Wordsmith Gay Hammond declared it a “God war” when the 27th annual Great Grown Up Good Time Spelling Bee came down to the reigning champion Grace Episcopal Church Godspellers and the First United Methodist Church Circuit Riders.
After 72 words, Grace Episcopal held onto its title with the correct spelling of the winning word noetic. First UMC had just spelled violaceous incorrectly, so the Godspellers got the steal, spelled it correctly, and went on to win.
“The question you always have to ask is, ‘who’s going to get the big curveball from Gay?’” said Rob Harris, a member of the Godspellers. “And that sort of determines who’s on top. It’s nice to win a couple years in a row, though. We’ve got the same crew up here and we get a really nice wood trophy.”
Harris’ teammate, Amy Bussler, said they started studying in March. There are a lot of quiz words they share with each other and Harris said he even flags his emails when he sees an interesting word.
“If you’re a word nerd, there’s like five or six sites that feed you every day,” Harris said.
It looked like the spelling bee was going to go well into midnight when the Godspellers, the Circuit Riders and the Spell Casters from Lanier Technical College went back-and-forth for quite a few rounds. Finally, the Spell Casters were taken out after spelling ecdysiast incorrectly.
First-time competitors, Team Downtown Drafts, from Downtown Drafts, got out in the fourth round after what seemed to be a misheard word. The word was demulcent, but Team Downtown Drafts, led by co-owner Aimee Hoecker, forgot a letter.
“It was a lot of fun,” Hoecker said. “It was much more serious than we were anticipating, but it was a good time.”
She said Downtown Drafts will definitely have a team next year, and she hopes to do much better after writing down some of the missed words from this year to study.
The spelling bee is unique in that if a team spells a word incorrectly, it can buy its way back in with a $100 donation to the Gainesville-Hall County Alliance for Literacy, the organization the spelling bee benefits.
Every team used its donation, except for Grace Episcopal. It didn’t get a single word incorrect during the entire spelling bee.
Other teams included members from Brenau University, the Hall County Library System, First Baptist Church of Gainesville, Lanier Technical College, The Times and Gainesville Rotary Club.
The first team eliminated was the Rotary Club. After it spelled whittawer incorrectly, it left empty-handed. The winning team, though, won the trophy and each member received a gift card.
“Really, it’s bragging rights,” Harris said. “That’s really the prize.”