09/27/09 — Chamber plans more fun for annual spelling bee

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Chamber plans more fun for annual spelling bee

By Staff Reports
Published in News on September 27, 2009 2:00 AM

This is not your mama's spelling bee.

The Wayne County Chamber of Commerce's annual contest to crown the most prolific spellers in the county is scheduled for Oct. 27 at the Lane Tree Golf Club. But the annual event, which raises money for education grants for teachers and other learning-related activities, will not be the same old contest this year.

That is why the word "extreme" has been added to the name, said Julie Beck of Mount Olive College, chamber member and one of the organizers for this year's battle of words.

"We have a new committee this year, with lots of people with lots of ideas," she said. "This is a whole new bee."

The same principles apply, however, when it comes to the competition. Teams will come in with a pot of money they have raised and will be able to use that money to purchase a word if they simply cannot come up with the spelling.

When their pot is empty, teams will become the victims of the Killer Bee, losing their balloons and their chance at the title of Best Spellers in the County.

But to add a little spin this year, teams will be able to use their sponsorship money to buy words, and there will be two contests -- for best spirit and best theme -- each with a $500 prize for the winner. And that is in addition to the other surprises planned for the evening, which will begin with a reception at 5 p.m. The bee itself starts at 6 p.m.

The idea, Ms. Beck said, is to make sure the evening not only accomplishes its goal of raising money to fund classroom mini-grants, teacher recruitment and incentive packages and the chamber's Junior Leadership Program, but that more people will want to be a part of the event.

"We want people to come on down and join the fun," she said. "Anyone can form a team -- you don't have to be the best spellers or have unlimited money. All you have to do is want to support education and be ready to have a good time."

And the money raised -- thousands of dollars in the past -- will continue to go toward making Wayne County schools some of the best in the state, said Ken Derksen, the county schools spokesman and volunteer Bee committee member.

"We are looking at the opportunity to invest in education," Derksen said. "Programs like the spelling bee will give teachers that extra something in the classroom -- and that makes a difference in student achievement. This is a chance to help a good cause, and to have a good time, all while helping to improve the county's schools."

Also as part of this year's effort, the chamber will direct some of the money raised to other concerns and efforts of its new Education Council -- an assemblage of local volunteers dedicated to improving the county's schools.

And keeping those schools functioning and healthy is important not just for the futures of the children who will learn there, but for the future of the county as well.

Strong schools mean more interest from businesses willing to invest in a county -- and to bring jobs and tax dollars with them, said Dr. Ed Wilson, Education Council chairman.

"The Bee is particularly important this year because of the recent cuts from the state in funding," Wilson said. "There simply is less money to work with -- and that can affect the quality of programs that the schools can provide. This is the community's chance to show that schools are top priority in Wayne County."

But in addition to the good they will accomplish, teams can spend an evening having a good time -- a nice change from the stress of the workday, Ms. Beck said.

"Don't be intimidated. Come out and give it a try. It's supposed to be fun -- and you might be surprised at just how good a speller you are," she said.

And to get the ball rolling, the chamber is having a contest to come up with a new name for its bee. Any Wayne County student in kindergarten through 12th grade can participate -- either by logging on to the chamber's Web site, www.waynecounty chamber.com, or by submitting their suggestion at their school.

But hurry -- the contest ends Sept. 30.

The contest winner will receive a $100 Visa card.

And for those who are up to the challenge, now is the time to sign up your team. Signup forms are available at the chamber's office at 308 N. William St. or by calling 734-2241.

The initial sponsorship fee is $250, which teams will able to use to purchase words at the bee.