Skip to content

Adult Spelling Bee Draws Young At Heart

October 15, 2013

by Zachary Olsavicky

Spelling bees typically bring to mind the image of a young person, standing in a school auditorium speaking into a microphone. But while youngsters weren’t allowed to participate in Thursday’s Adult Spelling Bee at the Pine Hills library, those participating certainly put their inner children on display.

In a timed elimination round, spelling team The Sesquipedalians reigned victorious with a 22-second reverse spelling of “oscillating.” Nine groups participated, and Jim Davies, who co-hosted the event along with Leah Lafera, was pleased with the event’s turnout.

Members of The Spell Chequers watch the Adult Spelling Bee. (Credit: Zachary Olsavicky)

Members of The Spell Chequers watch the Adult Spelling Bee. (Credit: Zachary Olsavicky)

“It’s a comfortable number for the room,” said Davies, who works as a librarian at the Pine Hills Library. “It’s enough where there’s a number of teams to compete… it’s the perfect number for turnout.”

The event didn’t follow the norms of a traditional spelling bee, but cast itself in the mold of a team trivia night. Participants play in groups of three to five, and the bee featured five rounds of play.

Although spelling bees are typically oriented toward younger players, the Bee hosted at the library was open only to adults 18 years of age and older.

“We wanted to make it for adults because this typically occurs in schools and we wanted to cater towards college kids and young adults who might still enjoy that kind of fun but are used to the trivia nights in the area that are only for adults,” said Davies.

The team trivia nights were a major source of inspiration for Davies and Lafera, who both enjoy going to local trivia events with friends and co-workers.

“I am a bit of a trivia enthusiast so we worked in more of a trivia style team competition,” said Lafera, who is library director at the Arkell Museum and Canajoharie Library. “Every crazy idea for a spelling or word game we could come up with we wrote out. “

Davies thought the event might be “too boring,” he said. So, “we tried to transform it into something more social and fun.”

Groups began with a list of frequently misspelled words, having to find and fix misspelled words while leaving correctly spelled words alone. The next round saw teams try to construct the longest word from a selection of 14 letters. After that, groups were given a list of newer words and phrases, tasked with figuring out whether or not they were in the Oxford English dictionary. The fourth round was described as a “Hot Potato” round, where teams combined to spell longer words, each team contributing one word at a time. Finally, teams sent up one representative to participate in a traditional spelling bee.

The event originally had 10 rounds, according to Lafera, but she and Davies shrunk the number of games to shorten the event. Davies mentioned that the words chosen for competition were common, but often misspelled, in order to avoid confusion.

Lafera and Davies met in 2005 when they both worked as library clerks. They both studied at the State University of New York at Albany’s library sciences program, and Lafera took a job at the Arkell Museum and Canajoharie Library while Davies began work as a librarian with the Albany Public library. Both remained good friends, and began brainstorming the idea of the Bee over the summer.

Davies described the event as “difficult” to organize, saying that he and Lafera met on three consecutive weekends to revise rules and decide which games would be part of the event.

“(Lafera) and I tested it Friday night and it went over quite well,” said Davies, “but there (were) some things we needed to emphasize more than others and rules we had to implement, so it’s taken a lot of work to get there.” Davies explained that the Pine Hills branch was chosen to host the event in part due to the large student and faculty population in the neighborhood.

“Logistics of an event like this are usually the most time consuming,” explained Lafera, who organized a variety of events at the library and museum in Canajoharie. “How do we make something educational, interactive, fun, and memorable?”

For participants, a joy was taken in the event’s old-fashioned feel in a world of autocorrect. Sarah Hicks, who attended the Bee with a group of friends, enjoyed the challenge of spelling without the aid of correcting software.

“We’re young, we’re in our twenties, we remember a little bit before the computer was out and everything you typed had a zig-zag underneath it… So, you know, I definitely believe that kids are a little spoiled nowadays with that… It’s so ridiculous to me.”

That nostalgic feeling was one of the main draws for Lafera.

“As we get older, we often lose that wonderment we had in our youth. Wouldn’t you welcome the chance to capture a little of that magic again?” -30-


From → Uncategorized

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: