The Scripps National Spelling Bee to return in mostly virtual format

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 gather on an ESPN campus at Walt Disney World in Florida, Scripps announced Monday.

Last year’s bee was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, the first time since World War II it had been called off. 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.

Instead of compressing the entire competition into a week — spellers routinely refer to Bee Week as a highlight of their young lives — the bee will be stretched over several weeks. The preliminary rounds will be held in mid-June, the semifinals on June 27 and the ESPN-televised finals on July 8.

The bee will be limited to about 200 spellers — a 64% reduction from the 2019 event, which had 562 participants, and about half the number that had been planned for 2020. A wild-card program introduced in 2018 as an opportunity to bring in more spellers from highly competitive regions has been discontinued, meaning most spellers will have to use the traditional qualification route of winning regional bees.

Spellers who live in areas that lack sponsored regional bees can compete and earn a spot at nationals through online qualifying bees organized by Cincinnati-based Scripps.

Another change: There will be no written spelling and vocabulary test to narrow the field to 50 or so semifinalists. Virtual format notwithstanding, the bee will return to its roots as a purely oral spelling competition. That means Scripps will have to use more challenging words in the early rounds. (source: abcnews.go.com)

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