On Friday, January 30th, twenty-one three-person teams squared off in a maelstrom of intellectual prowess within the confines of the Irvington Town Hall Theater.
Master of Ceremonies, Jon Scott
The occasion was the 3rd Annual Spelling Bee (known as Bee 3) put on by the Friends of the Irvington Library to raise money for the library, and it’s safe to say the evening turned into a triumphant bacchanalia.
The sold-out event featured the Irvington High School Jazz Band playing a delightful morceau during each break, two lovely mademoiselles dancing in fulgurant golden bee costumes, a raffle featuring sybaritic prizes, and an appearance from State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who opened a silent raffle running through the month of February for a signed, first edition copy of Rosa Parks’ book, Dear Mrs. Parks.
“It’s a great community event,” said Master of Ceremonies, Irvington resident and Fox News anchor Jon Scott, who developed a strong rapport with the audience thanks to his apocryphal stories of the contestants and well-honed enunciation. “And it reinforces the idea that we live in a small town.”
The event was presided over by three Judges. Though attired in malapropos wear, such as a mop for a wig, and plastic, oversized glasses, they were prepared to use their luciferous knowledge of the English language to settle any disputes that might have arisen.
There were five preliminary rounds, including one round made up entirely of teams from the Irvington High School Latin Club. Some rounds were over quickly, as when the team of Saphra, Saphra, and Shroff, LLP, vanquished their foes in a mere three words, while others stretched far beyond the eight words Scott set aside for each round, forcing the organizers to search their lists for hidden gems. In round four, the Wordly Women (Champions of the 1st Bee) took fourteen words to finish off their competition, and Scott eventually brought a dictionary onto the stage to find the right words to throw at the competitors. The winner of each round met in the Championship Round, and the crowd watched, mesmerized, as the teams battled word after word in a mythopoeic struggle for supremacy.
When the dust settled, The Wordly Women (made up of Irvington Mayor Nicola Coddington, former Irvington Mayor Erin Malloy, and never-been-Irvington Mayor Jill Rembar) won their second Bee in three years by correctly spelling the word "epergne" which is “an often ornate tiered centerpiece consisting typically of a frame of wrought metal bearing dishes, vases, or candle holders.”
I asked Mayor Coddington if, seeing as how two-thirds of the winning team had executive experience, perfect spelling might bring something intangible yet important to the job of Mayor. “I don’t know that it brings anything,” she said, “but perhaps it reflects an attention to careful communication.”
With audience members trying to out-spell the teams (I managed to correctly spell nine out of 40 words in the preliminary rounds and don’t think I’ll be signing up any time soon), everyone had a chance to stretch their brain. But enriching one’s vocabulary was only a side benefit. In truth, the night was a whole lot of fun for audience and team members alike. “We just have a ball doing it,” said Mayor Coddington. “It’s so much fun. We don’t get serious about it. It is what it is. It’s in the moment, and we have a blast.”
M.C. Scott agrees. “I hope the idea will spread,” he said. “I think all the Rivertowns should do it.”
That sounds like a challenge. Who will pick up that gauntlet and charge forward, oriflamme held high?
Bee 3 Words used in this article:
Maelstrom: noun. A powerful whirlpool sucking in objects within a given radius.
Bacchanalia: noun. A festival celebrated with dancing, song, and revelry.
Morceau: noun. A short literary or musical piece.
Mademoiselle: noun. An unmarried French girl or woman.
Fulgurant: adj. Flashing like lightning.
Sybaritic: adj. Marked by or given to luxury or voluptuous living.
Rapport: noun. Relation marked by harmony, accord, or affinity.
Apocryphal: adj. Of doubtful authenticity.
Malapropos: adj. Inappropriate, unsuitable.
Luciferous: adj. Bringing light or insight.
Mythopoeic: adj. Creating or giving rise to myths.
Oriflamme: noun. A banner, symbol, or ideal inspiring devotion or courage.
Spellchecker: noun. A program for Microsoft Word that couldn’t recognize a bunch of these words.