Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

How Do You Spell Fun for the Whole Family?

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

How Do You Spell Fun for the Whole Family?

Article excerpt

Byline: Laura Capitano

Spelling bees are popping up in the most unlikely places. Earlier this month, the 2007 Scripps National Spelling Bee finals turned up on primetime ABC. Now, the Riverside European Street Cafe, a colorful house built on international beers, "monster German wieners" and Haribo gummy delicacies, is hosting spell-offs of its own on Monday nights. It all supports my theory that we're living in the Year of the Nerd.

Owner Andy Zarka came up with the idea as a fundraiser, and proceeds go to buy new library books for neighboring West Riverside Elementary School. European Street is matching all contributions dollar for dollar.

The beauty of the contest is that it's ALL AGES, pitting spell-check-dependent adults against kids in the prime of their vocabulary-building years. The children have an advantage, as their drink cups do not contain exotic beers, as the adult cups tend to.

The weekly winner pulls in a $10 gift card, and the top two finishers advance to the finals Monday, June 25, when "literally tens of dollars" in prize money are at stake. So says Zarka, the dedicated bee emcee. He's not too proud to work the children's Highlights multicolored plastic microphone with foot pedal sound effects. Anything for kids in need of some new Harry Potter adventures.

The grand champion speller will also be immortalized in plaque form on the cafe's dining room wall. That's the kind of fame that lasts, people.

European Street's bees have had 12 to 16 spellers during each of the three previous weeks, with a fairly even mix of kids and adults. Monday is your last big chance to get a piece of the spell-off action.

This seems like an A+ parent-child event -- a way to get a little healthy competition back in the family. The bee commences in the main dining area, and when you arrive, it's very clear who you should check in with -- the woman in the glasses, sitting at a table, snuggled up with her dictionary and the dreaded misspell bell. …

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