Members of team ‘Highway to Spell’ are crowned Queen Bees during the 4th annual Community Spelling Bee Friday at the Brushy Fork Event Center – an event sponsored by the Upshur Arts Alliance. Accepting the trophy for best spellers are ‘Highway to Spell’ members Daya Wright, Shauna Jones, Kim Bjorgo-Thorne and Lynn M. Linder, UAA BZ Bee David Carson and UAA President Charliena Helmick.

‘Highway to Spell’ locks down winning title for second consecutive year at community spelling bee

BUCKHANNON – The Event Center at Brushy Fork was all “abuzz” Friday evening as more than 40 teams gathered to compete in the Fourth Annual Upshur Arts Alliance Community Spelling Bee.

The contest, which separated the drones from the queen bee spellers, is a “fun”-draiser where local folks form teams to compete against one another in a spelldown – and the real winners are the arts.

The Upshur Arts Alliance is celebrating 37 years of service to the community, and its longstanding mission has been supporting promotion and growth of arts and culture in Upshur County. Funds from the spelling bee provide financial funding to The August Youth Ballet Company, Buckhannon Chamber Orchestra, Buckhannon Community Theatre, Buckhannon Choral Society and Artistry on Main.

UAA provides two $500 scholarships for Upshur County seniors pursuing careers in the arts and offers mini-grants to groups and individuals. All monies raised from the community spelling bee go back into the community in support of the arts.

Friday’s teams each had a maximum of four spellers and for an entry fee of $100, each team had four balloons. Each team had a judge who checked the spelling of the word, and if the team spelled the word incorrectly, the assigned judge popped one of their balloons.

Teams had the option of purchasing up to three more balloons, giving them extra chances.

The teams spelled each word, which started easy with the word “trauma” and went on to much harder words including “okapi,” which is a forest giraffe native to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa to “aphelion” – which is the point in the orbit of a planet, asteroid or comet at which it is furthest from the sun.

Many teams had trouble spelling “triskaidekaphobia,” the fear or avoidance of the number 13.

The final three teams in the spelling bee were the Champyun Spellers – PEO Sisterhood, Chapter A; To Bee or Not to Bee/CT – Klie Law Offices; and last year’s winner, Highway to Spell – Daya Wright and Friends. The final word to spell was “smaragdine,” which means yellowish green in color like an emerald.

After spelling 39 words, the “Bee” victorious team – Daya Wright and Friends, which included Kim Bjorgo-Thorne, Shauna Jones and Lynn M. Linder – were crowned champions of the Fourth Upshur Arts Alliance Community Spelling Bee for the second year in a row.

Craig Presar served as the “bee master” by pronouncing the words to spell, giving their definition and giving their meanings. Kayla Long kept the timer and the word master for the evening was Sandra Presar. David Carson kept everyone buzzing as he flew around the room as the “BZ Bee.”

Members of the winning team, Highway to Spell, said this is their second year winning the event.

“Last year, our winning word was ‘dotard,’” Daya Wright said. “We misspelled a word last year, and I went home and looked up the spelling. I will never forget how to spell it again.”

Wright said the team owes its success to diversity.

“We have a biology professor, an English professor, a social worker and a lawyer on our team. We had it covered,” Wright said.

Charliena Helmick, president of the Upshur Arts Alliance, said the Community Spelling Bee raised approximately $6,000 before expenses. Members of the spelling bee committee include Sandra Presar, David Carson, Charliena Helmick, Jane Helmick, David Thomas and Jeanie West Ward.

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