Spelling bee promises to bring laughs, dollars to schools

In 1925, the winning word in the National Spelling Bee was gladiolus.

Things have gotten a lot harder. This year's winning word was guetapens. Last year it was cymotrichous. How about autochthonous from 2004? (Their meanings: ambush, having wavy hair and aboriginal.)

One hopes the words presented in the Wilton Education Foundation's Inaugural Spelling Bee won't be quite as difficult.

The bee will be held Friday, Nov. 16, at 7 p.m. at the Clune Center for the Arts at Wilton High School. Hardcore spelling nerds, from seniors in high school to senior citizens, are invited to check their dignity at the door and compete in teams of three for bragging rights and shiny trophies while raising funds for Wilton schools.

The bee will feature three-person teams — or "hives" — of Wilton's leaders, neighbors, teachers, businesspeople, and those who just love to put i before e except after c, all vying to out-spell the competition. All proceeds, including ticket sales, support the foundation's mission of enriching the learning experience for Wilton students by providing ongoing professional development of teachers, the latest in innovative and interactive teaching tools, support for music and the arts, and "beyond the classroom" experiences.

The spelling bee will be emceed by Jory Higgins, one of the three deans of students at Middlebrook Middle School, and John Wilson, who is facetiously described as "a recluse who lives in the wilds of the Wilton woods and keeper of imported killer bees."

The two were hand-picked for their Felix and Oscar-like rapport. The competition will consist of three rounds of lightning-fast spelling using an Apple iPad Learning Lab and a Smart Board, technology the foundation has put into Wilton schools with annual grants.

Teams of three will raise money throughout the event by purchasing $10 "EpiPens," which may be used to buy some assistance from an audience member. In addition, the event will featureÏ live commercials between rounds, adding to the evening's entertainment.

"The spelling bee is sure to 'bee' a fun night where all of Wilton can come together and laugh at ourselves and each other as we show our spelling prowess (or lack thereof)," event chair Kimber Felton said in a press release. "In fact, we strongly encourage costumes, crazy names and antennae!"

Some of the words will be submitted by Wilton students from kindergarten to 12th grade. There will be boxes labeled Spelling Bee: Stump the Adults around town where students may submit challenging words.

Wilton public school students may submit words via email to WiltonSpelling Bee@gmail.com, along with their name and grade. If the word is used, the student will be mentioned by name.

Community businesses lending their support to the bee include Wilton Pizza, Toozy Patza Pizza, and Bistro 7, which will contribute 50% of their combined net proceeds from Nov. 11 to 18 back to the Wilton Education Foundation for patrons who download the flyer from the foundation's website and submit it with their order. Marly's Bar & Bistro of Wilton has committed to sponsoring a community team.

Tickets to the spelling bee will be available in advance online at $10 for students and seniors, and $15 for adults; or $15 and $20, respectively, at the door on the evening of the bee.

To buy tickets, for information or to register as a team, sponsor a round, or advertise in the event program, visit WiltonEducationFoundation.org/spelling-bee or email Wilton SpellingBee@gmail.com.