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AHS Yippees Represent Peace. Love, and Snowdown Spirit at Spellebration

By Toby Fecik


Keeping with Snowdown tradition, Animas High School teachers flexed their nerdy spelling muscles in the Snowdown Spellebration event on Wednesday night at the Powerhouse. 

The annual Spelling Bee event, a fundraiser for the Durango Adult Education Center, reflected Snowdown’s psychedelically-themed hippie celebration of Peace and Love. The Animas High School Yippies, a reference to the countercultural protest movement from the late sixties, consisted of teachers Jessica McCallum, Jenny McKenzie, and Lori Fisher, along with their team manager, Dean of Enrollment and Community Outreach Libby Cowles. This is the 8th time AHS has brought a team to the Spellebration event.

Despite their vocal exclamations of a rigged contest, the Yippies won 3rd place and best costume due to the strong crowd support from faculty and student ambassadors. Jessica was most excited about winning best costume for the second year in a row, having also won for their Shakespearean “Weird Sisters” costume last year. She shared, “For me, this event is about capturing the Snowdown vibes. Obviously, your teachers are always going to be good spellers, but our real success is committing to the bit and bringing our characters to life!”

True to the spirit of the costume, they were sure to go out with a bang, staging a sit-in as they were eliminated. Jessica, Lori, and Jenny tossed fake money into the air while sitting down in front of the audience, playing guitar, and throwing out words of protest to “stick it to the man.” New Academic Coach Charlie Newton played the role of a military officer, arresting the three yippies and escorting them off the stage. 

According to Lori, who majored in Peace and Conflict Studies at UC Berkeley, the real life Yippies were known for political theatre and breaking the rules to get attention. These particular theatrics were a nod to the Yippees’ 1967 protest on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and the 1969 anti-war sit-in outside of the Democratic National Convention.

The difficult word that stumped the AHS Yippies was “Laodicean.” Lamenting their elimination, Lori exclaimed, “The French words have too many vowels!” 

The evening was full of other theatrical elements as well. The evening was emceed by two well-known FLC personalities: “hippie” Sociology professor Michael Rendon and Coordinator of Diversity Nancy Stoffer acting as Michael’s evolving hallucinations. The evening also featured dramatic readings by the Merely Players of 20th-century speeches, providing eye-opening performances of the eloquent words of historical figures such as Nobel Peace Prize winners Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. 

This year’s Spellebration champions were Buz Bricca’s “Mnemonsters,” while second place went to the “Spellerhouse Five” team from Maria’s Bookshop. Prizes were donated by various local businesses. Our Yippies won gift cards from Primi Pasta and Wine Bar and Perbacco Cucina Italiana. Other businesses donating prizes included Grassburger, the Strater Hotel, Hermosa Cafe, Honeyville, and Sky Ute Casino Resort. The event was also sponsored by Visit Durango. 

Congrats to all the participants, and especially to our own fun teachers for their commitment to the Snowdown spirit.

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