Prowess in spelling accuracy often was the highlight of early small-community schoolroom recitations.
Spurred by growing interest, nine newspapers collaborated in 1925 to host the first National Spelling Bee. For six decades, interest in the contests grew, and then, near the end of the 20th century, the number of participants almost doubled.
In recent years, ESPN — whose unofficial slogan is “If it’s almost a sport, you’ll find it here!” — started hosting live coverage of the National Spelling Bee, thus increasing interest in this entertaining armchair “sport.”
Craig was not to be left behind on the spelling bee field, and for a number of years the local school district sent participants to compete in this contest highlighting brainy brawn.
In 1963, Craig Junior High School eighth-graders Cheryl Pankey and Joe Shaffer headed off to Denver for the April 20 Colorado/Wyoming Spelling Bee in hopes of qualifying for the Scripps National Spelling Bee to be held that May in Washington, D.C.
Although equipped today with a built-in Internet dictionary at their fingertips, students who are involved in spelling bees build more than just spelling accuracy into their lives. They learn to increase their vocabularies and to master correct use of the English language, and they gain a sense of accomplishment that is irreplaceable.
So, for all those local armchair sports enthusiasts, you can peruse the 2014 Spelling Bee list and learn the meaning and use of such challenging words as isochronous, aphasia and epizootic.
The staff at the Museum of Northwest Colorado would appreciate hearing about any more Moffat County spelling bee contestants and whether local schools still participate in these.
If you have information, please call or visit the museum and let us know your story about spelling bees. Call 970-824-6360.
Mary Pat Dunn is the registrar of the Museum of Northwest Colorado.