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Grace Episcopal's 'Godspell' wins spelling bee
First United Methodist Church team of Circuit Riders sings themselves on stage. - photo by Michelle Boaen Jameson

Winning words

Take a crack at these final five words of the 23rd Annual Spelling Bee, sponsored by The Times and the Gainesville-Hall County Alliance for Literacy.

sesquipedalian — having many syllables

aposiopesis — the leaving of a thought incomplete usually by a sudden breaking off

ootheca — a firm-walled and distinctive egg case

buskined — of, relating to, or befitting tragedy

demesne — legal possession of land as one’s own


Nancy Richardson stood confidently in front of the microphone, reading carefully from the scribbled copy on the notepad she held.

“Sesquipedalian,” she repeated. “S-E-S-Q-U-I-P-E-D-A-L-I-A-N.”

And with that, the 23rd annual Spelling Bee came to a close Tuesday evening, after nine teams went through 79 words, ranging in difficulty from “countenance” to “aposiopesis.”

Richardson, along with Rob Harris and Leanne Edwards, made up Grace Episcopal Church’s “Godspell” team. And they were prepared for the annual event, hosted and sponsored by both the Gainesville-Hall County Alliance for Literacy and The Times.

“I was sweating it,” Edwards said.

“Especially after missing the very first word,” Harris added.

Indeed, the church team missed the word ‘coffle’ in the very first round; however, teams were given the opportunity to buy one more chance for $100. Luckily, the team needed no extra help as the rounds continued.

The 79 words broke a record for the annual adult spelling bee and was more than double last year’s 38 words.

“It’s a testament to the teams that study,” said wordsmith Gay Hammond, in her 20th year of pronouncing words for the event. “Those two church teams get very competitive and they study, and they make a difference.”

The First United Methodist Church team of Michelle Alexander, Ruth Bruner and Shelia McCleary, calling themselves the “Circuit Riders,” came in second place.

Nine teams took the stage, including groups from Brenau University, First Baptist Church, Gainesville Rotary Club, Hall County Library, Lanier Technical College, Gainesville Theatre Alliance and the University of North Georgia Education Club.

Also recognized was state Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, who is the 2014 recipient of the Georgia Adult Literacy Advocates Legislative Honor Roll award.

“When you have associates and people you know, particularly adults, when they literally learn to read and you see that light go on ... it’s beautiful,” Miller said.

While no total was available Tuesday evening, Alliance Executive Director Dorothy Shinafelt estimated a total of $15,000 was raised, all of which goes to benefit the Alliance’s goal of increasing literacy in the county.

As for the winning team, its members already are looking forward to next year.

“They’ve compiled year after year after year (of words),” Harris said, explaining how the team studies leading up to the event.

“And I wrote down all the words tonight,” Godspell alternate team member Emilie Gille said. “I got almost all of them right.”

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