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Spellebration a resounding success for Literacy Outreach

Throughout the evening, teams wrestled with abstruse, recondite words like “eleemosynary,” “stochastic” and “schottische.”

In the end, the word “academic” determined the winners of the annual Spellebration spelling bee.

The event, held Friday night at the Hotel Colorado, was a fun, fun, fund-raiser for Literacy Outreach. The theme of the evening was “Reading is Magic – Cast a Spell.”



Now in its ninth year, Spellebration pits teams of spellers against one another, with the object of raising money for adult literacy programs. Teams are sponsored by local businesses and corporations.

The event involved 26 teams and raised just over $19,000, according to Literacy Outreach director Martha Fredendall.



“I expected to raise a lot, but not that much,” said Fredendall. Last year’s event raised just over $13,000.

About 70 spectators also attended the event, cheering for their favorite teams and attempting to spell on their own the words chosen for the event.

Teams are allowed just two misspelled words before being eliminated. The first team eliminated made the best of the situation.

“Did you say that the first one out won something?” said Scott Sobke of the MNB Spellcasters, before attempting the word “cacophony.”

“C-m-i-s-s-i-s-s-i-p-p-i.”

He and teammates Jackie Dority and Melissa Malloy were each awarded a dictionary.

With enough money, teams can buy their way through most of the contest with word passes and byes. A pass allows the team to pass on a word and receive a new one. A word bye allows the team to skip their turn completely. In either case, the passed (or “byed”) word remains in the spelling bee for the subsequent team to contend with.

One team, the Whiz Chicks, sponsored by Battlement Mesa, opted to bye its way through most of the competition. On the first round, team members Pam Szedelyi, Sheri Scruby and Sean Jeung, dressed in fishing gear, eating Goldfish and playing the card game “fish,” anguished over the word “anguish” before passing it on to the next team.

“Hey, it’s a fund-raiser,” said Scruby.

New to Spellebration this year, and in keeping with the magic theme, Mark Ross of Carbondale was the designated “wizard of words.” Ross easily won the event the last three years. Teams had the option of hiring Ross to spell their word. However, if the wizard spelled the word incorrectly, the team was penalized for a misspelled word.

Only once did the wizard misspell, when he rushed through the word “quinquennially” and left out the second “n.” The wizard’s services cost that team $50, when they presumably could have misspelled it without his help.

As per the rules, once the field of competition drops to two teams, word byes and passes are eliminated and the spelling bee begins in earnest.

Near the end of the event, which lasted almost four hours, the final three teams were the Whiz Chicks; the Tinker Spells, sponsored by the Property Shop, with spellers Mogli Fairbanks, Manette Anderson and Marianne Ackerman; and the Magic Spellers, sponsored by the Town of New Castle, with spellers Lisa Cain, Sandy Sanchez and Frank Breslin.

The Magic Spellers appeared the most enchanted in the art of spelling, but after a short while, only the Tinkerspells and Whiz Chicks remained standing.

After the Whiz Chicks failed to correctly spell “rhinencephalon,” the enchanted Tinkerspells, dressed in royal medieval costume, correctly spelled the word, which is used to describe the olfactory part of the brain. They then went on to correctly spell “academic.”

The emphasis of Spellebration is on the fun. Mystic Marc the magician, played by Marc Adler of Marc’s Toys and Pets, performed acts of prestidigitation between spelling rounds.

Teams dressed in costume were entered into the annual costume contest. First place went to the Elucidating Enchantresses, sponsored by Colorado Rocky Mountain School. The trio, dressed as fair maidens of yore, included Debbie Crawford, Heather Noone, and Ben Taylor.

A silent auction was held during the event. Fredendall estimated the auction raised almost $4,000 for adult literacy.

Literacy Outreach provides one-on-one tutoring for adults with reading skills below the fourth-grade level. Money raised will go toward scholarships for the General Education Diploma (GED) program and Learning Labs at Colorado Mountain College and toward volunteer training and text books for Literacy Outreach’s adult literacy students. In 2001, 117 students received tutoring from 73 professionally trained volunteers. In addition, 60 scholarships were awarded to qualifying GED students.

Literacy Outreach and CMC are the only agencies which currently address adult literacy problems in Garfield County.


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