The New York City Spelling Bee Serves Beer

May 23, 2010

Since 2004, the Williamsburg Spelling Bee has been rewarding grammatically correct adults with prizes. They’ve even started holding quarterly events at the Housing Works Cafe in Manhattan, kicking off the New York City Spelling Bee with proceeds funding life-saving services and research for AIDS and HIV victims. Even the profits from the Brooklyn brews you can purchase at the cafe go to the same charities.

Clare Goggin

This past Friday, the most recent competition was held at the cafe, located on Crosby Street below Houston. I attended with two friends and we enjoyed both Brooklyn Brown Ale and the original Brooklyn Lager in addition to the complementary Pez Candy refills left out on the tables. I wasn’t keen on reliving my spelling bee experience — I spelled Alligator wrong during my first turn at the regional competition and got cut immediately — so I chose to be a spectator rather than a participant.

Clare Goggin

Spelling Bee founder bobbyblue and comedian Jennifer Dziura hosted the event. Kicking off with a little song, they began explaining the rules and how the competition was formatted: Contestants were required to spell one word correctly in the first round, two in the second and as many as it took in the third — each contestant got three outs so when they spelled their third word wrong, they were out of the game. The first person to spell three words wrong would even get their own special prize: the tiniest game of Scrabble I’d ever seen.

Several contestants signed up and handed over their $5 then stood on the makeshift stage in the middle of the cafe in order to take on the English language. One by one, they spelled their words and it was obvious who the stand outs would be. Eventually, the winner was named, a young woman in a West Hollywood T-shirt who managed her way around a few really big words. The word that finally took her out of the competition was “eddiroot,” an aroid grown on the Pacific Islands. Regardless, she spelled the most words out of the whole bunch and landed the trophy and a shorter version of the Old English Dictionary.

All and all, it was a pretty entertaining night. I might even get over my spelling bee fear in the future and take part.

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