The Un-bee-lievable Spelling Bee

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For many, spelling bees are an intense childhood activity that pit students against each other in a brutal competition for a highly coveted plastic trophy and perpetual bragging rights. The terrifying ding of a bell signaling the end of one’s chances for glory is enough to evoke stressful memories for people of all ages.

However, on February 26, Scarsdale adults and teens bravely took to the high school auditorium to participate in the sixth annual Scarsdale Adult and Teen Spelling Bee, hosted by the Friends of the Scarsdale Library. “It is a unique event, it’s a little old fashioned and competitive, but it’s just a fun competition”, described library director Elizabeth Bermel. The spelling bee consists of two rounds; the first round is split into four “swarms” in which different five teams compete to win their swarm and move to the final round. In this round, the announcer states the word and definition, then teams have 20 seconds to confer and write the word on a whiteboard. Any team that misspells a word is automatically eliminated and the last team standing will advance to the second round. In the second round, each winning team was individually given a word to spell into a microphone. After 20 seconds of consulting as a group, only one team member was allowed to spell his word aloud. Again, any word spelled incorrectly would lead to elimination. This year was the fiercest competition yet, with words like “afflatus” and “embouchure” quickly confirming the most proficient spellers. Even the winning team, the Bee Bee Kings, had a hard time with words like “nescience” and “oscillator,” and just barely beat out the second place team, the Jelly Bee-ns. “The hardest word was actually the word we had to go up and spell because it was a word none of us knew,” confessed spelling bee champion Sunil Subbakrishna, “We took a guess and it turned out to be right.”

Although the allure of the grand prize, Bose Headphones, definitely draws in teams, most recurring participants say it is seeing the whole community together that brings them back year after year. “I like the idea that there is an adult spelling bee and even the adults vary in age,” commented Hip to Bee Square member Esther Sloan, “I think the mixing of generations is a good thing, a fun thing.” Having to spell with a large audience watching can be nerve wracking, but the overall experience is fun for everyone. Even high school students can organize their own teams to compete in the fourth swarm of the competition which is composed of only teen teams. Unfortunately teen participation was lacking this year, but some brave middle schoolers from the audience entered last minute and served as wild card competitors. The teens were not spared and given words that would be challenging for most adults, but nonetheless the teen participants had a great time competing. “The spelling bee is super fun, it benefits our town’s library, and it’s a great way to improve your spelling,” mentioned teen participant Jamie Robelen ’19.

Despite the spelling bee taking place on its snow date, the audience attendance was high and lively. Between rounds, audience interest was sparked by trivia questions in which correct answers would be rewarded with a voucher for the library’s September book sale. Not only is the event intellectually stimulating and fun for audience members and contestants alike, it also raises money for a great cause; the Scarsdale Public Library. Through a series of silent auctions for items like a private Soulcycle Class and a spa day, the library raised money that will go towards funding high profile speakers and special programs for residents of all ages. Audience members were encouraged to donate generously, making the spelling bee one of the library’s most successful fundraisers.

This highly anticipated event once again proved to be entertaining and brought our community together. Both spellers, audience member, and volunteers walked away with a sense of pride knowing they had helped our community by supporting the Scarsdale Public Library.  

by Caroline Meyer