There are two open spots representing Leavenworth County in the Sunflower Spelling Bee in March, and 36 contestants from schools here will be competing this week for a chance at them.
The 53rd annual Leavenworth County Spelling Bee is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Friday at the American Legion, 418 Cherokee St. in Leavenworth. The top two finishers will move on to the state-level Sunflower Bee March 2 at Fort Hays State University, this year sponsored by the Hays Daily News.
The Leavenworth County bee is organized by the Leavenworth Area Retired School Personnel. One of the organizers of the bee on behalf of LARSPA, Marilyn Michalls, said two schools, Eisenhower Elementary and Lansing Elementary School, are not sending any students to the bee.
“The rest of the schools in the county are participating,” she said.
The bee is open to students in fifth through eighth grades, all winners of their respective school-level bees. They'll be competing Friday for the first-place prize of a $100 savings bond provided by the Leavenworth Times. The second-place finisher will receive a $50 savings bond from LARSPA and the third-place contestant will receive a dictionary provided by the Leavenworth Kiwanis Club.
But the final two contestants in the countywide bee will also be eligible for the Sunflower Spelling Bee in Hays, with the winner of that bee given the chance to go to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, scheduled for May 26 to June 1 in Washington, D.C.
Kavya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kan., was the last Kansan to win the national spelling bee, in 2009 with the word “Laodicean.” Before that, it was Peg McCarthy of Topeka in 1978, correctly spelling “deification” at the national bee. Elan McCabe of Xavier Catholic School won the county bee in 2012, spelling the word “protagonist.”
Michalls said there always seems to be a lot of enthusiasm behind the bee, a tradition that through 53 years has seen both parents and their children. But contrary to what some might hear, Michalls said there is no one-stop shop for what to expect Friday.
“I get all these inquiries — what is 'the' list?” she said. “And I said there is no 'the' list.”
Instead, Michalls said the local bee's pronouncer, Myrna Floray, chooses the words to be used.
“I know Myrna's working on her list and I've given her some resources and she's got Merriam Webster with her and we'll come up with something,” she said.