Posed with the winning spelling teams are event volunteers for the “Grate” Altus Spelling Bee (standing, l to r) Mack Powers, Col. Casey D. Eaton, Eddie Wilcoxen, Joan Wilcoxen, and David Braddock. Pictured (seated, l to r) are the champion spelling teams “Spell Bound” with Susan Grimes, Olga Coffin, and Sondra Wallace representing the First United Methodist Church Country Kitchen and “Angry Words” with Madelaine Lord and Chris Arumugam, who were sponsored by the Jackson County Memorial Hospital. These two teams out spelled 13 other teams to raise money for the Great Plains Literacy Council.
The “Spell Bound” and “Angry Words” teams came away the dual spelling victors at the annual “Grate” Altus Spelling Bee held March 31 at the WOSC Band Hall. In a hard fought contest that exceeded fourteen rounds, a tie for the championship spellers was declared by the judges. The champion team members of “Spell Bound” were Susan Grimes, Sondra Wallace, and Olga Coffin, and the First United Methodist Church Country Kitchen was their sponsor. Madelaine Lord and Chris Arumugam on the “Angry Words” represented the Jackson County Memorial Hospital.
Fifteen teams gave their best shot at spelling over 90 words from clarity to collage and finally to choreutic. Since 1999, the spelling bee has featured adult contestants competing as two or three persons on a team. The other teams that participated were Autocorrect, BEE Jays, Bee-ch Bums, BEEdlam Bees, Diacritical Divas, Fear the ”Bee”ard—The James Harden Spellers, Flying “Bee”neath the Weather, Habitat Hammers, None of Your Bee’s Wax, Rescue Rangers, Stockmans “Bee”-Boppers, Team Jesus, and Wanna Bees. All team members received a sack of honey candy from United Supermarkets.
The traveling plaque for the best spelling team from the Altus Air Force Basewill have an engraved plate designating the honor going to “Autocorrect” for the 54th ARS Spouses Group with their team members Sara Birnbaum, Margaret Albaugh, and Christle Peaden. After being engraved, the plaque will be displayed at the base library.
Some teams also wore costumes centered around various themes. The “Angry Words” won the Best Costume Award as they wore wingless bird outfits from a popular computer game “Angry Birds”. The second place costume team honor was given to “Stockmans “Bee”-Boppers” members Jenny Graves, Rodney Dunn, and Lara Meza, sponsored by Stockmans Bank. Third place costume honor was awarded to Lynne Collingwood, Marie Law, and Gayla Smith, dubbed “Habitat Hammers”, sponsored by the Habitat for Humanity, Altus Area. The Western Oklahoma State College sponsored “Diacritical Divas”, a team composed of Brenda Phillips, Carey Monroe, and Selena Callins, who won the 4th place award in the costume category.
The “Spell Bound” team also won the Best Team Name accolades. Another team called “None of Your Bee’s Wax” team was awarded second place name winner. This Grace United Methodist Church team was composed of Carolyn King, Marie Cohoon, and Eddie Lazenby, and was coached by Connor Preston. This team was sponsored by Harold and Margaret Worrell. The third place name winners were the “Flying “Bee”neath the Weather”, sponsored by Smith & Smith Agency, LLC, and included Lt Col Chris Maddox, Lt Col Steve Johnson, and Lt Col D.W. Schmidt from the 97th Operations Group. The “Bee-ch Bums” with Renee Howard, Brent Howard, and Gabrielle Holmes won the 4th place Name Award, and Bob Howard funded this team’s entry fee.
The Best Name and Costume Combo Award went to “Fear the “Bee”ard—The James Harden Spellers”. This team, named in honor of an Oklahoma Thunder player, had Steve Jensen, Stephanie Jensen, and Lauren Kelley, representing the Altus Siding & Windows. Their sponsor was Chris Jensen.
Winners for the best costume and best name were determined by State Senator Mike Schulz and State Representative Charles Ortega.
An auction of a giant book cake with spelling words and a bee, donated by June’s Tasty Treats, was also featured in conjunction with the spelling bee. Team locations were designated by yellow and black helium balloons donated by Petal Pushers Floral Shop and Black Orchard.
Altus Attorney David Braddock provided laughs and steered contestants through the tense moments. “It was fun as usual,” summarized Braddock, “and the fundraiser tallied money for the worthwhile cause of literacy.” Mr. Braddock was “busy as a bee” himself with the announcements, door prizes, and award presentations.
A special guest was the Queen Bee, alias Terri Redding, who told of some literacy successes and facts for the Great Plains Literacy Council and assisted with the door prizes.
Altus High School Science teacher Mack Powers and Joan Wilcoxen, Executive Director of the Altus Armed Services, YMCA, were the spelling contest judges and timers.
KWHW Radio Programmer Eddie Wilcoxen served as the pronouncer for the audience participation contests for adults and children. Shirley Olson was the individual adult winner and Alison Nichols and Sonia Coffin, both tied as the outstanding youth spellers from the audience. All youth participants received a prize.
Other team sponsors or organizations represented that have not been mentioned included Aldonian Club, Altus Fire Department Local #2749, AMSCO Steel Company, Mission Corporation/Jim Parrish, Phil and Ruth Carson, Brenda Risner, and the Altus First Christian Church.
In addition to the individuals, groups, and businesses that sponsored teams in support of literacy, other financial contributions came from Clint Albaugh, Altus Kiwanis, Mary Ann Appleby, Altus Lions Club, Altus Rotary Club, Roy & Donna (Hinton) Belli, Phil & Gloria Birdine, Jonathan & Sara Birnbaum, Michaela Bracken, Rick & Becky Cheaney, Clionian Club, Sonia Coffin, Pat Colville, Francine Drake, Gail Privett Davis, Larry and Sharon Duffy, William & Linda Eger, Heather Erickson, UMW of First United Methodist Church, Dean and Karan Garrett, Frances Garringer, Kathy Hale, Steve Francis, First National Bank, Jackson County Home and Community Education, Jackson County Retired Educators, Ginger & Larry Henton, Ruth Kizziar, Madeleine Lord, Shirley McCarter, Ryan & Anduin McElroy, NBC Oklahoma, Andrea and Alison Nichols, Bill & Shirley Olson, Jim and Jacquelyn Parrish, Barbara & J. K. Privett, Altus Mini Storage/Pack & Ship, Mel and Jean Rader, Stephanie Scott, Wal-Mart, Woodman of the World Lodge #111, and Tom & Ellen Yates.
Appreciation is also expressed to those making additional in-kind contributions or supplies which included Altus AFB Public Affairs, Altus Printing Company, Altus Times, Aquathin, Jeanine Berrong, Cable One, Carl & Carmen’s Creations, Leslie Gelders, GPLC board and staff, Kathy Hale, KEYB Radio, KWHW Radio, Bob and Velda Mustard, Lynn & Ron Osterhout, Robert Preston, Southern Prairie Library System, Donna Smith, Tamarack Road Church of Christ, The Market Place, and Western Oklahoma State College.
Proceeds from the bee benefit the programs and services of the Great Plains Literacy Council. “It was a very successful bee and we raised over $4,500,” said Sharon Duffy, President of the literacy council. She said that organizers were pleased and excited about all the fun the participants and audience had at the spelling bee.