So simple, yet so difficult: the word “muumuu” – which was the winning, or, depending on how you look at it, losing word at last year’s Moab Adult Spelling Bee. A muumuu is “a woman's loose, brightly colored dress, especially one traditionally worn in Hawaii.”

It’s that time again, and team members are busily studying word lists, hoping to be the last group standing at the sixth annual spelling bee on Thursday, Feb. 16, at the Bar M Chuckwagon, 7000 N. U.S. Highway 191.

Each team of three is given 30 seconds and a white board on which to collaborate and come up with the correct spelling of the word presented. Hint: It has to be legible.

Four teams at a time take the stage. Words grow in difficulty, as the evening wears on, said Melodie McCandless, organizer and co-chair of the Grand County Education Foundation, the event beneficiary. After a practice round, it’s single elimination.

Cynthia Gibson is returning for a third year to participate on the Utah State University-Moab campus team.

“It is a lot of fun – although you have to have a big dose of humility – it’s embarrassing when you spell a word wrong,” which she has done, Gibson said. “It’s a true community event. The audience participates with cheers and good warm friendly feelings.”

Jeff Flanders is the word “pronouncer” who also gives the definition. Steve Kennedy is the event’s emcee.

“Both have a great sense of humor and put their own flair into it,” making for a fun evening, McCandless said. “People laugh hard.”

The spelling words are derived from the Scripps National Spelling Bee word list for eighth grade. To participate in the Moab Adult Spelling Bee, you must be 15 or older.

“I email the study list to participants after they sign up,” so the sooner people register the more time they have to prepare, McCandless said.

Gibson’s colleague Roslynn Brain is also on the USU-Moab team. She said she studies the word lists beforehand so she can represent her academic organization well.

“It’s a blast,” Brain said. “I love the spelling bee, and it’s for a positive cause.”

Contestants also compete for best costume. The USU-Moab team always dresses up as “mardigrads,” said Gibson, by wearing caps and gowns and lots of Mardi Gras beads – because the event always falls around Mardi Gras time, she said.

Winners of both the costume and spelling contests receive a ham from City Market. The winning spelling team also receives the traveling trophy. Additionally, door prizes are possible for both contestants and audience members. The community donates a number of items such as gift certificates, T-shirts, jackets, hats and movie tickets.

Each team pays $180 to participate – the proceeds of which benefit the Grand County Education Foundation, founded by Grand County Middle School Principal Melinda Snow, to help fund activities that the school district's budget doesn’t cover. Last year’s event raised between $2,500 and $3,000, and the organization hopes to raise as much this year. The fund has gone toward such things as transportation to sporting events, debate competitions and arts and cultural activities.

Appetizers provided by the Grand County High School’s swim, debate and band teams, are included in the $10 admission fee to come and watch. Beer, water and soda will also available to purchase.

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