The Scripps National Spelling Bee will return this year in a mostly virtual format, with the in-person competition limited to a dozen finalists who will meet at an ESPN campus at Walt Disney World in Florida, Scripps announced Monday.
Last year’s bee was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the first time since World War II it had been canceled. Organizers said they did not believe a large gathering at the bee’s longtime venue, a convention center outside Washington, would be possible this year for the competition’s usual date around Memorial Day. .
Instead of compressing the entire competition into a week, spellings regularly refer to bee week as a highlight of their young life, the bee will be stretched over several weeks. The preliminary rounds are in mid-June, the semi-finals on June 27, and the ESPN televised finals on July 8.
“We gave up on the idea of Bee Week early on because we knew we couldn’t get hundreds of people to one place safely,” said Carolyn Micheli, Acting CEO of bee, to The Associated Press ahead of the announcement.
“We found what I think is a pretty exciting and creative way to structure the competition over several weeks that will be fun for the kids, generate excitement and I think it’s a great way to deal with a tough situation. “, she added. .
Last year’s bee cancellation was a particularly cruel blow to eighth-graders who missed their last chance to compete after years of preparation. The best spellings regularly study obscure words, roots, and language patterns for hours a day, sacrificing other activities and social life for the chance to become the National Champion. Spellings are no longer eligible after reaching high school.
“A lot of spellings, including me, got really heartbroken when we didn’t get the chance to go to Scripps and have this whole week, this amazing experience again,” said Harini Logan, a 12-year-old seventh student. from San Antonio who hopes to compete this year.
Several online bees were organized last summer by other organizations to provide opportunities for these eighth grade students, but none of these events had the prestige of the ESPN televised Scripps competition, with its first prize of $ 50,000. , national media exposure and nearly 100 years of history. .
“I never really stopped or slowed down,” Harini said of her bee prep. “I have tried to keep my pace of work and study as consistent as possible during this uncertain time.
Scripps asked spellings and their families about what they would like to see in Bee 2021, and the overwhelming majority said they just wanted to be reassured that the contest was held in some form or another, a said Corrie Loeffler, editorial director of Bee.
Bee will be limited to around 200 spellings, a 64% reduction from the 2019 event, which had 562 attendees, and about half the number that had been planned for 2020. A wildcard program introduced in 2018 as a Opportunity to bring more spellings from highly competitive regions have been dropped, meaning most spellings will have to use the traditional route of qualifying regional winning bees.
Spellings who live in areas devoid of regional sponsored bees can compete and earn a spot at Nationals through Online Qualifying Bees hosted by Cincinnati-based Scripps.
Another change: there will be no written spelling and vocabulary test to restrict the field to around fifty semi-finalists. The virtual format notwithstanding, the bee will return to its roots as a purely oral spelling competition. This means that Scripps will have to use more difficult words in the early rounds.
In Bee 2019, the words used in the final rounds became a major issue. Scripps had to use the toughest words on their list just to identify a group of prime-time finalists, and the Bee ended in an eight-way tie because organizers didn’t want the competition to be decided by physical endurance because she was late. in the night. This result drew criticism from those who said Scripps relied too much on words that entertain TV audiences but do not present significant spellings challenges.