By Tony Marquis Standard Staff
EAST BARNARD — Carolyn DiCicco knows how Dan Quayle feels. In her fifth-grade spelling bee, about 40 years ago, she made the same spelling goof the former vice president infamously did at a New Jersey elementary school in ’90s. “I remember the word that I lost at in the fifth grade — I put that ‘E’ at the end of potato,” DiCicco said. DiCicco, and 13 others like her, got a second chance at redemption last Wednesday at the first East Barnard Community Club Spelling Bee. Most came to rekindle some orthographic glory. Others came to spend time in the renovated East Barnard Community Hall. Some came for laughs, coffee and homemade chocolate chip cookies. Jill Thomas won the bee, beating DiCicco in a 45-minute, back-and-forth contest where they matched each other word-for-word. Contestants were standing for each word at the beginning of the contest, but toward the end of the marathon match, DiCicco and Thomas sat next to each other, spelling from their chairs. As Thomas finished spelling the winning word, voracious, she raised her hands in relief, then shared a hug with DiCicco, who was eliminated on the word, martyr. Thomas, who owns a house painting business in the area, was asked if she had any previous spelling bee experience. “Oh gosh no, I don’t think any of us have,” Thomas said. “It was fun. I just came to support the community events. Randy (Leavitt) and the Community Club are trying to do some different kinds of events, so when I can come, it sounds like a fun time.” Earlier in September, the hall hosted the second annual Largely Local Dinner, a hodge-podge of crafts, homemade pies and music. The club anticipates more events like the bee. Thomas took home $70 for her mastery of words that stretched from fifth-to-ninth grade levels. By round 7, she was heads up with DiCicco, spelling words like rhythm, espionage and acquiesce correctly. The other $70 of the spelling pot went to the Community Club for organizing the event. Laura DiCicco, Carolyn’s daughter, came up with the idea, as another fun event to hold at the hall. Though she wasn’t competing, Laura seemed more pumped about the bee than some of the contestants. She regaled attendees with a story of spelling bee defeat, when she lost on the word, mattress. “What a great turnout for our first spelling bee, this is so exciting,” said Laura at the beginning of the bee. There were no crushing defeats at the hall — bee contestants enjoyed laughed off misspellings and the contest had more of a casual feel. During introductions, instead of saying what town they were from, contestants said they lived “up the road,” “in the yellow house,” and “behind the church.” Instead of a bell to indicate a misspelled word, bee volunteer Heather Leavitt struck a mason jar with a wooden-handled mallet. They took their defeats in stride. State Rep. Teo Zagar lost on the word bushwhackers, missing the second “H.” “I could see the H in my head as I was spelling it, but I wasn’t 100 percent sure,” Zagar said. Many who participated — like Kim Furlong of South Royalton — said they’d be back if the club held a spelling bee again. “We’ll all be spending our winters poring over the dictionary,” Furlong said.
A portion of these photos first appeared in the October 10, 2013 print edition of the Vermont Standard.