Scripps National Spelling Bee to Return This Summer After 2020 Event Was Canceled Due to COVID-19

The spelling bee finals, which normally are held in Washington, D.C., will take place on July 8 at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort

Students Compete In Annual National Scripps Spelling Bee
Scripps National Spelling Bee. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty

Have you heard the buzz? The Scripps National Spelling Bee is back!

After the 2020 event was canceled due to COVID-19, the annual, nationally televised youth spelling competition is set to return this summer, with a slimmed-down finals airing from the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World.

Ten to 12 finalists will travel to Florida for the final round, which will be broadcast live on ESPN2 July 8. The finals will follow three preliminary, quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, held virtually over a course of several weeks as opposed to during the competition's usual in-person "Bee Week."

This year's finals format, while face to face, boasts a vast change from the usual process — which sees many more spellers competing from the stage at a hotel or convention center in Washington, D.C. — in an effort to avoid spreading the virus.

"The decision to limit the in-person portion of the competition to no more than 12 spellers was made in consideration of the health and safety of participants, their families and everyone involved in the event's production as the country continues to combat the COVID-19 pandemic," according to a Monday press release.

It went on, "The in-person portion of the competition ... will follow protocols based on guidance from health authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for social distancing and masking."

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Students Compete In Annual National Scripps Spelling Bee
Scripps National Spelling Bee. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

After the 2020 bee (which normally takes place in late May/early June) was postponed last March, officials said the following month that they couldn't reschedule because "there is no clear path to safely set a new date in 2020."

"Our thoughts immediately go to our spellers and their families," said Paige Kimble, executive director of the bee, in a statement at the time. "The students have dedicated time and effort to their passion for learning. They should be proud of all they have accomplished by winning spelling bees at the classroom, school and regional level."

Added Kimble, "Nevertheless, our first priority has to be the health and well-being of our spellers and their families and the hundreds of staff and spectators that come together for Bee Week."

It marked the first time the spelling bee — which began in 1925 — had been called off since 1945 during World War II.

Students Compete In Annual National Scripps Spelling Bee
Scripps National Spelling Bee. Alex Wong/Getty

Adam Symson, president and CEO of The E.W. Scripps Company, said in the Monday release, "Since its beginnings nearly 100 years ago, the Scripps National Spelling Bee and its spellers have inspired audiences across the globe with a compelling combination of academic excellence and engaging entertainment."

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"Now, as the world continues to adapt to an ongoing pandemic, Scripps is committed to reimagining the beloved competition in a way that safely allows our exceptional spellers to continue this iconic tradition on the national stage," he added.

In 2019, the bee saw an unprecedented outcome when eight contestants tied to win. After 17 rounds, Jacques Bailly, the event's announcer, said that the competition would end after 20 rounds, and anyone who spelled three more words correctly would be crowned co-champions.

Among the winning words were "auslaut," "erysipelas," "bougainvillea," "aiguillette" and "pendeloque."

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