The Scripps National Spelling Bee will be held in person this year, but it will be much smaller and later than normal and will move from the Washington area to Orlando, Fla.
Scripps announced Monday that its national spelling bee, which was canceled in 2020, will be held July 8 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort. The finals, featuring 10 to 12 spellers, will be broadcast live in primetime on ESPN2.
The 10 to 12 finalists who will travel Florida will have advanced through three levels of competition that will be held virtually: the preliminary, quarterfinal and semifinal segments, Scripps said. Typically, about 250 to 300 students qualify for the national bee by winning local or regional spelling bees. For many years, the national bee has been held in Washington in late May, most recently at the Gaylord National Harbor hotel.
The 2021 Prince William Regional Spelling Bee, sponsored by the InsideNoVa/Prince William weekly newspaper, will be held Tuesday, March 9, at Gar-Field High School under strict social-distancing and mask requirements. Twenty local students have qualified to participate in that bee, and the winner will advance to the Scripps competition. The event will not be open to the public.
Scripps said the online preliminary rounds will be broadcast live on ESPN platforms. The semifinals are slated for June 27, and dates for the earlier virtual rounds of the competition will be announced this spring.
“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,” said Adam Symson, president and chief executive officer of the E.W. Scripps Company. “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.”
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, Scripps said. The in-person portion of the competition in Orlando will follow protocols based on guidance from health authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for social distancing and masking.