ITHACA, N.Y. –– The Ithaca Public Education Initiative’s (IPEI) 22nd Annual Adult Spelling Bee will take place on March 1, at Ithaca High School’s Wellness Center gymnasium.

“For the past 22 years, we have gathered the best and, not quite the best, spellers as an opportunity to have some fun, to be a bit silly and raise funds for IPEI. We raise funds all year round from the community to make those funds available as a pool of grant money for the city school district,” said Steven Manley, IPEI’s executive director.

Since 1996, IPEI has provided funding for hundreds of projects and programs with grants totaling more than $1.5 million dollars, and in the current year has funded more than 20 projects including connecting students with “socio-emotional learning materials,” bringing in a composer for students at Ithaca High School to understand the process of artistic creation and composition, practicing shopping, cooking and eating healthy with educators from Cornell Cooperative Extension and a mural at Enfield elementary for students to express their creativity.

IPEI raises funds within the Ithaca community and makes them available to ICSD staff, teachers and students to “create educational opportunities, engage students in learning and connect classrooms to local resources.”

The event raises funds through local organizations sponsoring teams. “Team Sponsors” are in charge of signing their organization up, and once registered they have a space reserved for 3 spellers, receive a business card-sized ad in the Bee program, are recognized during the event, on IPEI’s webpage, and in media outreach about the event.

The entry fee is $400 for the event.

Teams are encouraged to dress up and brand themselves with punny names. Winners will be crowned based on their team spirit.

Businesses and organizations can also sign up to sponsor teams outside of their organization.

“Beverly J Martin has been sponsored as well as Belle Sherman by a number of local community organizations over the past several years so that they can participate, have fun and celebrate the work that we can do together for our students,” Manley said. 

The winning team receives the Fuzzy Bee trophy and bragging rights as the best speller in Ithaca.

There is more to the event than just the competition itself. A silent auction will feature items ranging from a North Face jacket worn on CSI, season tickets to Cornell athletics, and an overnight stay at Argos Inn. Food is catered from McCormick’s Restaurant at Moakley House, and there will be a family and team photo booth.

Doors open and food is served beginning at 1:30, with spelling starting at 2. The championship round typically occurs at 4, and the event concludes by 4:30. Winning bids on silent auction items will be posted at the end of the fourth spelling round. 

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at