Wordsmiths Gear Up for Williamsburg Spelling Bee Finals
WILLIAMSBURG — After watching precocious teens pack the National Spelling Bee in the documentary "Spellbound," Bobby Blue wondered why grown-ups weren't part of the linguistic face-off.
He decided to start his own competition — in a bar.
"I wanted it to be a nice, intellectual spelling bee and I didn't know if it would become a drunken spelling bee," said Blue, a professional singer and Bedford-Stuyvesant resident who launched the Williamsburg Spelling Bee eight years ago.
"But nobody gets crazy drunk, and everybody is in it to win."
The popularity of Blue's bee has filled the monthly matches at Pete's Candy Store since 2004. It's celebrating its ninth championship round next week, with a year's worth of winners facing off to puzzle over the most complex linguistic creations.
"We better make it good considering the end of the Mayan calendar is Dec. 21," Blue quipped about the ancient timeline's prophesied "end of the world."
Finalists come from all ages and backgrounds.
"We've even had people travel from California to be in the finals," he said.
Blue and comedian Jennifer Dziura co-host the free, three-round competition, relying on words from the National Spelling Bee. The sustaining popularity of the meets has been featured by media outlets including the New York Times and TimeOut NY.
"Everybody was jumping on the bandwagon — there was the Gay Spelling Bee, the Tequila Spelling Bee," Blue said of a wave of spelling bees that emerged after "Spellbound" was released. "But those came in and out."
The Williamsburg Spelling Bee has thrived on consistency, he said.
"It's rare when somebody starts and continues something," he said.
In spite of his passion for hosting the matches, Blue has never attempted to be a champion speller.
"I never had that much practice but I always loved it when I saw it," Blue said of the competitions. "It's a great way to watch people's minds work."
The Williamsburg Spelling Bee finals are Friday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. at Pete's Candy Store on 709 Lorimer St. Admission is free.