BUCKHANNON – Attention spellers: “bee” ready for Upshur Arts Alliance’s fourth annual Community Spelling Bee!
On the last Friday of January – Jan. 25 –spellers will compete in the annual “bee” at the Event Center at Brushy Fork. While spelling their hearts out, participants will also be raising funds for the local arts-focused nonprofit, which has supported the arts in Upshur County for over 36 years.
Event chair Elizabeth Spencer explained the event began several years ago when a Buckhannon resident moved to North Carolina and saw the event being done there.
“She called and suggested we consider using this theme for a fundraiser,” Spencer said. “We put our own spin on the concept and it grew from there.”
And, it certainly did grow.
When the event started at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School, Spencer said one member estimated about 25 teams participated in the inaugural spelling bee.
“The second year, the event grew enough to move to The Event Center at Brushy Fork, with a whopping 37 teams,” she added.
Unfortunately, due to scheduling changes out of UAA’s control, last year’s event only saw about 20 teams.
However, Spencer said the “bee bug” is back this year.
“With 40 committed teams on the roster, the event has been capped, due to location capacity and feasibility,” she said.
Spencer noted the event has been guaranteed to not have any scheduling conflicts, which has UAA looking forward to the “best year” yet.
Buckhannon Councilman David Thomas, who has been organizing participating groups for the past few months, explained the teams will consist of four people who will consult with each other about the correct spelling of a particular word.
“The format is the four spellers at the table will pass on a piece of paper to their judge,” Thomas said. “They have four balloons on the judge’s chair, and if they misspell a word, they have to pop a balloon.”
Since the event started four years, the spelling bee has become a local tradition for the community.
“We have gotten a lot of great feedback from community members encouraging us to keep it going, as they always look forward to competing again the next year as soon as another bee concludes,” said Spencer. “Watching them come together and enjoying friendly competition and a sense of community is really rewarding for our organization.”
With the spelling bee as UAA’s major fundraiser, the success over the years has had an impact on the volunteer-run organizations’ annual revenue.
“We contribute funding to five local arts groups in the county, including Buckhannon Choral Society, Buckhannon Chamber Orchestra, Buckhannon Community Theatre, Augusta Youth Ballet Company and Artistry on Main, as well as two annual $500 grants for local graduating seniors pursuing careers in the arts, and other mini arts grants to local individuals and groups,” Spencer noted.
Whether it be the community’s youth, seniors or other organizations, Thomas said it’s important to show support.
“I think arts and culture, music, Buckhannon Community Theatre, sports programs, the band, you could go on and on, it’s just what adds to the quality of life and gives people an opportunity to [partake in] whatever their interests are – if they have an interest in one particular thing versus another, they should support the areas of their interests and some people do all of them,” he said.
The deadline for registration, sponsorship and ad purchase is Friday, Jan. 18. The entry fee is $100 per team.
For more information about the Upshur Arts Alliance or the annual Adult Spelling Bee, call Elizabeth Spencer at 304-704-8678 or visit UAA’s website. To sponsor or participate, call Jeannie West Ward at 304-472-2866.
For those interested in watching the spelling bee, admission is free.