The Bellefonte Loons hosted a spelling wasp a week ago Saturday evening, in the annex to the Bellefonte court house.
What's a spelling wasp, you ask? It's like a spelling bee, but meaner. The entrants must not only spell words, but be able to spell them backwards, rearrange the letters in alphabetical order, replace vowels with sound effects, pantomime the letters (a la the dance done to "YMCA"), and any other thing we could think of to get them to do.
It's a team competition rather than individual, and no one gets eliminated. Instead, teams earn points for correct answers, and these points determine who wins first, second, and third place. The word list was taken from the book "Bee Season," by Myla Goldberg, and it was important that the contestants read the book, because some of the bonus round questions dealt specifically with plot points and characters. One of the bonus rounds consisted of mispelled words from the various spelling bees that take place throughout the book.
The main difference between a spelling wasp and a spelling bee, though, is that a wasp is done as a fund-raiser. There is an entry fee that is paid upon registration. Teams are encouraged to find sponsors -- either straight donations, or people who pledge a sum for every correctly spelled word, every incorrectly spelled word, every time a word begins with a vowel, things like that. And during the event if a contestant misspells a word, they have to opportunity to buy a "do-over," giving them a second chance to spell the word. They can either buy it themselves or solicit donations from the audience.
This whole wasp thing was the brainchild of the Chief Loon. She acted as pronouncer, and got a friend from work and an actual sitting Judge for Centre County to be judges for the event. For the event, the Chief dressed herself up as a caricature of a WASP, in a pink tweed suit, high heels, with her hair done up in a beehive. She looked impressive and more than a little scary. Gave me flashbacks to kindergarten, actually.
She was hoping that this event would make perhaps $200 for the Historical Library in Bellefonte. When the final tally came in, we had $819 to give them. You could have knocked her over with a feather.
Best of all, everyone enjoyed themselves. The contestants were laughing at themselves and each other all night. The audience, though small (it consisted mainly of friends and families of the contestants), was lively and very generous when it came to the buying of do-overs. Judge Brown said he thought the whole thing was quite clever, and gave us all sorts of useful suggestions for next time. We already have the offer of a local opera house-turned-movie theater as next year's venue. It should be perfect. There's a stage, and I think there are even spotlights.
And the fact that we hosted something that raised over $800 for Bellefonte might just make us look legitimate to some of the businesses and societies there who don't quite know what to think of us.