Spellers coming to Hays
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
The city of Hays and Fort Hays State University on Saturday will be playing host to a state meet for the fourth time in five weeks, and for the third consecutive weekend.
Eighty-five students in third through eighth grades from a 75-county area across Kansas will participate in the 2013 Sunflower Spelling Bee. Youngsters who qualified for the bee from their county events will converge on FHSU's Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center in Sheridan Hall for the 9 a.m. start with a chance to advancing to nationals on the line.
Fort Hays annually hosts the Class 3-2-1A state wrestling championships, which were last weekend at Gross Memorial Coliseum, the site of next week's Class 1A, Division II state basketball tournament.
Then March 23 and 24, FHSU also will be the site of the Special Olympics Kansas Basketball and Cheerleading Tournament.
Each of those events bring a lot of people to Hays, and their impact to the city is not lost on those in charge.
"The university itself is a fabulous resource to bring people to the community, whether for sporting events or spelling bee or math relays ... " said Jana Jordan, executive director of the Hays Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"That makes us a destination, and if you have (a child) participating, you're going to make sure you get here despite the price of gas, etc."
This is the first time Hays has hosted the regional bee, co-sponsored by The Hays Daily News, AT&T and Sunflower Electric.
The Sunflower Bee had been in Great Bend the past five years. Before that, Topeka, for many years, was the host of the Kansas State Bee before the Topeka Capital-Journal opted for a regional competition for its 26-county area instead of the statewide bee for winners from all Kansas counties.
The Hays Daily News agreed last summer to host the 2013 bee.
Jan Tinkel, business manager of the HDN and one of the meet's co-coordinators along with Gayle Weber, HDN's special sections editor, began working on the bee in August.
"From parents to school officials to teachers, I've talked to a lot of interesting people over the phone," Tinkel said. "I think this is great because some of these people from eastern Kansas would never have had reason to come to Hays otherwise. We're exposing them to our part of the state, showing them what Hays has to offer and a chance to see our beautiful performing arts center -- and the entire Fort Hays campus."
In addition, FHSU students will benefit from the event as members of Omicron Delta Kappa, a student service and leadership organization, is helping with the Sunflower Bee.
"It's a huge benefit to the entire community," Jordan said, "because Mom and Dad are coming, and grandparents, and the whole family comes to support (the participant). They stay in our hotels, and they eat and shop here. It's great to have them here. We love it."