by Caitlin Huston
Team members groaned and cheered Tuesday night as they spelled or misspelled five-syllable words like chiaroscuro and glossolalia in the Great Grown-up Spelling Bee.
The team from Columbia Middle School won first place out of 17 teams in the 21st annual bee. The event raised about $2,000 for the Literacy Volunteers of Cass County.
As the proctor read each word and then used it in a sentence, the team members from local organizations and businesses jotted down their guesses and flipped their scorecards to reflect wins and losses.
Fifty words and an additional 10 tiebreaker words were selected from a national spelling bee list for the competition.
“We try not to make it overwhelmingly challenging,” said Dave Miller, president of the Literacy Volunteers of Cass County. “We don’t want to discourage people to participate.”
Columbia Middle School finished first, while Steinberger Construction took second place, and Calvary Presbyterian took third.
Pioneer Schools, known as the Spellbinders, won the Spirit Award. Words like obfuscatory earned whistles of admiration and dismay from the team members.
To enter the bee, the teams pay a $100 registration fee, which goes toward providing materials for the literacy volunteer program.
Miller said the event is a fun way to raise money for books and other resources for the literacy volunteer program, but also to recruit tutors to help educate adults in Cass County who have trouble reading.
“It is a fundraiser for us, but it is also a way to promote the organization, “ Miller said.
The literacy volunteers train tutors and match them with an adult in the county, Miller said. Their current volunteer pool of about 28 people helps between 35 and 45 adults, said Nancy Taylor of the literacy group.
To prepare for the event, Pam Steinberger of the Steinberger Construction Team said she had been studying a dictionary, paying special attention to the difficult words.
Veteran team members from the Landis Elementary Team prepared to face the competition under the ironic team name “Supur dupeer spelurs.” Greg Dominick, a fourth-grade teacher at Landis, said like last year, their goal was still to beat the other schools in the bee.“We definitely want to beat Columbia,” Dominick said before the bee.
Julie Gaumer, a ninth-grade English teacher and member of Mike Anderson’s “Super Bees,” said she enjoys participating because she’s able to experience the same emotions as her students who compete in spelling bees at school.
“There is some pressure, but it’s good,” Gaumer said. Miller said he wants to continue the fundraiser to support the organization.
“It has been successful and with that success we want to keep the people interested and keep our organization funded,” Miller said.