Sneak Peek: Get to Know the Celebs: Vol 2

As our OnPoint Community Credit Union Celebrity Spelling Bee continues to draw near, the anticipation becomes increasingly thick. The nerves evermore palpable not just for our spellers, but also for the common ticket holder. May we remind you, it is a Celebrity Spelling Bee. That’s right. All of us —Teachers, Benefactors, and Word Nerds alike —will be shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the prominence of Portland. So we wanted to do two things in this sneak peek post; 1.) Provide helpful advice to some of the newer participants from one of our most seasoned spellers, John Erickson, and 2.) Introduce you to three more celebrities that will be in attendance. By doing this, we’re hoping to even the “spelling field” a little bit, and that you’ll be acquainted with the celebs just enough to shake off those first encounter jitters.

First off, John Erickson’s advice for the new spellers; “Make a list of all the words you often misspell and learn the correct spelling. And study up on words of foreign origin—particularly French and Arabic. Also Yiddish, German, and English. Then, the night of the event, forget it all. Have some fun, have some wine, and relax.”

When we asked John who he saw as his competition, he replied, “I am intimidated by the entire list, but particularly by Kyra Bussanich, who is a published author as well as a renowned baker, and returning champion Zia McCabe, whom I suspect of being a closet Mensa member as well as a rock star.”

Okay, now it’s time to get to know the celebs;

Zia McCabe

unnamedZia McCabe, the Spelling Babe, and reigning champ of last year’s Spelling Bee, wanted to be a famous dancer when growing up. Instead, she ended up being a keyboardist, percussionist, bassist, member of The Dandy Warhols, and one phenomenal speller. Dropping AP English her senior year did little to hinder her spelling ability. Need proof? Her winning word last year was “gnathonic”…yeah. And although she worked more with jumper cables than calculators in high school, she still calls the three-ring binder her favorite school supply. Learn more about Zia at

John Erickson


John Erickson, who would have been voted most likely to have a radio show in high school, is a self-proclaimed “total admirer of teachers and schools.” Nicknamed, “The Voice” after he suddenly started sounding like Johnny Cash at age 12, John wanted to be a baseball player before the airwaves called out to him. His favorite subject in school was always writing, and his worst was math. But that doesn’t stop him from still counting all 64 colors in the jumbo boxes of Crayola Crayons. Learn more about John at

Pamela Smith Hill

pamela 2 sm [1]True to her upcoming book, Pioneer Girl, Pamela Smith Hill is just that; a pioneer. No, not just because she has gone from Springfield, Missouri, to South Dakota, to Kansas, to Colorado, to Oregon (although that certainly does make her a “pioneer” in the most traditional American sense of the word). But because this lovely lady has written about and worked on virtually everything from Girl Scout jamborees to Water Piks, Navajo rugs to Basketball shoes, and has subsequently picked up an inordinate amount of experience and perspective along the way. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that she’s such a great writer. And although this is only her first year at the Bee, we’re confident she’ll make a great judge as well. Learn more about Pamela at

Will Vinton

At Desk1horizonalMcMinnville native and Oscar winning producer, Will Vinton is the pioneer of 3D animation, and the creator of “Claymation.” Will has written, directed, and/or produced some of pop culture’s best known comic characters including the singing and dancing phenomenon, “The California Raisins,” dinosaur critics “Herb and Rex,” and M&Ms’ “Red” and “Yellow”. It is behind these eccentrically sculpted faces that Vinton has risen to Hollywood prestige. But don’t worry! What you’ll be seeing at the judges table will actually be Will, and not his very clever looking clay double. Learn more about Will at

 Please check back next week for another installment of our series and click here to reserve your tickets to the OnPoint Celebrity Spelling Bee now. 

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