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Bee stands test of time

Think of the many annual events you read about or attend during the course of a year.

Some are relatively new, having just been started in the recent past. Fewer still are those that have been around for a decade or so. And an even smaller number have been going strong for more than 30 years.

In order to continue for that long an event has to present a great value to those who participate, offer enough changes to keep people interested and constantly work in new participants.

A good example is the Jefferson-Harrison County Regional Spelling Bee, Presented by the Herald-Star.

Since the first bee in the series was held in 1985, there has been a constant goal — to promote the value of learning, not just while young people are in school, but as a lifelong experience. To be sure, the bee offers some pretty intense competition, but the skills learned while preparing will stay with each of the boys and girls who participate for a lifetime.

You’ll have the chance to see for yourself at 11 a.m. Saturday when this year’s regional bee is held at Buckeye North Middle School.

The field will include pupils from the Edison Local, Indian Creek Local, Buckeye Local, Harrison Hills City, Toronto City and Steubenville City school districts, as well as one pupil representing area home-schooled pupils and one representing the Ohio Virtual Academy.

Saturday’s bee is a true competition. As always, the winner will receive a trophy and will claim bragging rights for the next year. But that’s just the beginning — he or she will win an expenses-paid trip to National Harbor, Md., to compete in this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee, which will be held from May 26-30 at the Gaylord National Resort.

They also will win a one-year subscription to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary online, donated by Merriam-Webster Inc.; a one-year subscription to Britannica Online Premium from Encyclopaedia Britannica; a $250 gift from Huntington Bank; and a 2019 United States Mint proof set donated by Jay Sugarman, chairman and chief operating officer of iStar Financial.

Everyone who participates will receive at least $25 from Huntington Bank, and all spellers will get a bookbag courtesy of PNC Bank.

It’s not possible to know who will win this year’s bee, but we do know it will not be Grace KcKeegan, who took the title in 2017 and 2018. McKeegan’s second win came as an eighth-grader, the oldest level at which a pupil can participate.

When she correctly spelled “Moscow” to win last year’s event, she added her name to a list of two-time champions that includes Toronto’s Nathan Keenan, who won in 2013 and 2014. Indian Creek Middle School’s Dharani Kotekal won in 2010 and 2012; Meadow Jackson won in 2008 as a pupil representing All-Saints Elementary School and in 2009 while representing the Jefferson County Christian School; Derek Gavorcik won in 2002 while representing West Elementary School and in 2004 while representing SouthWest Middle School; and Frank Zeroski of the Buckeye Local School District won in 1996 and 1997.

Amy Francy of the Diocese of Steubenville was the first multiple winner, taking first in 1988 and 1990. Erica Williamson of the Edison Local School District is the only three-time winner, accomplishing that in 1991, 1992 and 1993. Jimmy Woo of Steubenville City Schools was the first winner, in 1985.

Helping to ensure the bee is a success is the staff at the Jefferson County Educational Service Center, led by Ron Sismondo. Among those sponsoring the event are S.T.A.R.T. — Special Tactics and Rescue Training — and 360 Safe Solutions; McBane Insurance; the Franciscan University of Steubenville; Tri-State Financial Services; Gus’s Goodies; WesBanco; PNC Bank; and Huntington Bank. Entry fees for every school in the state were paid by the Ohio Lottery Commission. Merriam-Webster Inc. and Encyclopaedia Britannica are national sponsors.

You’ll get to meet all of the spellers and learn a little bit about each of them in a special section we will publish in Friday’s edition.

Our regional spelling bee remains an important event on the academic calendar because it continues to offer a great experience for each participant. The words change every year, which keep the competition fresh.

And, while several of the competitors will be appearing on stage for the first time, others will be making their second or third appearance.

We congratulate them all, and hope you will join us in watching them compete Saturday.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)

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