Senior spelling bee brings fun, fellowship to Knoxville

Senior spelling bee brings fun, fellowship to Knoxville

📅July 21st, 2015, 15:11

Barchan, a crescent-shaped sand dune with a convex side in the direction of the wind, was the winning word at this year’s National Senior Spelling Bee hosted at our facility. David Millard from Austin, Texas, took home the 2015 national title.

The bee held on July 18 brought expert spellers from across the country to showcase their talents. This was Millard’s third time competing in the National Senior Spelling Bee; he took up the hobby about five years ago.

Millar, who placed second in last year’s bee, said he thought he had a chance to bring home the top prize this year. Millard studied hard throughout the year and compiled lists of practice words. The month before the bee, his wife, Nancy, helped him practice for 30 minutes twice a day. Nancy also was a competitor, placing third in in the 2014 bee and fifth in 2015. David said his favorite part about the bee was winning, of course, and the camaraderie he experienced with fellow spellers.

“It is a very warm group of people,” he said.

Jim Sherry of Troy, Ala., took second place in this year’s competition; Bernetta Gresko of Long Beach, Calif., third; and Ron Lewis of Missouri City, Texas, fourth. The oldest senior contestant in 2015 was 87-year-old Bunny Greenfield from Athens, Tenn.

2015 Senior Spelling Bee Champion David Millard (right) with his wife, Nancy, and Bee director Scott Firebaugh.

2015 Senior Spelling Bee Champion David Millard (right) with his wife, Nancy, and Bee director Scott Firebaugh.

The bee director, Scott Firebaugh, is a senior spelling bee champion and took home the title in 2010 when the event was held in Cheyenne, Wyo. When a major sponsor pulled support from the bee, Firebaugh, who lives in Knoxville, licensed the event and brought it here.

Knoxville is a wonderful place to visit, live and work. Our residents are our greatest advocates to their professional organizations, clubs and hobby groups that are looking to hold events and conventions. At the Knoxville Convention Center, we are grateful to people like Firebaugh who promote Knoxville and bring great events and visitors to our facility and city.

When I asked Firebaugh why he thought seniors should participate in the bee, he listed several reasons. In true logophile fashion, his reasons all begin with an “f” sound.

  1. Fun: Seeing what words you can recall can be very interesting.
  2. Fulfillment: If you have studied a lot, there is satisfaction in doing well.
  3. Fellowship: There is joy in meeting word lovers from across the country.
  4. Food and facilities: The Knoxville Convention Center, next to the World’s Fair Park, is beautiful, and the food is fabulous.
  5. Financial: First prize is $1,000, followed by $500, $300 and $200 for winners.
  6. Feverish: The competition is exciting, especially for those who survive until the end. It is a real rush!
  7. Phrenic (mental): Studying words helps keep the brain sharp. The more words you know the better you can communicate. Also, you can understand new areas of study, such as science and music, if you already are familiar with the words.

I wish good luck to all competitors already studying hard for next year’s bee. We hope to see you back at the Knoxville Convention Center in 2016!