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Next Step: they’ll put a spell on you

April 16, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Wendy Gabrek
The 9th Annual ‘Grate Groan–Up Spelling Bee’, hosted by Next Step Literacy Council of South Simcoe, took place Saturday, April 7, at The Club at Bond Head.
Twelve teams took part in this year’s Bee, competing for the title of ‘Best Speller’, all while raising money and awareness for Next Step so the Alliston-based not-for-profit organization can continue to offer free, one-to-one adult tutoring in reading, writing, math and computers in a confidential and supportive environment.
This years teams were:
• BDO – (BDO Canada) Kay Bower, Adrian Price, Carine Price
• Bee Safe – (Anonymous) Michelle Dinnick, Mary Penner, Lorena Bower
• Grammar Police – (Feehely Gastaldi) Colleen Butler, Liana Maddocks, Mary Nordstrom
• Highway to Spell – (Mark Gagnon, Graeme Peters, Chris Lee
• Hip Bees – Deb Rouleau, Elaine Cooper, Johnny Rosenthal
• Hospice Heroes – (The Tooth Doctors) Andrea Roylance, Anne Ritchie, Cheryl Nuttal
• LinguisticLeague – (Feehely Gastaldi) Peter McKenna, Dora Marshall, Liz Kirley
• May the Force Bee With You – (The Circle Theatre) Christy Medeiros, Ron Stewart, Kate Wagner
• Queen Jane and The Jujubees – (CUPE 905) Kathleen Robinson, Jane Realmo, Tara MacPhail
• Silly Wabbits – (WD Potato) Lisa Pelletier, Jeff Long, Amanda Fellows
• Sister Bees – (The Herald) Carolyn Jackson, Jo-Ann Braund, Deborah Harrington
• The Team Who Shall Not Bee Named – (Jan Atkinson) Cael Cohen, Michael Williams, Lesly Morris
• Three Blind Mice – (Silvercrest) Emily McIntosh, Carey Paulusma, Alison Morning
The evening, organized by the ‘Queen Bee’ herself, Shira Harrison McIntyre (Ward 7 Councillor and Administrator/Fundraiser for Next Step), was un-bee-lievable thanks to master pronouncer, Laurie Laing, following the COD (Canadian Oxford Dictionary), and judges: John Mighton, mathematician and playwright, Lachlan McGurk (owner of Bern’s Flowers in Alliston) and Wendy Gabrek (Trillium Ford/The Times). Emceeing the event was teacher, Craig Butler.
For 2018 the ‘Life Line’ (a “call a friend/ask an audience member”) program returned, as introduced in 2018, and was the ‘Buy Back’ ($20) for those teams who misspelled a word, but wanted to keep playing.
The Bee began with the sound of bagpipes, as played by Lachlan McGurk, and an official welcome from Next Step president, Michael Laine, who thanks immediate past president, Kim Burgess, for “leaving Next Step in the splendid shape” in which he found it.
Following a practice round,  the Bee was underway…
The first missed word of the night was ‘butte’, by team Silly Wabbits, who chose the incorrect spelling ‘Beaute’. But they bought back in.
The Hip Bees missed next, misspelling ‘Hokum’. They chose ‘Hocum’.
The third miss was by Queen Jane and the Jujubees. The word toque (or winter hat) was spelled “touque” – an easy miss for those with a bee in their bonnet.
Sister Bees missed next with Vagary, they guessed: Vaguery.
Hospice Heroes missed ‘Mochaccino’ (I guess they weren’t caffeinated), followed by Queen Jane again, missing ‘Naunce’ (they guessed: Nonce) – making them the first team out in the sixth round and a perfect break point for dinner.
Following the meal, Honourary Chair and judge, Mr. Mighton, spoke, telling the audience, “Practice, perseverance, getting help, and not giving up” was the secret to success.
Round seven began, and the first post-dinner miss went to BDO, misspelling ‘Fipple’, they guessed ‘Phiple’.
Grammar Police missed ‘Extraditable’, which is a spelling bee offence.
