Oliver: These competitive events spell fun for whole family

Joan Oliver
Joan Oliver

At elementary and middle schools across the area, a special competition has been taking place. Students have been squaring off against their peers in a battle of wits and nerves.

Instead of hardwood or heavy lifting, these fierce competitors have been memorizing hundreds of words, ready to rattle off letter after letter at a moment’s notice, training their brains to perform even when the stakes are high and the pressure is on.

For some, the competition has been a culmination of endless hours of preparation to be ready to summon the right sequence when called for.

On Wednesday, all that hard work will be put to the test at the 2019 McHenry County Spelling Bee.

The winner of the bee, which will begin at 7 p.m. in the Luecht Conference Center Room B170 at McHenry County College, will earn the right to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May in Washington, D.C.

To make it this far is a big accomplishment. Some of us might be good spellers, but these kids are able to spell when their adrenaline is taking over, when their palms are sweating, and when there’s no pencil and paper to help. These champs are worthy of a round of applause.

Competing this year will be Nick Bom of Heineman Middle School, Brooke Danz of Parkland School, Olivia Donevski of Montini Catholic School, Bob Gerloff of Northwood Middle School, Madeline Gray of St. Margaret Mary Catholic School, Tara Helton of Heineman Middle School, Elijah Koehrer of Marengo Community Middle School, Amelia Persons of Nippersink Middle School, Brooke Plunkett of Richard Bernotas Middle School, Nathan Sarfo of St. Thomas Catholic School, Gwen Steeves of Fox River Grove Middle School and Jessica Webber of Alden-Hebron Middle School.

Brooke is the returning champ, and she will be trying to defend her title.

Once again, I’ll have the privilege to be one of the judges of this exciting, often nail-biting event.

Why not come out not only to support these really worthy students, but also to enjoy a seriously entertaining competition?

• • •

Another of my favorite events also is taking place this week. If you haven’t ever experienced the Mini Links event at the Woodstock Public Library, then you’ve missed out on a lot of fun.

I have happy memories of taking my niece, Gabriella, to play the 18-hole miniature golf course inside the library. Some years it was just us, and other years we’d bring my husband or my brother, Joe (Gab’s dad), and compete for bragging rights.

Some of the holes were downright tricky, such as the “elevator hole” and the Dr. Seuss hole (at least it was for me). The creativity of each hole is something to behold, too. Think skateboards, piping and, er, toilet seats.

This year’s installment will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the library, 414 W. Judd St., Woodstock. The cost is $5 for adults and $3 for children 8 and younger.

Proceeds from this Friends of the Woodstock Public Library event go to help fund the special touches around the library.

There also is the Library After Dark event from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday. This adult-only affair allows for a glass of wine or beer, Public House appetizers and piano music by Ron Fredriksen. Tickets are available on the library’s website (, at the front desk or at the door. The cost is $25 in advance or $30 at the door.

Don’t miss it!

• Joan Oliver is a former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at

Editor's note: This column has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Nick Bom's name and Jessica Webber's school. The Northwest Herald regrets the errors.

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