‘Demurrage‘ a winner for Beauties and the BEEst
NORTHAMPTON — The winning word at the 14th Adult Spelling Bee to benefit the Northampton Education Foundation Wednesday was demurrage, defined as the price paid to detain a ship or other cargo vehicle for extra time.
But this year’s winning team, Beauties and the BEEst, did not need any extra time to cruise to victory, beating their opponents on only the third word in the final round. The runners-up, Orthographic Anthophila, were eliminated when they incorrectly spelled demurrage.
The Beauties and the BEEst team, sponsored by the Northampton beer, wine and specialty food store Provisions, was made up of members of the Northampton Special Education Parents Advisory Committee.
Members Alison Greene and Rachel Simpson strode onto the stage for the final, clad in evening gowns and tiaras, arm-in-arm with Shoshana Marchand, who wore a furry wolf mask and gloves. The beastly accessories did not stop her from entertaining the audience with her dance moves in between spelling sets.
Simpson is a three-time champion of the bee, as she was a member of the Daily Hampshire Gazette’s Headliners when the team won the first bee in 2001 and reclaimed the title in 2006.
Marchand said everyone on the team deserves equal credit for the victory. “We’re three good spellers and we were correcting each other all the time” during the bee, she said. “We practiced the last two days.”
They spent less time on their costumes, though. “We were just trying to think of something we could pull together quickly, and Alison wanted to wear a tiara,” Simpson said.
The night of long words and funky costumes raised about $14,000 for the Northampton Education Foundation, said organizer and “Queen Bee” Jeanne Hoose.
“We had more sponsors than we had teams,” she said, as 38 asked to sponsor teams but only 36 competed. Raffles, food sales and donations at the door also contributed to the proceeds.
The funds go to support the Small Grants for Teachers program, which helps Northampton Public School teachers complement regular classroom work with field trips, programs, and other activities. Last year, it awarded $43,288 in grants.
The title of Spelling Bee champions was not the only one competitors were seeking. Peter and Ellie Shelburne and Denise Lello, known Wednesday night as the BEEspicable Three, won the best costume category with their giant yellow costumes that made them look like “minions” from the movie “Despicable Me.” That team of past champions, sponsored by Northampton Veterinary Clinic, this year advanced to the semifinals by beating The Headliners, last year’s winners.
While many teams had the audience laughing — as when the Downton Ab-BEEs objected in snotty British tones when they were told they spelled a word wrong — the prize for the most humorous team went to BEEing & Nothingness sponsored by the Collaborative for Educational Services.
Bespectacled, with pipes in their mouths and clad in tweed jackets, Tor Krogius, Bill Benjamin and Damon Douglas stayed in character as highly philosophical and exceedingly pretentious professor-types throughout the night.
Ten teams made it to the semifinals. In the first semifinal round, Beauties and the BEEst won over the BEEspicable Three by spelling kwashiorkor, a kind of malnutrition.
The Orthographic Anthophila beat out the Hivernators, sponsored by Attorney Tom O’Connor, by spelling vivisepulture, meaning the act of burying someone alive. Sponsored by Chyten Test Preparation and Tutoring, of Framingham, the Orthographic Anthophila team took the top prize at the Framingham Education Foundation Adult Spelling Bee last fall.
Rebecca Everett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.