On the local level, the participants of Thursday’s Jennings County Spelling Bee will receive little more than a plaque, a free lunch and — if they beat the competition — bragging rights.
But if that winner does well at the next level, he or she could earn a savings bond worth thousand of dollars.
And if that child comes out on top, he or she will be riding in the Pegasus Parade at the Kentucky Derby Festival.
A total of 16 Jennings County students will compete at 10 a.m. Friday at Brush Creek Elementary School.
The competitors will consist of two winners from each of the six public grade schools, Jennings County Middle School and St. Mary’s School. Most are in Grades 4-8.
What might seem unfair to some is that the younger children compete on the same playing field with the older students. But Brush Creek Elementary School Principal Johnny Bright, who’s helping to organize the event formerly held in Hayden, doesn’t think that’s a problem.
“A few years ago, a third-grader won one of the school contests. So it’s not unusual to have a youngster come out the winner,” Bright said.
However, it won’t be like each child is expected to memorize an entire dictionary. Bright said all the words will come from a 36-page booklet put out by organizers of the Kentucky Derby Festival Spelling Bee.
The words are cut, placed in a bag and pulled out randomly for each student.
“I haven’t noticed that texting has had an impact on spelling abilities,” Bright said. “Our numbers were pretty good. There’s still an interest and pride in knowing how to spell.”
The winner of the Jennings County Spelling Bee will go on to compete against 67 other students in the Kentucky Derby Festival Spelling Bee, which will be March 9 at the PNC Club at Cardinal Stadium in Louisville.
First held in 1994, the Derby Festival Spelling Bee has grown in popularity every year and now attracts county champions from all over Kentucky and Southern Indiana.
The overall champion will receive a $10,000 U.S. savings bond, as well as participate in the Pegasus parade.
The next four top finishers also will receive savings bonds — $5,000 for second place, $3,000 for third, $1,500 for fourth and $1,000 for fifth.
The prize money will be provided by the Kentucky Derby Festival Foundation, the Derby Festival’s charitable arm.