Last year, Western Kentucky University’s Division of Extended Learning and Outreach - also known as the DELO Characters - took home the trophy, but the Powers that Bee claimed the winner’s spot during the 2008 Spell-a-Bration community spelling bee Tuesday night.

“This was fun, kind of intense,” said Renee White, one of the winning team members representing Bowling Green City Schools. “It was nerve-racking, especially during the end.”

A Community Education program sponsored by Hills Pet Nutrition, the event was at the Knights of Columbus Hall. The spelling bee is a key fundraiser for Community Education, said Debi Wade Jordan, executive director of the program.

The winning team - White, Morgan Webb-Yeates and Kate Webb - got the trophy after defeating The Spellbinders team, a collaboration of U.S. Bank and the Bowling Green Public Library, by correctly spelling the word “rendezvous.”

“We are so tickled,” said Judy Whitson, principal of T.C. Cherry and a supporter of the city schools team.

David Elson, Western Kentucky University’s football coach, was the master of ceremonies.

The start of the spelling bee featured word lists that were recovered from the “puppies” that escaped from Hills. The puppies - played by children in Community Ed’s after-school program at Potter Gray and W.R. McNeill elementary schools - and the word lists were rounded up by Bowling Green Fire Department mascot Sparky.

And with the sound of a bell, 23 teams - the most ever, Jordan said - went toe to toe, spelling word after word.

As words were spelled correctly, cheers went up from the teams’ supporters. National Corvette Museum supporters waved signs and pom-poms and Huish team supporters waved noise makers made of Sun detergent bottles.

By the end of the second elimination round, five teams were out, including Kentucky Legal Bee-fense, sponsored by Meyer Mortgage and Kentucky Legal Aid.

“It’s easy to spell when you’re sitting down, but difficult with 100 people watching you,” said Tracey McCay, one of the team’s members. “I had fun. I’d probably do it again. It’s for a good cause.”

Before and between rounds, spectators sampled appetizers donated from area restaurants and desserts provided by the Warren County Food and Nutrition Association. The desserts were part of a contest judged by the Women’s Club, Jordan said.

The teams spelled words such as concede, differential, mystique and sovereign.

“It’s going real well. The teams are doing real good,” said Tom Hulsey, a supporter of the Barrister Bees of Kerrick, Stivers, Coyle & VanZant, the 2006 champions.

By round nine, eight teams were left, which was knocked down to five. By the start of round 10, four teams - The Queen Bees of the Junior Woman’s Club, The Headliners of the Daily News, The Spellbinders and the Powers that Bee - were left standing.

Defending champs DELO were knocked out in an earlier round.

The Powers that Bee finally emerged as champions of the roughly three-hour bee.

The idea for the spelling bee, Jordan said, came from a small item in the Daily News about another adult spelling bee.

“This is unique for Bowling Green,” said Ann Grubbs, enrichment and volunteer coordinator for Community Education.

Prizes were awarded for the best outfits and most team spirit, Grubbs said. And a silent auction included items ranging from dental work to golf fees.

She said she is already thinking of ideas for next year’s Spell-a-Bration, working to streamline it a little more.

“I think it went well, it was long, but everybody I’ve heard from said they had a good time,” Grubbs said. “I’ve never seen the teams interact the way they did last night … they had a good time.”

The award for best dressed was a tie between Spellers in Action of the American Legion and Community Action - who wore red capes and gold masks - and the Daily News Headliners - who wore airbrushed T-shirts that read “See” “Corrections” and “Page 2.”

The most spirit award went to the National Corvette Museum, Grubbs said.

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