It was a cold day – or maybe it wasn’t.

I remember very little about that day’s minute details, but I do remember sitting in uncomfortable chairs and penciling in what I hoped was the correct spelling of words totally unrelated to one another – except for the fact that they were used in the Fillmore County Spelling Contest.

In class Mrs. Dumpert distributed little blue books of spelling words in preparation for the big day – easy words in the front, linguistic carnage in the back. I flipped through it a while, but my interest soon waned.

Days later, everyone in classes 5-8 took a special spelling test to determine who would represent our age group at the county competition. I managed to qualify every year, but one year was particularly special.

Shandra and I were dressed up in our best. We strutted into the Fillmore County Courthouse flanking Mrs. Dumpert, ready to spell words and take names. And we did. As each round’s sheet was taken away to a mysterious grading location outside the courtroom, competitors were eliminated until Shandra and I were of a few still spelling.

I can’t remember if Shandra and I were in the same division that year (she was a grade above me), but I remember she cheered when I was announced champion of my division, and I cheered when she won an award, too. We received shiny trophies. Mrs. Dumpert got emotional. We celebrated with a meal at Pizza Hut in Geneva. It was great.

A few weeks later Shandra and I headed for the district spelling contest in Tecumseh. We made it through quite a few rounds, sitting in chairs significantly more comfortable than those in the courtroom, but in the end fell short. We were OK with that.

I don’t know where the shiny trophies went, and I may not remember ever detail of my spelling days, but I do remember having fun every year I participated. Having recently attended the York County Spelling Bee, my eyes are opened wider to how much hard work of volunteers make events like spelling contests happen for kids.

T-H-A-N-K Y-O-U to all of the special spelling volunteers – Fillmore County, York County and beyond – for helping make memories.

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