Moab Adult Spelling Bee

Sarah Finocchio, Andrew Mirrington and Tim Chappell comprised the winning Moab Sun News team at last year’s Moab Adult Spelling Bee. [Courtesy photo]

There’s still time to form a team for the fourth annual Moab Adult Spelling Bee at Star Hall.

Or, if spelling is not your thing, come join the audience on Thursday, Feb. 19 at 6:30 p.m. It’s a fun event for all ages to watch as community members compete with one another – both for best costume and for being the last team standing.

Using a white board and a marker, teams have 30 seconds to scribble the correct spelling of the word given by the “pronouncer.”

This year’s pronouncer, Jeff Flanders, will choose a word from the National Spelling Bee Association list, give its definition and use the word in a sentence. Later on in the evening, he will select an even more challenging word from his own personal list, said Melodie McCandless, co-chair of the Grand County Education Foundation.

The education foundation sponsors the annual spelling bee to raise funds for student activities and programs such as band, debate, drama, music, after-school tutoring and athletics. Last year’s spelling bee raised approximately $2,750.

In the past 10 years, the foundation has given $100,000 to programs benefiting Moab schoolchildren.

The Moab Sun News’ team squeaked out a win during last year’s spelling bee when it successfully spelled the word “connoisseur.” Other challenging words included “bourgeoisie,” “bougainvillea,” and “onomatopoeia,” recalled Moab Sun News publisher Andrew Mirrington, one of the team members.

“We are definitely word nerds,” Mirrington said.

“The spelling bee is a blast and it takes place in Moab’s classiest venue – Star Hall. But the coolest thing about the event is that it is a fundraiser for the Grand County Education Foundation.”

The best costume last year went to the Eastern Utah Community Credit Union team members, who called themselves “Leave it to the Beavers.” The team of three women dressed in 1950s attire reminiscent of the 1950s-60s’ “Leave it to Beaver” television show.

Grand County Middle School Principal Melinda Snow founded the Grand County Education Foundation in 2009, during a time of budget cuts that caused a reduction in staff and programs at Moab schools.

“The foundation’s mission was to raise money for opportunities – academic and extracurricular activities,” Snow said. “Some art and music programs, and athletic programs were not receiving (Utah) funding.”

Snow began knocking on doors, recruiting residents to serve on the nonprofit's board of directors – many of whom still serve, she said.

“I learned so much about our community and its willingness to help children,” Snow said.

Through fundraisers like the Adult Spelling Bee, the foundation has sponsored the Quiz Bowl, bought equipment for the high school marching band, provided more art instruction and supported the school district’s robotics program. The foundation has also made field trips possible, including a trip to Boston by Helen M. Knight Elementary students.

An adult spelling bee seemed like a new and unique experience for fundraising, and it brings the community together, Snow said.

Admission to the event is $5 - which includes a chance to win door prizes as well as enjoy an evening of fun costumes and friendly – but serious – competition. Homemade cookies and lemonade will be for sale.

That $5 goes back to the kids, McCandless said. “It’s a really good cause, and it does make you laugh – and it makes your brain think as you spell along with the (contestants).”

As of last week, 10 teams were signed up. To finish by 8:30 p.m., the event is limited to 16 teams. Anyone 16 and older is eligible to form a team. Cost to compete is $180 – all proceeds fund the education foundation. Many people find business sponsorship; others pay the contest fee themselves, McCandless said.

For more information, contact McCandless at 435-259-9797.

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