Local students compete in annual spelling bee at county fair


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It’s a good thing Gabriella Sarver practiced her spelling.

When she was one of the final two students in the fifth grade division of the Jackson County Fair Spelling Bee on July 26, the final word she needed to spell to win was practice.

She calmly and confidently spoke into the microphone, saying the word, spelling it and saying it again.

Then she was announced as the winner and presented a plaque to proudly display at home.

The St. Ambrose Catholic School student won in the 13th round. Cayden Booker of Brownstown Elementary School misheard the word steamy and spelled steaming. Sarver then correctly spelled that word and practice.

“Yeah, I got really lucky,” Sarver said, smiling. “Then I was like, ‘An easy word to finish it off? Great.’”

The only word Sarver misspelled was poisoning in the 10th round. Booker misspelled it, too, and then they alternated correctly spelling the words mayor, postage, regional and manufacture before what wound up being the final round.

Sarver moved to Jackson County last year, so this was her first time competing in the annual spelling bee at the fair, which occurred for the 44th year and was sponsored by Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Indiana Realty.

Students qualified after winning the spelling bee in their classroom at school. Boys and girls who were in third, fourth and fifth grades in the 2020-21 school year from all Jackson County schools participated.

There were 121 winners from around the county, but only 58 were able to make it July 26 to compete at the pavilion at the Jackson County Fairgrounds in Brownstown.

Sarver said at her previous school, she competed in a spelling bee in her classroom and placed second, and she also did a geography bee.

For the fair spelling bee, she said she volunteered to participate.

“I was really worried because I thought everyone else here was better than me,” Sarver said.

She was surprised to make it to the final two out of 16 spellers.

“I thought I would at least make it to third place maybe, but I didn’t know if I was going to make it to the final two,” she said.

Being the winner, Sarver said she was proud to represent her school.

“That actually does mean a lot,” she said.

She planned to celebrate afterwards by riding on the Ferris wheel and eating cotton candy. While this was her final opportunity to compete in the fair spelling bee, Sarver said she plans to keep practicing her spelling.

The first division to compete July 26 was third grade. It started with 19 and was down to three after 10 rounds: Becca Herbert of Cortland Elementary School, Hank Stuckwisch of Lutheran Central School and Haley Bumbleburg of Immanuel Lutheran School.

They were perfect in the 11th and 12th rounds. Herbert then correctly spelled squirt, but Stuckwisch misspelled imagine and Bumbleburg misspelled honor. Bumbleburg, however, remained in the competition when Herbert correctly spelled honor but forgot to say the word afterwards.

After Herbert was right on interested, Bumbleburg spelled the word quite instead of quiet, and Herbert won on quiet and then crayon.

Herbert said she has always been good at spelling, but she amazed herself by winning at the fair. She qualified after winning among 23 kids at her school.

Spelling at the fair in front of her peers and adults was stressful, she said, but she was happy about winning. Afterwards, she headed to the show arena to participate in a goat show.

The fourth grade division had the most spellers, 23.

After the 10th round, it was down to Josie Beavers of St. John’s Sauers Lutheran School, Kohlie Hallow of Immanuel Lutheran School and Julia Hartung of St. Ambrose.

Hallow missed a word in the 11th round, and Beavers and Hartung were perfect in the next two rounds before Hartung missed on symbol. Beavers then spelled it right and followed with fashion, finishing the contest perfect.

“My legs were shaking like crazy. They were shaking all around,” Beavers said, smiling.

In her school competition, she said there was a four-way tie after three rounds before she was declared the winner.

Competing against kids from around the county at the fair, however, was a new experience.

“I kept telling my mom I was a nervous wreck. I was nervous as can be,” she said. “Since I’ve never done anything really like that before, I was like, ‘What if I mess up? People will just be staring at me the whole time. What if I mess up on the easiest word in the world?’”

Getting the opportunity to compete at the fair meant a lot to Beavers, but winning made it sweeter. Before spelling fashion, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! I actually won’ because I had no idea I was going to win,” she said of her reaction afterwards.

Beavers has one more chance to qualify for the fair spelling bee, and she said she hopes to return next summer.

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