BY KATIE LOUDIN, WV PROGRAM DIRECTOR, ONE FOUNDATION
What do words like ‘impecunious,’ ‘vitiligo,’ ‘coulrophobia’ and ‘vivisepulture’ have in common? They were all part of the 5th Annual Upshur Arts Alliance Spelling Bee on January 24, 2020 in Buckhannon. This year’s event brought 25 teams into a friendly competition. The adult spelling bee puts the ‘f-u-n’ in fundraiser for the Upshur Arts Alliance (UAA), a non-profit 501(c)(3) umbrella organization providing financial support for Buckhannon Community Theatre, Buckhannon Choral Society, Augusta Youth Ballet Company, Buckhannon Chamber Orchestra, and Artistry on Main. The UAA also provides annual college scholarships for students planning to pursue a career in the arts as well as mini-grants to groups and individuals.
How does an adult spelling bee work?
First off, no one has to stand in front of a microphone, alone on a stage, staring down an audience: we’ll leave that high-pressure situation to the kids! With refreshments and drinks available for purchase, the adult spelling bee atmosphere is very casual. Spellers must be 18 years old, and teams are comprised of four spellers. There is a $100 registration fee for each team, which many local organizations and businesses sponsored. The spelling portion began an hour after doors opened, giving participants time to ‘buzz’ around the room. Spelling began at 7 pm with reasonable words like ‘fervor,’ ‘catastrophe,’ and ‘persimmon.’ Teams had 30 seconds to collectively decide how to spell a word, which they then submitted to their table judge. If correct, teams survived until the next round. If not, the table judge popped one of four helium balloons tied to the team’s table. Each team had the opportunity to purchase up to four additional balloons at $25 each. The last team with an unpopped balloon is named the winner!
The “Queen Bees”
This is the second year I’ve competed in the spelling bee on a team. Our team, the “Queen Bees,” came in fourth last year, and tied for third this year with the defending champions from the past two years, “AB/CD: Highway to Spell.” While we hoped to come out on top, we were happy for our friends from Buckhannon Community Theatre’s winning team, “To Bee or Not to Bee.” We didn’t win the traveling trophy this year, but we had a great time supporting the arts among friends and community members in the cold month of January. The experience was un-bee-lievable: laughter and warmth resonated throughout the room, mixed with nervous excitement as teams spelled their way into the new round or fell in defeat to words like ‘craquelure,’ ‘schadenfreude,’ or our final misspelled word, ‘querulous.’
The final word? Bougainvillea, defined as “a genus of thorny ornamental vines, bushes, or trees.” The “Queen Bees” will return next year, hoping to claim victory!
For more information about the Upshur Arts Alliance Adult Spelling Bee, please visit: https://www.mybuckhannon.com/better-bee-lieve-it-bct-team-too-bee-or-not-to-bee-upsets-reigning-champ-highway-to-spell/.
If you would like to replicate this event in your community, you can reach out to the Upshur Arts Alliance on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/818471014939343/about/.