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TEXARKANA, Texas — The Literacy Council of Bowie and Miller Counties' annual Spelling Bee is B-A-C-K in early May, pitting local teams against each other for a coveted trophy and the glory of spelling.

The Literacy Council fundraiser, which was canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, returns at 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 8, at Texarkana College's Truman Arnold Center. This year, teams will congregate to compete while team supporters and the public can watch online.

Literacy Council Executive Director Jenny Walker says the bee will look a bit different than it has in the past. Teams can register through April 30.

"Usually it's a big, lively event with audience participation and all kinds of stuff. However, we're still very cautious about a large group, so we're going to livestream the event for a virtual audience, and the only people who will be in actual attendance in person will be our team members," Walker said.

The teams will be spread out at the bee. The Literacy Council is working with TigerVision at Texas High School for the livestream.

"We're hoping to have really good participation. We're hoping that we can kind of make up for some lost revenue since we weren't able to do it last year," Walker said. "We're wanting this to be the biggest and best."

Teams consist of three people and a designated alternate player. When teams register, they receive a study guide with a word list packet they can use to prepare for the spelling battles ahead. At the bee, teams can collaborate before announcing the spelling they offer for each word.

"When it gets down to two teams, the words that we call out for those last two teams will not be on the study guide," Walker said.

"Those will be our tiebreaker words."

Several corporate sponsorship packages are available, which range from the Bronze Bee at $250 and the Silver Bee at $350, the latter including one bee team sponsorship, to Presenting Bee at $3,000, which includes 10 virtual audience tickets, preferred seating, up to three team sponsorships and more.

"If they just want a team it's $350," Walker said. As to the spelling bee awards, first, second and third place teams will be recognized.

Groups can also make silent auction donations. The team whose silent auction donation brings the most money wins the Bee the Change Award.

Other awards include Biggest Swarm, which goes to the team selling the most virtual audience tickets; BEE-Q Magazine Award, which goes to the best dressed team; Create-A-Buzz Award, which goes to the team with the most votes for favorite team in a Facebook contest; and the Buzz Out Award, which is given to the first team eliminated.

"So everybody walks away a winner," Walker said.

Teams will also be able to purchase two in-bee add-ons: Buzz a Friend, which grants the team a helpful phone call to someone in the virtual audience, and Plan Bee, which allows a team the ability to skip a word. Teams can get one of each, $25 apiece.

The Buzz a Friend is sort of a throwback to the "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" days, Walker said. "So they can call somebody who buys a ticket for their virtual audience. Maybe they have a friend who can bail them out," she said.

Expect door prizes to be given to the virtual audience, too.

Tickets for watching virtually are $10. As soon as teams sign up, the Literacy Council will put a place on the Website for their supporters to buy tickets via the team's portal.

"So that we know exactly how many people are there virtually to support which teams," Walker said.

Although the Literacy Council added some other fundraisers this past year, the Spelling Bee has been missed financially. They lost about $20,000 without a bee, and with a yearly budget around $100,000 that's a large percentage missing.

"We're really looking forward to maybe having that money back into our account, and we're hoping to get even more teams this year," Walker said. This year, they're aiming for 15 teams.

"We're really excited to bring it back. It's a Texarkana tradition, so we know people have been missing it," Walker said.

(Register for teams or sponsorships at LiteracyTXK.org. For more information, contact Jenny Walker at 903-255-7733 or email [email protected])

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