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T.I. second-grader wins Jefferson County Fair spelling bee


“Championship,” said Barry K. Davis, Jefferson County Fair spelling bee pronouncer and Lyme Central School principal, as he called the final round.

In the zone, Thousand Islands Central School second-grader Tatum G. Gaffney began to spell “championship” confidently until she was stopped a letter in.

Mr. Davis told her the championship word was “reprint.”

After 21 rounds, she spelled the word correctly, making her the champion of the first- and second-grade bracket.

The Jefferson County Fair spelling bee took place Tuesday in the Watertown Municipal Arena at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds. Contestants competed in one of the three bees based on their age group.

“I was beginning to think we would have to go into the third-grade words because they’re just such fantastic spellers,” said Dawn D. Ludovici, Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services assistant superintendent and bee master of ceremonies. “I think they all did a fabulous job.”

She was not sure how long the bee had been running annually at the fair, but said it was more than 25 years.

“It’s just a fun summer bee,” she said.

Eight-year-old Tatum said she was surprised to win. Although she did not study, she learned how to spell words such as “bicycle,” “taught” and “newsletter” another way.

“I didn’t exactly study,” she said. “I do a lot of reading, so I know a lot of words.”

Like Tatum, all of the other spellers had to place at their school bees to participate at the fair.

“I think she did practice a few words,” said her father, Steven J. Gaffney, Clayton. “There were a lot of good spellers, so I thought it would be tough. I was hoping she could do it.”

All 16 contestants in the first- and second-grade spelling bee won a certificate and a book from the BOCES-wide Spelling Bee Committee. As a first-place winner, Tatum won a Mad Libs book, a trophy given by the Jefferson County Agricultural Society and a $50 check from the Watertown Daily Times. She plans to put her check in the bank.

Other first-place bee winners Tuesday were Joshua Caldwell from the Watertown City School District in the third-through-fifth-grade category and Harrison Fish from South Jefferson Central School in the sixth-through-eighth-grade category.

Today’s schedule at the Jefferson County Fair includes a variety of 4-H shows; Disc-Connected K9s at 2, 4 and 7 p.m.; Rosaire’s Big Cat Encounter at 3, 5 and 8 p.m., and the North Country Idol concert at 6 p.m. Gate tickets will be $5 through the fair’s conclusion Saturday.

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