Despite using their ‘Life Line’ Hospice Heroes missed ‘Grambrel’, adding an extra ‘l’  on the end. Meaning: a roof with two sides, each of which has a shallower slope above a steeper one. And that slippery slope made them the second team out.
May the Force Bee With You missed ‘Factitious’, but due to the wrong definition being offered (that for facetious) they went on to the next word – ‘Malarkey’, which they got right.
Three Blind Mice missed ‘Meager’, placing the “r” before the “e” but they still had another chance at the title.
Grammar Police took a shot at ‘Obsequies’, spelling it ‘Obseques’, but they called for backup so avoid being read their “funeral rites”.
The Hip Bees missed ‘Abattoir’, spelling it ‘Abbottoir’. Judge McGurk heckled the team for missing the word, meaning slaughterhouse, saying, “You sure slaughtered that word!”
LinguisticLeague missed ‘Trochlea’, but they pulled themselves back together, and teetered on in the competition.
Silly Wabbits used their Life Line with help on ‘Missal’, and got it right. Praise the Lord.
The Team Who Shall Not Bee Named added an extra “s” on the word ‘Diocese’, but were still safe, unlike Bee Safe, who missed ‘Syrinx’, spelling it ‘Syrenx’.
With the competition getting tougher, and the words getting harder, May The Force Bee With You missed ‘Mezereon’ but used their Buy Back to get on with the Bee.
The Sister Bees missed ‘Oubilette’, meaning a secret dungeon, and despite using the Life Line, they were next out.
Not big pizza fans, The Team Who… missed ‘Margherita’, guessing ‘Marghurita’ and also left the competition.
Round Ten  saw the end of Three Blind Mice, missing ‘Naiad’, guessing ‘Nyad’, a water nymph. Despite taking their time with the spelling, Bee Safe, missed ‘Quaich’, guessing ‘Quec’, meaning a drinking cup made of wood with two handles. Emcee Butler gave a “short history on words” during the intermission.
Highway to Spell was also drinking from the special cup, missing ‘Pluque’, a Mexican fermented drink, but bought back in. LinguisticLeague missed ‘Virgule’ next, guessing ‘Vergule’, but also bought back in.
May the Force… used their Life Line for the spelling of ‘Milquetoast’, and got it right, but Silly Wabbits weren’t so lucky, missing ‘Achene’ (guessing ‘Acine’) and by missing the twenty-third spelling of the night, they were out.
And then there were three…
In the battle for first place was: Highway to Spell, May the Force Bee With You and LinguisticLeague.
Highway to Spell missed ‘Zaideco’, forcing May the Force and LinguisticLeague into a sudden death match for first. LinguisticLeague used the last remaining Life Line of the game for the word ‘Orgulous’, getting it right, and being named the “proud” winners.
During the spell-off for second place, May the Force got ‘Nootropic’ wrong, using a “ph” spelling, and Highway to Spell also missed their word, ‘Marquor’.
In the final round, Highway to Spell got ‘Beguine’ correct, and May the Force missed ‘Bellwether’, “an indicator of something to come”, putting them in third place.
The top three teams were given local honey, ribbons of honour and bragging rights. Awards were also handed out to the top teams, including:
• Best Costume: Grammar Police
• Most Pledges: May the Force Bee With You
• Most Team Spirit: Sister Bees
• Nest Speller: Kate Wagner/Angela Kirmy
• 50/50 Winner: Allison Crocker ($280)
At press time, final numbers had not been announced regarding the financial success of this year’s Bee.
Next Step is dedicated to raising awareness about literacy issues, in New Tecumseth, Adjala–Tosorontio, Innisfil, Essa, and Bradford West Gwillimbury, and began as a grassroots organization where a group of concerned citizens joined together to help people in their community improve their reading and writing skills.
In addition to hosting fundraisers, such as the Spelling Bee, Next Step receives funding through the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. They rely on the support of the community for services-in-kind, donations and volunteer hours.
If you are in need of adult tutoring or know someone who is, Next Step is located at 16 Victoria St E. Alliston. Call them at 705 435-5624, e-mail or visit them online at

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