Onomatopoeia is the formation of a word from a sound associated for what it is named; for example, cuckoo and sizzle. Onomatopoeia is also the word that won Chicagoan Evan Loritsch the glory of being crowned the winner of the first ever Lucky Guess Spelling Bee on Jan. 29.
The spelling bee was held at Young Chicago Authors in Noble Square and consisted of 25 contestants competing in three rounds of spelling showdowns. In between rounds of the spelling bee, live poetry was read by six entertaining poets. One of the poets, Anthony Sanders, hosted and put together the event, while using the event as a kick off for a poetry tour he and three of the other poets are doing to promote their book of poetry, “Luck.”
“I’m really excited, and really nervous,” Sanders said before the spelling bee began.
He has spent months putting together this event, and began planning it while working on a Norwegian Epic cruise ship.
“This whole idea has been storming in my brain for a long time,” Sanders said in a Skype interview from Jamaica. “I was going to do one (spelling bee) at my apartment, but it never panned out. I don’t think my energy was in it. While I’m out here (on the cruise ship) the only way I can stay focused is if I put my energy into a project.”
The spelling bee had three judges who listed off words from a list Sanders put together. Some words were easier (negligence), and some words were trickier.
One contestant drove from Omaha, Nebraska to attend the spelling bee, and six others drove from Scattergood Friends School, a boarding school near West Branch, Iowa.
Bug Shapiro, 16, organized the group from Scattergood Friends School, which consisted of six students and one academic dean, who was one of the judges of the spelling bee.
“I wanted to come because I am super into spelling bees,” Shapiro said. “I am super into the idea of this — anything DIY that’s not oppressive.”
“I came just for fun,” Scattergood Friends student Cecilie McKenzie, 15, said.
McKenzie participated in spelling bees when she was in elementary school with an interesting twist.
“I went to a hispanic elementary school in Kansas,” McKenzie said, “so all the words were in Spanish.”
The first round ended with ten people eliminated, but instead of returning to their seats in defeat, contestants were applauded when they misspelled words, because as Sanders pointed out later in the evening, it takes a lot of bravery to stand in front of a large crowd and spell words.
The audience was filled with laughter and applause during the three rounds of the spelling bee. Mostly due to humorous comments from judge, Robbie Q. Telfer, who when asked the meaning of the word ‘Zephyr,’ responded “it’s a Red Hot Chili Peppers song.”
In between rounds, the room was filled with a respectful silence for each poet. After the first round, Danny Radovanovic and Andy Holsteen both read two poems from ‘Luck.’
Seven people made it to the final round of the spelling bee, but in the end, only two competed to win the first place prize of $100, a trophy and a copy of “Luck.” In “the best twist ever,” according to some members of the crowd, the final two competitors were boyfriend and girlfriend, Evan Loritsch and Clare Teeling.
“You know how in ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’ he gets all the questions right because of his life experiences?” Teeling said in regards to how far she got in the spelling bee. “That’s what it was like for me with these words.”
“It was a lot of fun,” Loritsch said. “I was expecting a more exhausting experience.”
The laid-back and silly nature of the spelling bee is what Sanders hopes will keep it going in years to come.
“I’m determining how often, but you can bet we’ll do it again,” Sanders said. “The poetry was obviously a fun part of it, but I never would have guessed that the spelling would provide so much joy and laughter.”
The night finished positively with Emanuel Vinson and Robbie Q. Telfer performing poetry.
“My most prominent emotion right now is gratefulness,” Sanders said. “I was reminded at how supportive people can be of an idea so seemingly silly.”