Bee all that you can: Xpress competes—and loses—in annual spelling bee

On Monday, March 12, a trio from the Mountain Xpress competed in the 17th annual Literacy Spelling Bee, an event sponsored by the Literacy Council of Buncombe County and Altrusa International Inc. and held at A-B Tech. The stakes were high, as no less than Xpress’ chief competitor in the local-news market, the Asheville Citizen-Times, was also in the bee.

I was on the Xpress team, along with the paper’s senior editor, Peter Gregutt, and food/arts writer Hanna Rachel Raskin. Enough with the suspense: We lost.

We went out big, mind you. The word that ended it for us was psittacine, defined as “of or pertaining to parrots.” (Well, duh. Any self-respecting owner of a budgiegier, cockatiel or macaw would know that.)

Despite all the posturing and chest-puffing, during mid-competition break, we had a nice, collegial exchange with the Citizen-Times team. And yet later, during a turn at the microphone, columnist/reporter John Boyle wasn’t above rubbing our noses in our defeat. So much for building bridges.

But perhaps the most rattling aspect of the competition is the team from the retirement community Givens Estates and its minions. About two coach-buses’ worth of seniors showed up with colorful signs reading GIVENS ESTATES, which they would waggle menacingly every time their team advanced a round. Gotta hand it to ‘em—those Givens folks know how to spell. They took third place. (Their T-shirts read “Golden Spelers,” a deception that worked in their favor.)

Nearly 20 teams took the microphone, round-robin style, to show off their spelling skills. The winning team was from ClarityWorks Inc., and was comprised of Cheryl Dietrich, Margaret Abruzzi and Gwendie Camp. The runners-up were from A-B Tech. The event raised $34,000 for the Literacy Council, which promotes reading skills through one-on-one training.

To learn more about the Literacy Council, call 254-3442 or visit

— Kent Priestley


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