Spellbinding Experience: Longleaf Letterheads Sting Competition a Second Time
The buzz on Thursday evening: What will the Spelling Bee for Literacy be like this year?
New location: Pinecrest High School, with more seating, a bigger lobby to accommodate the Bee Bazaar, and a balcony for the Union Pines High School band.
New format: The bee in organizers' bonnets resulted, last year, in an abrupt conclusion. All's humming again.
New Queen Bee costume for Moore County Literacy Council Executive Director Susan Sherard: Regulation black and yellow striped tights topped by a wig to make Lady Gaga gaga.
"We are going into the evening with $25,000 (of a $35,000 goal) from teams, sponsorship and gifts," Sherard beamed. "This is the most inspiring, original homegrown entertainment in the Sandhills."
MCLC offers free tutoring services to the 22 percent of adult Moore County residents who lack reading skills. In 2012, the council served 138 students. The Bee, in its ninth year, is its primary fundraiser. Other funds come from the United Way, a federal grant, the N.C. Community College System and Moore County.
Neither rain nor ACC basketball games nor the $10 admission donation kept the crowd of about 600 away. With photog gadflies Al and Annette Daniels in attendance, the Bee became THE place to be.
What a show the audience witnessed.
Nineteen teams, costumed to the nines, competed for the trophy. The largest contingent of supporters had to be Boles Funeral Home as the extended Addams Family, ghoulishly dressed and causing a ruckus to wake the dead.
"We've been working on this for four months," Emily Boles said. Cathy Davis, one of The Three Morticias (who later buried the competition in the Best Costume category), admitted they prefer themes that are "a little dark - with a surprise I'll take to my grave." But sister-Morticia Denise Grandolfo added, "We love literacy. We practice, practice, practice."
Unfortunately, not on "raillery," their death knell in Round 2.
Each team introduced themselves with a skit. Southern Pines Yoga Company contorted convivially. The Penick Village Bee Gees shook their booties almost as hard as Dante "The Inferno" Poole of Moore County Schools. FirstHealth Hospital Clowns mugged for laughs. Carolina Eye Associates' Eye "Ball" Team pelted the audience with mini foam baseballs. Mike Shepard, representing St. Joseph of the Pines, wowed the crowd with a John Travolta "Saturday Night Fever" wig and wiggle. Prim and proper Southern Pines Rotarians brought down the house with their Gangnam-style moves.
Among the most tantalizing were The Pilot News Flashers in raincoats and dark glasses. Bare-legged editor and first-time speller John Nagy admitted jitters. "But I boned up on my diphthongs."
"Diphthongs" he could spell; "clew" (a nautical term) stumped the three-flasher crew.
Difficulty progressed from dead easy to really hard, said Golf Capital Chorus team member Fred Wolferman: "I'm familiar with the words but not always the spelling."
Another competitor judged as uneven the word choices enunciated by Master of Pronunciation Bob Howell. Among the most difficult:
tocsin, imbroglio, furfur, palimpsest.
The climax, dubbed Break the Spell, came after a 10-minute intermission, when the six teams still standing were given the same word. One by one they fell, leaving only Pinehurst Resort and the Longleaf Letterheads on the leader board manned by "Vanna White" lookalike PineStraw creative director Andie Rose.
"Exiguous," meaning scanty, sealed the deal for Letterheads Don Lock, Jeanne Crowell and Emily Hauslohner - their second consecutive win.
"I'm amazed. It's such a gamble," a bee-wildered Lock said. "You can't know every word."
"Teamwork," added bee-mused Hauslohner, a competitor in all nine Bees.
Crowell, bee-atific as the others, had no post-victory celebration planned. "It's bedtime."
The Bee concluded at 9 p.m. with Sherard's announcement that FirstHealth Hospital Clowns won for Best Buzz, Peggy Sue Hawkins for Best Audience Participation Costume, and Penick Village for collecting $866 to Keep the Hive Alive.
"It takes a year's worth of work to bring this together," Pilot publisher/master of ceremonies David Woronoff said. "This is a great event for a great cause."
Contact Deborah Salomon at email@example.com.
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