Fine Arts “Word” Boosters Victorious at IPEI’s Adult Spelling Bee Sunday, March 3

The Fine Arts “Word” Boosters; Ellie Hobbie, Anne Hobbes and Linda Loomis; correctly spelled “bezoar” to win the Ithaca Public Education Initiative (IPEI) Adult Spelling Bee on Sunday, March 3, and have their name engraved on the Fuzzy Bee Trophy. They advanced to the championship words by winning one of four preliminary rounds along with The Discovery Trail, We Spell Krazy Good, and Two Engineers and a German. At the start there were 24 teams sponsored by numerous businesses, organizations, and individuals.

“We congratulate the Fine Arts ‘Word’ Boosters who were spelling in the ninth bee, and all participants who joined together in Ithaca High’s Bliss Gym. Yet, the real winners are the students and teachers of the Ithaca schools since IPEI is focused on enhancing educational opportunities,” expressed Jennifer Engel, IPEI’s vice president.

This year’s Spelling Bee was the 15th organized by IPEI to raise funds for its Teacher Grants program. With the support of Chemung Canal Trust Company, the Blue Ribbon Champion Sponsor, and Wells Fargo Financial Advisors and Cat’s Pajamas, the Red and Gold Ribbon Finalist Sponsors; and the donations of refreshments, prizes, media, audio and graphics services; approximately $16,000 was raised this year.

In celebration of 15 years of Spelling Bees, IPEI presented certificates to everyone who has been involved in five or more bees. Over 70 spellers, sponsors and volunteers have been loyal participants. Since it was the first Bee for some, they were encouraged to return again for this fun fundraiser by Engel, one of the Bee founders. She said, “We appreciate everyone who has ever participated whether for one year or for fifteen, but today wanted to recognize the very loyal multi-year Bee sponsors and spellers who have shown their long term commitment to IPEI’s mission.”

Friends and family of the spellers were part of the crowd that also included community members of all ages. The Bee runs like an official spelling bee, with rules, a pronouncer, MCs, a timekeeper, and four judges. Jean McPheeters pronounced the words while timekeeper Martha Hardesty alerted spellers when their time to consider the correct spelling had expired. Judges included IPEI founder Ralph Jones, Mayor Svante Myrick, Paulette Manos and Deborah Lynn. Bee MCs were Greg Bostwick and George Preston.

Teams were known by creative names such as The Bee-Attitudes, Spellasaurus, Code Red Robobees, A-B normals, and the Spellicans with their stuffed pelican mascot. Some represent organizations like Ithaca Rotary Club, Friends of the Ithaca Youth Bureau, Hospicare, Family and Children’s Service, and Tompkins County Recycling. Some teams were comprised of friends who want to support local public education and who enjoy spelling. Others are closely connected to the Ithaca City School District (ICSD): Ithaca Teachers Association, ICSD Administration, ICSD Board of Education, Fall Creek Elementary School, Lehman Alternative Community School, Fine Arts Booster Group and the Ithaca Council of PTAs.

Teams represented sponsors such as Tompkins Trust Company, Cayuga Radio Group, Wegmans, Greenstar, Carol Bushberg Real Estate, Warren Real Estate, Audrey Edelman RealtyUSA, Ithaca College, Kionix, Harris Beach PLLC, CSP Management, Hunt Engineers, Hair Etc., WSKG, Baker Travel, Tompkins Insurance, East Hill Plaza merchants, Belle Sherman and Fall Creek PTAs, and the UPS Store Collegetown.

Refreshments were donated by Aladdin’s Natural Eatery, Ithaca Coffee Company, Moe’s Southwest Grill, P&C Fresh, Subway, Tops, and Wings Over Ithaca. Prizes were contributed by Agway, Emmy’s Organics, Cat’s Pajamas,, Hangar Theatre, Heron Creek Cards and Gifts, Life’s So Sweet Chocolates, Susan McCutcheon, Micky Roof and the Jewel Box, Panera Bread, The Piggery, and Purity Ice Cream.

Events like the Spelling Bee depend on participation by many. The Bee Committee was chaired by IPEI board member Judy Stewart and supported by IPEI Administrative and Program Associate Julie Langenbacher. Nora Shang, Karen Yearwood, Denise Gomber and Mary Grainger were committee members, and all IPEI board members assisted in event preparation and production, too. The Ithaca High School Brain Team members volunteered with IPEI on March 3 while Isabel and Emily Rubin supported this year’s Bee fairies, Nuala and Anastasia Ugine.

IPEI is a community based not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that develops supportive community and private sector relationships with the Ithaca City School District. For more information, see