Once again rain threatened the evening's festivities at the Austin Chronicle Adult Spelling Bee held last Thursday at Threadgill's World HQ. Despite the weather and the prez being in town, there were 130 registrants, each one helping to raise more than $400 for the city's libraries. The first spelling test eliminated more than half, leaving 58 to go on to the second test. From there, 22 finalists made the cut and got onstage. Austin Public Library presenter Erika Allbright dished out some doozies in the first round and contestants dropped to the likes of "olallieberry," "licentiate," and "Weimaraner."
There were some strong spellers at this year's bee, however, powering through words like "chthonic," "tyiyn," and "weltanschauung." Many knew the definitions without having to be told, and the ones who were eliminated were usually off by just a single letter. There was a total of eight rounds. Six-time champion Geoff Thevenot was cut in the sixth. "Sialagogue" spelled demise for the Bee King. There was some contention over the proper pronunciation of the word, but the judges ultimately made the call. They determined that he misspelled the word, fair and square.
Out-of-towner Mike Petrina won the trophy this year. Hailing from Arlington, Va., he traveled down to Austin for the sole purpose of competing in the Chronicle bee. His experience in the cosmetics industry earned him a familiarity with words such as "maquillage," which means makeup. Also a seasoned bee-er, he organized a spelling bee for seniors through the AARP about 10 years ago. When asked how he trains for the competitions, he said, "I go through the dictionary and I write down the words I don't know." He was also shocked to see Geoff go down: "I could not believe it."
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