Burt. “We were promised a discount.”
For their effort, Boles won the Big Buzz award. St. Joseph of the Pines triumphed in the costume division as a saint, a cuppa Joe and a pine tree.
“My whole outfit cost $5, and it’s all organic,” Jennifer Gwaltney said.
Carolina Eye Associates wearing oversized shades, another new-bee, took home the Keep the Hive Alive prize for raising the most money.
“Our goal is to raise $30,000, with every penny going to the Literacy Council,” said Susan Sherard, executive director of the Moore County Literacy Council.
Sherard was pleased with the attendance, given that tickets for the previously free event cost $10 for adults, $5 for children.
“We didn’t mind,” said Teeny Thompson, wife of a Literary Council tutor. “They need the money.”
Owens Auditorium, which seats 750, was nearly full. Attendees ranged from silver foxes to 7-year-old Paige Gibbons cheering her mother, Jackie Gibbons, a member of Disco Docs from FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital. Paige helped her mother prepare.
“I called out words from my dictionary, and she spelled them,” Paige said. “I learned how to read some hard words that way.”
But the docs mangled koan, meaning a matter for investigation.
“Did they mean colonoscopy?” Gibbons, a physician assistant, quipped to the crowd.
Other teams also held it together with humor: Bankers BEE-having Badly from First Bank illustrated (api)culture clash by showing up in conservative shirts and ties, then pulling out hip flasks and turning their ties into hippie headbands.
Jason Sparks, of Moore County Schools Super Spellers, shook his head in mock dismay and started to walk off the stage when Master of Pronunciation Bob Howell hurled sockdolager (something final, decisive) at the trio.
“Would you repeat that word 20 times?” a Penick Village Person asked. The word, brougham, a horse-drawn carriage, stumped them.
The bee was blessed by the participation of Beeyond Belief, a team from the Congregational Church of Pinehurst, and The God Squad, which included the Right Rev. Michael Curry, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina.
Sherard conceded the format did not work as planned, with a Brake the Spell round to end the bee. That, and degree of difficulty, will be discussed before the next outing.
Words are chosen by Chris Stevenson, a school administrator, who chooses them from his own reading.
“There were a couple of words I never heard of,” said Charles Webb, a New York attorney and part-time Sandhills resident, attending for the first time. Charles Novitsky, brother of Pilot Newshound Mary Novitsky, knew the word immiscible.
“I was sitting here trying to ESP her,” he said. Vibes not received.
But when all was spelled and done, Bishop Curry said, “I can’t think of anything more worthy of support. Literacy is life.”
“I’m very proud of what this event has become,” David Woronoff added. “Our community’s character is on full display.”
Contact Deborah Salomon at email@example.com
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