Contestants tackle spelling challenges at Brunswick Literacy Council’s Adult Spelling Bee.
Six teams misspelled “onomatopoeia” after Stephen Burns, pronouncer and expediter at the Adult Spelling Bee, said the word and gave its definition. The word means using a specific word that imitates the sound associated with something, such as buzz, boom, gush or honk.
The 32nd annual competition, a major fundraiser for Brunswick County Literacy Council, attracted sponsors, individual donors and supporters to Odell Williamson Auditorium on the campus of Brunswick Community College in Bolivia on May 24.
The format of the competition changed this year. Melissa Warren, executive director of the Literacy Council, explained the changes were made in favor of efficiency.
Instead of the teams sitting in the audience and coming to a microphone at the front of the room, the 14 two-person teams sat on the stage in the auditorium. Each team was given a small white board, a black marker and an eraser. When Burns announced the word, each team wrote their choice of the spelling on the board then held the board in the air for the judges to see. Judges were Sheriff John Ingram, Bradley Whaley from State Farm Insurance and Lowell Puckett from Makai Brewing Company in Ocean Isle Beach. Contestants were instructed they would be disqualified if the judges couldn’t read the spelling, but everyone printed the spellings clearly.
The first word Burns pulled was “panic.” All teams spelled it correctly and continued to spell 28 more words right until “impropriety” stumped two teams. “Onomatopoeia” was the 31st word. Only six teams remained in the competition after that misspelling.
Two words later, “supersede” stunned the six teams.
“They are all wrong,” Ingram said.
This astonished Burns, Bob Farrell the timekeeper and Rick Skorny, president of the council board. Ingram walked to their table to confer, and the group agreed that the teams’ spellings were wrong.
“You all get a bye,” Burns said.
“Facsimile” and “tenuous” eliminated two teams, leaving four in the running for the first-place trophy. However, three of the teams misspelled “sacrilegious,” leaving Spring Harkins of Shallotte and Bill Chase of Ocean Isle Beach the champions. Their sponsor was Southport Realty.
Harkins said she loves reading and so is aware of how words are spelled. “Being a reader, things that are misspelled jump off the page and hit me in the face,” she said.
Chase, a perennial contestant, credits his spelling accuracy at having a career as a librarian. He and spelling partner Anne Bailey won the 2019 contest, and in 2018, he and Bailey tied for the championship.
Tony Iannotta of Carolina Shores and Keith Duclos of Sunset Beach earned second-place honors by spelling “surreptitiously,” eliminating the other two teams. Their sponsor was Seaside United Methodist Church in Sunset Beach. Iannotta won second place with spelling partner Kathy Gillcrist in the 2021 competition.
“I am very pleased to be a small part of Brunswick County’s awareness of literacy and the part it plays in understanding the world we live in,” he wrote in an email.
Another facet of the evening was presenting a trophy to the team with the best costume. “The Spell Checkers” Jan Comfort and Sean Sweikow, whose sponsor was St. James the Fisherman Episcopal Church in Shallotte, won with their witch and wizard “checkers” outfits.
Others in the costume competition were the 2021 champions Kerry Cantwell and Paul Mills, teachers at Brunswick Community College, their sponsor. Cantwell’s shirt had “To Bee…” while Mills’ shirt read “Or, Not to Bee.” Cantwell apologized to her students for misspelling “onomatopoeia.”
Businesses, organizations and individuals donated about 100 items to the silent auction, ranging from wine to golf packages to household items. Door prizes included bagels from Bagel Dock Cafe in Calabash and 2 Ladies & a Scoop in Ocean Isle Beach.
“I’m very excited that we had 14 teams this year,” Warren said. “We had several first-time participants, and we contribute that to the fact that Brunswick County Literacy Council is increasing its visibility in the communities we serve.” She added that she appreciates all the sponsors, donors and community members who support the council.
Brunswick County Literacy Council supports the community in several capacities. It helps adults who want to improve their reading, those who wish to get their General Equivalency Diploma and those who wish to learn to speak English.
For more information:
Brunswick County Literacy Council
282 Ocean Highway E., Supply
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