Extreme Spelling Bee
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 27, 2010 2:01 PM
A killer bee was on the loose in the ballroom of Lane Tree Golf Club Tuesday evening, buzzing around the premises on a single-minded mission -- eliminating weak spellers one by one.
L.J. Stanley donned the "killer bee" costume for the ninth annual Extreme Bee competition, sponsored by the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce and Wayne Charitable Partnership.
Eight teams -- six representing county schools and the others from Wayne Memorial Hospital and Franklin Baking Co. -- battled for the title of county spelling champ.
And while it took a bit of skill and expertise to accomplish, the event was also propelled by money for a worthy cause, teacher mini-grants and the Junior Leadership program.
Teams raised money beforehand, which they used to bail themselves out if they missed a word. The "honey money" served as an insurance policy should they get stumped during a challenging round.
When the cash ran out, though, the team was removed from competition. Enter Stanley to conduct the elimination ceremony, armed with a long, pointy stinger to pop balloons hovering over the team's table.
Dr. David Rendall of Mount Olive College served as "embee" aided by "Vanna Bee," portrayed by Olivia Pierce of Wayne County Public Schools. Judges positioned around the room to keep things honest wore yellow T-shirts bearing the message, "I'll BEE the judge of that."
Three of them were actually judges by profession -- Superior Court Judge Arnold Jones and District Court Judges Charlie Gaylor and Joe Setzer.
Team themes and costumes kept things festive -- Brogden Middle School players featured Snow White and the seven dwarfs, while Fremont STARS Elementary's Refer BEEs donned striped referee shirts and Northeast Elementary players, the Hip-Bees, wore 1960s garb. Wayne Memorial Hospital's BEE Healthy players substituted exercise balls for chairs and were led by team captain Dr. Mike Willman, an eye doctor dressed like Richard Simmons.
There were three rounds of play, starting out with easy words like bijou, palladian and eke before moving on to medium and hard words and ultimately tie-breaking rounds.
Ken Derksen of Wayne County Public Schools, co-chairman of the event with Julie Beck of Mount Olive College, was on the committee to select words for the contest. He estimated they went through hundreds before narrowing it down to the ones chosen, including the final 45-letter word should it go into an eighth-round tie-breaker.
The first and second rounds of competition, everyone kept pace and the energy was high as screams went up each time teams successfully spelled a word, or were able to buy their way into the next round.
Then came the "hard word" round and one by one, teams were eliminated. First out was the Fremont team, followed by the Edgewood Community Developmental School team, Buzy BEE Building Blocks, and Tommyz Zombeez from Tommy's Road Elementary School.
The first tie-breaker round saw the departure of the hospital's team.
Remaining players all got "pshaw" correct, but "jhana" knocked out the Hip-Bees, causing Rendall to chant to the tune of a popular oldie, "Jhana na na, hey, hey, hey, good-bye."
Dillard Middle School's BEEwitched team was eliminated by the word "degage," leaving two teams to duke it out -- Brogden and Franklin Baking Co.'s Revenge of the Nerdy Scientists.
Both got "exegesis" right, but a full, shapely figure, or at least the descriptive word for one, "zaftig," did in Snow White and the dwarfs.
"Let's give it up for the nerds!" Rendall said as he declared the Franklin team winners.
The winners, in addition to trophies and the championship title, received a $500 grant for the school of their choice. The group said they had chosen Rosewood Elementary School to be the recipient.
"We all are involved in a lot of schools with our children, so we drew out the name of a school," said Natalie Stinnett, team campaign, explaining their selection process.
The Franklin team held bake sales and hot dog sales and asked for donations to support the team effort, member Jackie Neal said. That just left the mental preparation.
"Last year, we studied a lot but (the words) were so difficult we decided to just go on what we knew, just guess the best we could," Ms. Neal said of their strategy.
"It was fun," added team member Angie Brogden. "I'm actually the spouse of an employee, so it was fun for the camaraderie, for the Franklin family. It's for the kids and that's what's important."
The team came armed with $2,000 that had been raised and still had money left over at contest's end, which they contributed to the proceeds.
Janet Brock estimated this year's event raised $8,600.
Other awards handed out at the Bee included a $250 grant for Dillard Middle School's BEEwitched, for having the best theme and costume; the spirit award, which included another $250 grant, went to Edgewood; and a nod to the first team eliminated, Fremont STARS.
This year, there was also a "Build-A-Bee" contest for schools to create a bee. First place went to Northeast Elementary, which received a $50 gift certificate to Books-A-Million and an Olympus camera digital coloring set. Second place went to Edgewood, which received a journal and a recordable story book.