A Townie Experience: The Annual Team Spelling Bee

Don’t forget our definition!

ˈtounē ˌikˈspirēəns – (compound noun) one’s witnessing locally the humble intersection of age, profession, and political persuasion, which evokes a latent appreciation for one’s hometown

On April 6, 2017, Laconia High School hosted its 2nd Annual Team Spelling Bee. Price of admission was a jar of peanut butter and jelly to benefit the “Got Lunch!” program, which works to procure food items for underprivileged children in our city. Schools from across the district donated jars, and the event was broadcast LIVE on 107.3 WEMJ.

Wanna know how this “townie experience” transpired? Here’s my best recollection:

Fifteen Minutes Until We Begin Broadcasting LIVE:

The stage is scantly lit. Only the silhouettes of clustered balloons, twirled streamers, and cardboard stars are perceptible to the billowing crowd. Families and friends navigate the darkness toward the few remaining seats and call to each other over the booming bass of student-inspired house music.

Teetering stacks of peanut butter- and jelly jars cramp the doorway. The tables buckle under their weight, and from the corner of the stage, I can see custodians clamber to reorganize the overwhelming heaps.

Meanwhile, forty-eight eager participants are sitting in their assigned rows. By cellphone light, they hastily review: “V-E-R-I-S-I-M-I-L-I-T-U-D-E…?”

Laconia High School Spelling Bee with Got Lunch Laconia. ©2017 Karen Bobotas Photographer

Ten Minutes Until We Begin Broadcasting LIVE:

Pat Kelly, a radio DJ from 107.3 WEMJ, turns delicately the nobs of the sound board. “Sound check… One-two… Sound check… One-two.” Backstage, the Spelling Bee’s Official Pronouncers idle anxiously: Karen Bassett, the owner of Wayfarer Coffee Roasters; Gregory Packard, the manager of Burrito Me; Tara Madison, the morning DJ from 98.3 WLNH; and Brian Burns, the store manager of our neighborhood’s Hannaford Supermarket.

Sarah Gray joins them. She is the owner of Body Covers Screen Printing. She graciously donated t-shirts for the event and one-hundred jars of peanut butter- and jelly. Sarah will operate the official stop-clock for the night.

Students will only have 30-seconds to collaborate on the spelling of each word.

Five Minutes Until We Begin Broadcasting LIVE:

Laconia’s “Got Lunch!” volunteers begin to haul the seemingly endless donations of peanut butter- and jelly jars toward the stage. 100 jars. 200 jars. 500 jars.

The excitement is palpable. Since the previous year’s contest, a number of students have commitment themselves to learning over one-thousand esoteric vocabulary words. The winners’ names will be carved into the Sesquipedalian Award Plaque, which will hang in perpetuity inside our school.

Laconia High School Spelling Bee with Got Lunch Laconia. ©2017 Karen Bobotas Photographer

Five Seconds Until — 3… 2… 1…

“Welcome to Laconia High School’s 2nd Annual Team Spelling Bee!”

Teams trade their places on stage. Poignant. Dexterous. Coalesce. Facetious. Meanwhile, “Got Lunch!” volunteers continue to count our district’s collection. 1000 jars. 1500 jars. 2000 jars. And the words become increasingly more difficult. Paraphernalia. Aberration. Grandiloquent. Scintillate. And gift cards from participating local businesses are raffled as door-prizes. Equilibrium. Mellifluous. Inveigle. Archipelago…

…until there are only two teams left.

So, which team won? And what was the winning word?

Here’s the truth: It doesn’t matter.

The real achievement isn’t the impressive knowledge demonstrated by the students or the unprecedented donation of 2,770 jars of peanut butter and jelly presented to “Got Lunch!” — the real achievement is the reaffirmation that people in New Hampshire care about one another. At Laconia High School’s 2nd Annual Team Spelling Bee, I witnessed an entire community celebrate the academic accomplishments of its young people, while it worked to combat one of its greatest challenges: hunger.

What’s your townie experience? Share it with me—or better yet, send me an invite! And I’ll be sure to celebrate it in an upcoming blog post!

If you or someone you know would like to be profiled, then contact me at townies@stayworkplay.org. Let’s continue to celebrate our living New Hampshire

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