FORSYTH COUNTY — In a turn of events at the annual adult spelling bee, the reigning champions exited the competition in the first round, making way for a self-described “always second” team to take the top prize.
Now in its 16th year, Spell Check Live! is the biggest fundraiser for Literacy Forsyth and a chance for an array of community groups to come together for one cause. The event was held Tuesday at the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center.
“I think we take for granted that we are an overall well-educated community and that [literacy] remains an issue,” said James McCoy, president/CEO of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce and master of ceremonies for the bee. “But it very much is, and these folks are here to resolve it.”
Literacy Forsyth is a local nonprofit that has been providing GED classes, English lessons and tutoring for low-level and non-reading adults and non-English speakers since 1993.
“The pathway to prosperity is through education. This is really the very most basic level of education, and it’s hopefully the starting point for a whole lifetime of education for folks,” McCoy said.
Proceeds from the adult spelling bee, for which teams dress up and bought do-over cards, are mostly used for materials and instruction, according to Rebecca Eller, the nonprofit’s first-year executive director.
“People from so many facets of the community — business, industry, civic, education, religious, clubs — came together,” Eller said. “It’s what Literacy Forsyth is really about, empowering people to achieve their goals in all of these areas of their lives.”
Judges Michael Giordano from the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, Lynn Jackson from Northside Hospital-Forsyth, and Amy Reutter from Forsyth County Schools led six “bee-dazzled” teams through rounds of obscure words, from gesundheit to flibbertigibbet.
The first surprise of the night came when the team representing the Forsyth County Public Library, Beewitched, was the first to bow out. It did, however, win the prize for best costume.
Other teams included two from Midway Elementary School — Big Bang Theory! and the Super-Secret Spy Spellers! — and Lanier Tech’s Spelling Scholars.
McCoy could only help them so much by giving definitions, languages of origin and examples of the words in a sentence.
Eventually, two teams remained: the Rotary Club of Forsyth County’s Highway to Spell and the South Forsyth Rotary Club’s ZomBees.
“This is our first year winning,” said District Attorney Penny Penn of the ZomBees. “We’re very excited about that.”
When asked about their strategy as they spelled the winning word, "frondeur," James Daniel thought for a moment as he, Penn and Amy Baker were still dressed as bees with zombie faces.
“We,” he said, “were just winging it.”