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First United Methodist reigns as spelling bee champ

POSTED: April 24, 2013 1:08 a.m.

A South Louisiana delicacy, the mirliton also goes by chayote, mango squash and vegetable pear.

On Tuesday night, it was a tasty word that helped Gainesville First United Methodist Church clinch its second consecutive spelling bee championship and its fifth in 12 years.

The “Circuit Riders” defeated runner-up Lanier Technical College’s “Word Nerds” and seven other groups to capture the Gainesville/Hall County Alliance for Literacy’s 22nd annual spelling bee.

“Some of it is luck of the draw,” said Circuit Rider Ruth Bruner of the words that teams receive during the competition.

“We would have missed several of these words tonight if we had gotten them.”

Some words could be tackled by matching letters to how they typically sound, or phonetically. As for others, such as chthonic (pronounced thonic), it was a shot in the dark.

Even the event’s perennial “wordsmith,” Gay Hammond, remarked during the competition, “I love words that have silent letters, don’t you?”

The bee, held at Brenau University’s Pearce Auditorium, serves as the nonprofit alliance’s biggest fundraiser, with proceeds going to help increase adult and family literacy in Hall County.

The agency receives no government money and relies on donations to provide free reading classes at the Adult Learning Center at 4« Stallworth St., Gainesville.

“Our local economy further suffers when we have a less-educated populace, as it is more difficult to attract new business investment,” said Dorothy Shinafelt, the alliance’s executive director.

While the mission is serious, the spelling bee is anything but. The event’s official name is “Brain-Teasing, Crowd-Pleasing Good Time Romp of a Spelling Bee.”

Hammond kept things revved up with quips and rips of strange-sounding words.

When a judge told one of the competing groups that a word derived from vulgar Latin, she said, “Oh, the vulgar Latin — you don’t want to go there.”

Many of the words had audience members shaking their head, such as “jaboticaba” and “quassia.”

Bruner, a Gainesville city councilwoman, said she and teammates Sheila McCleary and Pat Harrell didn’t prepare for the event by gathering around a dictionary or other language resource and cramming words in their brains.

“We notice words all during the year that are interesting, that look like they might be something Gay would like,” she said. “She likes real unusual, fun words.”


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