Start studying; the not-so-annual Habitat for Humanity Spelling Bee is right around the corner. It’s a tremendous contest, pitting the Middle Keys’ most grammatically correct against their betters or worsers (we know, that’s not a word). Set for Friday, Nov. 14 at 6 p.m., it features the reigning champs of Sarah Czimas, her husband Doug “Braniac Jones” Mayer and the lovely Jeanine Mothner.

According to spelling bee organizer Christine Todd-Young, the trio will face the devastatingly young and good spellers made up of homeschoolers lead by Bethany Roberts.

As usual, the enunciator is Fishermen’s Hospital CEO Hal Leftwich. But emcee/attorney Patrick Stevens has some big shoes to fill, taking over for The Weekly’s Jason Koler who has insulted a variety of fine spellers over the years before he was summarily fired in 2013 from the volunteer position that did not include free beverages.

The judges are Leigha Fox, Scott Newton and MCSO’s Capt. Gene Thompson. They play an important role of robbing the contestants’ of all their meticulous strategies … and their dignity. After a few rounds in the 2013 contest, spellers were deprived of paper and pencil. A few moments later they were forbade to even ask the meaning of a word. The contest-approved “mulligans,” or the ability for a do-over on a losing round for a mere $75 donation, were being slapped on the table like empty shot glasses on a Friday night at the beginning of a three-day weekend.

The goal of the 15th not-so-annual Spelling Bee is to corral 10 to 15 teams for the spell-off whose proceeds benefit Habitat for Humanity. Monies raised at the event will go toward completing two homes under construction at the end of 64th Street. The two families have already been selected and are currently working on their “sweat equity” for the homes scheduled to be complete by April 2015.

The event is held in San Pablo Catholic Church’s parish hall and includes food prepared by the Rotarians, with generous underwriting sponsorship by Lazy Days South and Centennial Bank. Again, Fishermen’s Hospital returns as the major sponsor. Plus, the list of silent auction items is one of the best in a town of excellent silent auctions.

Believe it or not, the adult spelling bee is a spectator sport in Marathon. Throngs of the unwashed pay $2 a head for a folding chair with a view of the action. They shell out a little more for a coke or beer, burger or dog and they come to applaud, cheer and moan as their favorite teams succeed or fail spectacularly.

For more information about the bee, or to sign up as a last minute three-person team ($200) — a risky proposition as the team of school teachers has already been pouring over the prepared list of words for weeks — call 305-743-9828. At least 80 percent of the words come from the list and contestants can also pre-purchase the $75 mulligan.

Editor Sara Matthis thinks community journalism is important, but not serious; likes small and weird children (she has two); prefers target practice with a zombie rat poster; and looks best with saltwater dreads. Occasionally she tortures herself with sprint-distance triathlons, but only if she has a good chance of beating her sister.

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