The Auburn Alumni Association was crowded with sandwiches, spirits and spelling Thursday night as part of the 14th annual Great Grown-Up Spelling Bee.
The event was started in 2004 by the Public Relations Council of Alabama to raise money for necessary programs and materials at the Lee County Literacy Council. LCLC took the reins of the fund-raiser this year, allowing the new co-directors Stacie Money and Tina Tatum to organize the event.
“It’s not a traditional spelling bee, it’s a speed spelling bee,” Money said. “The spellers have a minute and a half to spell as many common but commonly misspelled words as possible.”
Before the event, people wishing to attend bought tickets with donations to LCLC that put them on the attendance list and guaranteed them a glass of wine or beer when they arrived. Spelling teams could also purchase “spins” on a wheel that could win them extra points or extra booze, with the money from that also being converted to donations.
The event also introduced the masses to LCLC’s new social media project.
“There are so many people that don’t know who we are or what we do, so we are doing this awareness campaign called ‘Lee County Loves Reading,'” said Tatum. “We are asking people to take pictures of themselves reading a book so we can post the pictures on our social media to get the word out about LCLC.”
Doors opened at 5 p.m. to members of the business sector, University staff, those just wanting to donate to the cause and of course the 2-person spelling teams. The teams were made up of people involved in organizations and businesses from all around Lee County.
Team names ranged from “The Sustainable Spellers” representing Acre, the “Spellotologists” hailing from EAMC and the “Smoking Butts” coming from Jim ‘N Nicks Bar-B-Q, to name a few. After the teams and bee attendees finished the provided barbeque and grabbed an adult beverage from the bar, the spelling began.
The words were given to contestants by Rod Bramblett, the play-by-play voice for Auburn football and men’s basketball for the last 15 seasons. Spellers were scrutinized by guest judges Opelika City Mayor Gary Fuller, Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones and WRBL Reporter Elizabeth White.
Those competing had to try their best to spell words like “hierarchy,” “procrastination,” “affiliate”
and “alcohol” while standing on the stairs of the Alumni Center overlooking the energetic crowd. Door prizes were given out during brief pauses in competition, and there was a written audience spelling bee sponsored by Southern Union Community College at intermission.
In the end, Auburn University Libraries retained their title for the second year running thanks to spellers Jaena Alibi and Greg Schmidt. Auburn Rotary came in second place, followed by Blooming Colors in third.