Wearing bright yellow, rubbery foul weather gear, the team from Tanner Law, aptly named ‘the Raining Champs’, stood on stage inside the Roger Williams University field house while words such as ‘qualitative’, ‘gregarious’, and ‘booglarized’ were tossed their way. Unfortunately, the Raining Champs, who were the Bodacious Bee’s reigning champs, were among the first teams knocked out of the spelling bee competition on Saturday night, defeated, but all for a good cause.
The Bristol Warren Education Foundation held its signature fund-raising event last Saturday, raising an estimated gross of $45,000. The funds are raised through ticket sales, auction and raffle items and event sponsorships, this year’s top level sponsors included Jaffe Orthodontics, Roger Williams University, Preppy Pig BBQ, Fall River Manufacturing and East Bay Newspapers. The money raised will fund programs throughout the Bristol Warren Regional School District based on grant request submitted by teachers at each of the schools.
The Raining Champs were among 18 three-person teams competing in the spelling bee, an event that has become a huge success within the community since its inception five years ago, drawing 350 to attend this year.
Heather Harley, said she’s attended all the events as a spectator and as a member of the Bristol Warren Education Foundation committee, but never a competitor. This year, she and Keri Cronin, co-chaired the event, with a committee of seven to make it such a success.
“When I went to the very first one, it was held in a VFW hall. We didn’t know if this would work, or if anyone would come,” Ms. Harley said.
The response was overwhelming. And over the years, while the trophy may appear to be the spoils of victory, it’s the bragging rights that keep the competition lively.
“There’s a little bit of rivalry,” Ms. Harley said.
Rob Kallman, who was part of the winning Tanner Law team last year, made it a point to return to defend the team’s title. Although serving in the U.S. Navy and attending school in Virginia, he flew in to Rhode Island for the event.
“We wanted to make sure the team was here in full,” he said, despite the early defeat. “We weren’t the underdog anymore. Everyone was gunning for us.”
Tammy Moore, whose team ‘The Real Fairies of Brothers Grimm’ represented Rockwell School PTO, arrived thinking the competition was all in good fun.
“We thought this was fun and games until we got some smack talking,” she said.
Perhaps better left to tackling budget issues than spelling words, the teams made up of town council members were knocked out of the competition rather quickly in the competition.
In round one, Bristol Town Council members, Nathan Calouro, Mary Parella and Timothy Sweeney, donned outfits made of recyclable materials and blaze orange vests worn by DPW workers. Calling themselves the Recyclables, their failed attempt at spelling was still a successful attempt to promote recycling.
“We knew we weren’t good spellers. What can I say. We’re kicking off our recycling initiative,” she said.
Likewise, Warren Town Council members, Cathie Tattrie, David Frerichs and Scott Lial, dressed as zombies and sponsored by Smith Funeral Home. They, too, were knocked out in the first swarm, but their presence and participation didn’t go unnoticed.
With members of the Bristol Warren Regional School District School Committee in the audience, BWEF chairman, Jock Hayes, displayed a tongue-in-cheek optimism toward settling the tenuous relationship between the two parties since the funding of last year’s district’s budget created a divide.
“We were even able to get the Warren Town Council and the school committee in the same room, so anything is possible tonight.”
While some teams attempt to prepare themselves using on-line spelling resources, for others it was all about the fashion.
“I’m more concerned with the costumes,” said Esther Trneny, a member off team Chicka-Chicka-Boom-Boom, a group of Guiteras School parents, sponsored by National Grid.
Ms. Trneny, along with Jenn Devine and Caroline Marino, members of Guiteras School PTO came dressed in a tropical theme, complete with palm frond and strategically positioned cocoanuts.
By the end of the night, that included a dinner prepared by the Preppy Pig, drinks, and a lot of good natured rivalry, it was the trio from Mt. Hope Farm, led by executive director, Jennifer Bristol , that took home the trophy. After missing a word, Joseph Brito, Jr. generously bought a $125 ‘buzz again’ allowing them re-entry into the competition. Their team, called ‘Moo-vers and Shakers’ then rose to the occasion by correctly spelling the word ‘acclivities’.
Once the event was over, Ms. Harley was already looking toward making the fun bigger and better for next year.
“This is a babysitter worthy event,” she said.