Get ready to get Red Hot

Sharp spelling skills help when it comes to Newton-Conover Education Foundation's annual Red Hot Spelling Bee, but they aren't required.

"All you really need is enough money to get your team to the championship round," said NCEF President Debbie Bandy, "and you can contend for a spelling bee championship."

Not only can competitors buy their way into championship contention, they can even rely on a little help from their friends.

"This isn't your normal spelling bee, where you have to stand by yourself in front of a microphone and spell words to a silent audience," Bandy continued. "This is a team event — team members work together to spell each of the competition words. Plus when spelling teams are costume clad, and the audience is laughing and cheering, there's definitely a festive atmosphere. Everyone involved really has a lot of fun while supporting the Newton-Conover City Schools System."

Presented by The Observer News Enterprise and Outlook, NCEF's Red Hot Spelling Bee is one of two annual fund-raisers for the organization that delivers student scholarships and classroom grants for the Newton-Conover City Schools System.

"With the economic struggles that our school system is enduring, we are proud to be providing additional funding for teachers who are initiating innovative approaches in the classroom," Bandy said. "We also provide scholarships for seniors who have shown community involvement as well as 'P.R.I.D.E.' in the Newton-Conover school system. By participating in the spelling bee, you are not only supporting the Newton Conover Education Fund, but having a fun family night of entertainment."

This year's competition is set for March 20 at Newton-Conover High School Gym. Community organizations and businesses can enter four-member teams for $100, and teams comprised entirely of students can join the competition for $25.

Teams that register before March 6 receive a free buy-back.

"Buy-backs are another way that this spelling competition is different from traditional spelling bees," Bandy said. "When a team misses a word they can buy back into the competition for $10, and teams can get that money from anywhere. Every year we have plenty of spellers turn to the audience to find money to help keep their spelling championship dreams alive."

Buy-backs are allowed until the championship round, when remaining teams vie against one another for victory. Winners in years past include the Champions of Education Executive Director Lamar Mitchell and his family, the Newton-Conover City Schools administrative team — "Barry's Angels," The O-N-E's "Teem Tie-Po," and Catawba Valley Medical Center's team.

The event is more than an exciting competition for teams of spellers, it is also a great event for spectators, Bandy said. Admission is free, and the community is encouraged to attend and watch student teams compete against faculty teams, as well as teams from throughout the community.

"I think it is a wonderful opportunity to show the kids they are important, and it also helps create a really festive atmosphere. People love to watch the kids at their best," Newton-Conover City Schools Superintendent Dr. Barry Redmond said, adding he is proud to compete and donate to the annual event. "We are very indebted to Newton-Convoer Education Foundation. They assist our teachers with special projects that might not otherwise be funded, and they offer other possibilities for students. We want to help the people that are helping us. If everybody can jump in and work together, then we all win."

For more information or to enter a team, contact Bandy at 464-4870 or 446-6594. Registration forms are also available at the Newton-Conover Schools system office, The O-N-E in downtown Newton and at supporting businesses throughout the community.