SOUTH FORSYTH — Pirates, queens and scholars all took to the stage Tuesday night to vie for top spelling honors. But this spelling bee had a twist: the contestants, adorned in team costumes, were all adults.
Fittingly, a trio of librarians calling themselves “Spells Like Teen Spirit” spelled their way to No. 1.
The 15thannual Spell Check Live! was held at the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center to raise money for Literacy Forsyth, an organization that provides educational opportunities for adults, including GED preparation and English classes.
“I’m always astounded at the spellers,” said Denise Leeson, secretary for the nonprofit and branch manager for Cumming Library, “but the costumes are the best.”
The adult spelling bee is the group’s largest fundraiser of the year, typically collecting about $10,000, Leeson said. As a new addition this year, contestants, judges, hosts and audience members gathered ahead of time for food, drinks and music at the Buzz Before the Bee.
Teams were able to buy lifeline-type cards for $100 each, which came into play quickly. Although the first team out, “Pirates of the Sea (not to be confused with C, which comes after B…Rrrr)” from Midway Elementary School took home the prize for best costume.
Judges — Fonda Harrison, chief academic officer for Forsyth County Schools, Lynn Jackson, administrator for Northside Hospital, and Jon McDaniel, director of the Forsyth County Public Library System — kept track of words such as “demagoguery,” “champignon” and “doctrinaire” as the field thinned to two teams.
Spells Like Teen Spirit won with the word “dysrhythmia,” beating out the “Queen Bees” from the South Forsyth Rotary Club.
“It’s just shocking. We’re newbies at this,” said Meredith Bowermeister, information services supervisor at Sharon Forks Library. “We’re new to the [county’s] library system, so it’s kind of empowering. It was good collaborative teamwork.”
Bowermeister and her teammates dressed in T-shirts, jeans and leggings, tying flannel shirts around their waists, reminiscent of a 1990s teenager.
“The words were just so out there and unusual,” said team member Jennifer Kovac, information services supervisor at Cumming Library.
They practiced a little before the bee, but “for the most part, we just hoped for the best,” said Sarah Reynolds, Post Road Library information services supervisor.
The other teams they topped were the “Middle School Word Nerds” from Forsyth County Schools, “Spelling Scholars” from longtime participant Lanier Tech and “Beetarians” from Forsyth County Rotary Club.
“People might be shocked to know there are 13,000 adults [in the county] without a high school education or the equivalent,” said James McCoy, master of ceremonies for the bee. “It’s hard to advance in economic standing without the most basic for of education.”
McCoy, who’s also the president and CEO of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, said he wanted to be involved in the bee “not just because I care about the people of the community, but it’s an economic issue, too.”