Islanders to flex their lexicon at Feb. 8 spelling bee


For The Beachcomber

Only two of 18 teams remained as the 2008 Vashon Community Scholarship Foundation Spelling Bee entered its sixth overtime round. For more than 15 minutes, The Beachcomber team squared off with Vashon Allied Arts, exchanging near misses over words such as “LEGERDEMAIN.”

“We missed it by going with ‘ledgerdemain,’ the way it was spelled in Chaucer’s English,” said the Beachcomber’s Eric Horsting.

The contest was ultimately decided by asking the two final teams for written submissions, with the winner being the first team to correctly spell a word that the other team misspelled.

“It was as exciting as an overtime quarter in a football game,” said Leslie Brown of the Beachcomber team.

“A combination of both fun and nerve-wracking” was how Mary Van Gemert of the Vashon Allied Arts team described it.

With the 2009 VCSF Spelling Bee rapidly approaching on Feb. 8, it seemed like a good time to ask some of last year’s participants to recall the high drama of those final rounds. Co-emcee Jeanne Dougherty was amazed by how completely immersed in the action the crowd was at the nearly full Vashon Theatre that night.

“You could hear a pin drop whenever a new word was announced,” said Dougherty, “and then nearly everyone in the crowd would look down and begin scribbling their own spelling using the paper and pencils provided. It was total audience participation.”

When a team asked for a word to be used in a sentence, they were treated to

an irreverent concoction written beforehand by Cin-dy Hoyt and Bill Wood (the emcees’ respective spouses). One example: “I’d tell my mother-in-law she suffers from logorrhea, but I can’t get a word in edgewise.”

After numerous overtime rounds where both remaining teams would spell a word either right or wrong, along came the word “COULOMETRIC.”

“I figured it must have had some scientific root,” said Horsting, “but we spelled it with an e instead of an o.”

Vashon Allied Arts compared their three individual versions of the word before handing in what they believed to be the correct spelling. The tension was finally released from the theater as VAA was named the 2008 Spelling Bee champion.

“I couldn’t believe that we’d actually won and that it was finally over,” said Van Gemert. “It was a great community event, there were lots of laughs, and the scholarship benefit was so appropriate to the activity.”

This year’s Bee will take place at the Vashon High School theater. Entry deadline is Jan. 12. An unexpected highlight of the competition has been the level of showmanship displayed by many of the three-person teams. The team names have gotten more creative and the costumes have gotten wilder. It would appear that after just two years of tense and entertaining competition, the Vashon Community Scholarship Foundation’s Spelling Bee has become a fixture on the Island’s must-see annual event list.

­— Jeff Hoyt is co-emcee of the VCSF Spelling Bee.

Spell It!

The Vashon Community Scholarship Foundation Spelling Bee is at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 8, at the Vashon High School theater. Tickets are $15 and available at Vashon Bookshop or at the door. There will be a costume competition with an audience vote and homemade snacks will be available at intermission. Entry deadline is Jan. 12. Interested teams should contact Barbara Gustafson at 463-1638 or e-mail her at

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