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Bell County Spelling Bee will be Saturday

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Bell County Spelling Bee

Keylon Almond a sixth-grader at Providence Preparatory School tries to spell out accessory, but was unsuccessful during the 2016 Bell County Spelling Bee held at The Temple Civic Theatre in Temple.

More than 50 students will compete Saturday in the 86th annual Bell County Spelling Bee sponsored by the Temple Daily Telegram.

The event will begin at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Temple College Pavilion, 2600 S. First St.

The Spelling Bee has a storied history dating back to 1930.

“It started in 1930 and skipped ’31,” organizer Pattie Marek, the newspaper in education coordinator for the Telegram, said. “It’s been continuous since 1932.”

The Bell County Spelling Bee is not connected to the National Spelling Bee, but it has deep roots in Temple and Bell County.

“Lots of people in this town have participated when they were in school,” Marek said. “The kids that do this, they’re going to be your doctors and lawyers and accountants. ... They’re the curious ones, the studious ones.”

Jackson Belobrajdic, the son of Lindsay and D.J. Belobrajdic of Belton and a sixth-grader from Lake Belton Middle School, won the 85th annual Bell County Spelling Bee last year. The event is open to sixth- through eighth-graders.

“It’s always kind of something I’ve been good at,” Belobrajdic told the Telegram at the time. “I enjoy it very much.”

Marek noted that the event can put children under a considerable amount of stress.

“There’s always some kids that it gets to them, you know, they have a television camera on them and Mama’s out in the audience,” she said. “We’ve had kids get sick on stage.”

The judges this year have all been doing the Bell County bee for about three or four years. They are Lee Gardner, director of the Temple Public Library; Linda Barnes of the Temple College communications office; and the Rev. Roscoe Harrison, pastor of Eighth Street Baptist Church. Pronouncer Dee Kirkland of the Temple College Institute is also a Bell County Spelling Bee veteran.

Marek noted that the pronouncer and judges are a very accomplished group.

“(Harrison) has been a newscaster, he walked with Dr. (Martin Luther) King,” Marek said. “That’s elite company.”

The Bell County Spelling Bee features a traveling trophy. The winner’s name and school name will be inscribed on the base and it will be displayed at their school for a year.

Currently, the Bee is working on its second trophy. The original ran out of room for new names and had to be replaced. However, that first trophy is still on display at the offices of the Telegram on 10 S. Third St.

The new trophy has been designed to accommodate more winning names than the original one.

In addition to the trophy, the winner of the Bee will receive a cash prize of $100 and a plaque to keep. The second place contestant will receive $50 and third place will be awarded $25. Both the second and third place winners will also receive plaques.

Fifty-three students are scheduled to compete. Students are eligible if they are in the middle grades in Bell County, regardless of whether they are at public schools, private schools or home-schooled.

The Bee uses a word list from by the University Interscholastic League. Contestants get a book of potential words to study, and then a small fraction of those are chosen for use during the actual contest.

 “Kids were given the words right after Christmas,” Marek said.

Marek suggests that competitors should not focus on the hardest words when studying. More mid-level words often trip them up.

“I tell everybody ‘You concentrate on the fifth and sixth (grade) words,’” she said. “Most of the kids will go out on an easy word. ... If I was coaching, that’s what I would do, I would concentrate on the middle.”

The contest will start at 8:30 the morning of the 25th and will end around noon.

“It’s always exciting,” Marek said. “Kids get pumped up, kids get scared.”