Photo caption from left, Eston Matz, Mike Casper and John Dickison team up at the Ron and Mary Maxwell Community Spelling Bee.

What do the names The Spell Casters, Word Busters, and The Eager Readers have in common? They are all teams that have joined in the lively “Ron and Mary Maxwell Community Spelling Bee” hosted annually by Mid-State Literacy Council. For the past twenty-one years, local businesses, organizations, and supporters send teams of three to contend for first place at this jovial and spellbinding competition. Spellers from all walks of life make up this eclectic night that engages an audience of backseat spellers. They grin and gasp when teams spell out words with secretive vowels and archaic origin. In the end, one team reigns as champion after a sudden-death round involving the last three groups standing.

Numerous teams and spellers return year after year, ready to toss their hats in the ring and challenge their linguistic limits. Since the fifth year, John Dickison has spelled alongside teammates Wil Hutton, Michael Casper, and Eston Martz. Team member Michael Casper said they wanted to get involved with “the Bee” because, “We think the Bee has vital community importance through its focus on the fascinating phenomenon of language and its most basic elements, words. As fathers, we also are happy to have this fun event underscore that for our kids and ourselves, as we aspire to be lifelong learners.”

The team members also understand the importance of literacy. Team member John Dickison said, “All of our team members are writers, editors, performers and readers and are avid consumers of music, drama, arts and cinema. For each of our team members, literacy is a means of making a living as well as a great source of joy. We take that for granted and realize that for someone who doesn’t yet possess those skills, everyday life would be extremely difficult, both practically and socially. Literacy is a gift by which we share meaning, culture, commerce, and connection. It’s good and good for us.”

When describing what the experience has been like, John said “We have a signature thing in our presentation. If a word has a double letter in it, as we spell, punctuate that flourish with a finger snap. For example, if our word was “balloon,” we would respond, “B- A- (snap) double-L; (snap) double-O; N. Balloon. We keep hoping for something like “ball peen hammer” or “bookkeeper,” but it hasn’t happened yet.”

The participation from teams like these contribute to the success of the Spelling Bee, which raises needed funds for the various programs at Mid-State. With the help of a Mid-State tutor or classes, adult learners can make lasting changes in their lives, achieve greater independence, obtain jobs, earn citizenship, help their children with homework, and learn how to understand vital health information. It all stems from literacy, and the rewards of this foundation can sustain for a lifetime.

Now that we have piqued your interest with a taste of this rousing evening of cranial rivalry, come join us November 12 at 6:00 pm. The event will be broadcast live on C-NET Centre County YouTube at You won’t regret it! You may even find yourself signing up for the competition in 2021. Happy spelling!

Mid-State Literacy Council depends on the support of our community.