Spellebration 2005: Down to earth and out of this world | PostIndependent.com

Spellebration 2005: Down to earth and out of this world

Patti Svaldi and her cousins David and Randy Schroeder have spent most of their professional lives spelling awful words.

Literacy Outreach held its annual Spellebration fund-raiser at the Hotel Colorado March 4, where this year’s garden theme hoped to continue to sow the seeds of literacy everywhere.

The event produced a bountiful cast of characters that included the winners who won the spelling bee for the second consecutive year, spoofed “Star Wars” and called themselves “Return of the Veg-I.”

Svaldi, who dressed as “Princess Lima,” David Schroeder as “Leek Skywalker,” and Randy Schroeder as “Darth Tater,” also won best costumes.

Svaldi is a paralegal and a medical and legal transcriptionist, David Schroeder is a retired physician, and Randy works in telecommunications.

And although they come from a family who likes verbal quibbles, even they could have done without the likes of a few nasty weed words that cropped up throughout the evening.

Luckily Steve Shute, dressed as Mother Nature, was there to act as herbicide.

Teams could choose to hand their fate to him and pay him to spell the word, or they could play into his hormonal moments and rely on the “Spellagra” he doled out that would help the team get a good flow of blood to their spelling veins.

Little did Shute know that not even Mother Nature could weather a scuttle with Darth Tater later in the evening.

Which shows that Spellebration can make mere mortals out of just about anyone, especially those avowed spell-check slaves who were forced to spell words they had never even heard of.

This brought nervous gestures of closed eyes, pained faces and sometimes, after difficult words, relief after teams like Roots Radicals, Mountain Mutts and the Zucchinis survived round after round.

Jim and Sharill Hawkins made the set decorations while Bob Noone, in five hours, pronounced and defined dozens of doozies like zaibatsu.

In the end, tricky words like normosplanchnic narrowed the contest as bookworms lopped language, hedged words and wrestled with double-lettered words as alien as a Wookiee.

But outside the fun drama of the garden patch is one of America’s most serious social issues that lies at the heart of Literacy Outreach’s mission.

The organization is set up like the Jedi Council in “Star Wars,” powered by its wise teachers who train young Jedis to battle the Evil Empire.

For Literacy Outreach, the Evil Empire is illiteracy that threatens the world with poverty, crime, social injustice and a host of other problems.

The tutors at Literacy Outreach train and equip students on a one-on-one basis to learn to read and acquire skills that allow them to grow and become independent, proactive and productive members of society.

“You don’t know how much you change people’s lives. It pulls them up and helps them so much,” Mesha Risner said.

But no Star Wars spoof is complete without a scene where Darth Tater tries to convert someone to the other side.

That someone was Mother Nature.

“You’re my son. …” Darth breathed.

For the end of that sorry saga, you have to wait for the sequel to Spellebration, due out in March 2006.

Until then, congradulasions to those whose efforts to destroy illiteracy makes a world of difference here and in galaxies far, far, far away.

May the force be with you.

The Garden Hoes, from left, Blair Lowery, Ruth Sante and Deb Cutter.

Roots Radicals, from left, Joanne Teeple, Martha Rideout and Marge Palmer, who raised the most money.

The Garden Weasels from GSPI, from left, Cristina Gair, Gabrielle Devenish and April Clark.

A Rose Between Two Thorns, from left, Tal Hardman, Doug Evans Betanco and Leslie Stoupas.

Three Blind Mice, from left, Martijn Peppelman, Rebecca Sandoval and DT Thompson.

Carbondale Rotary, from left, Bob Moore, Sally Mencimer and Dave Weidemann.

Carbondale Rotary, from left, Bob Moore, Sally Mencimer and Dave Weidemann.

Literacy Outreach teachers Susan Barrena and Bill Crymble, and Teka Israel, a volunteer.

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