NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — When spelling is your passion, there is no better place to unleash it than on one stage.
Welcome to the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
“I would say I am a good speller,” said the Bee’s head judge Mary Brooks. “I am not the caliber of these spellers.”
Brooks has worked for the 94-year-old Bee since 1971. This year’s competition is the first since the pandemic in which the preliminary and semi-final competitions are back in-person. More than 200 students and their families are converging on National Harbor, near Washington, D.C., to participate.
“I've been able to reflect on the past 50 years,” she said. “The kids are basically the same. The competition itself holds that same esteem. It's certainly gotten much more media exposure - but what has changed is their access to technology.”
What has also changed is the Bee’s popularity.
“It has become just something that is revered,” Brooks said. “And it's one of the few academic competitions for people, young people of this age, to actually pursue.”
Students here come not just from across the country, but from around the world - with competitors this year coming from other nations, including Canada, The Bahamas, Germany and Ghana.
“The way in which it has gone out there viral, there's very few people that you can mention 'The National Spelling Bee’ that don't know about it,” Brooks said, “Or ‘Bee’ - you just say the words ‘Spelling Bee’ and almost everybody has some instant reaction to it.”
For the 234 spellers that make it here, those reactions can range from the drama of disappointment to the buzz of success, where, at the end of it all, one speller will rise above all others.
You can watch the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee finals live on the Ion and Bounce TV networks on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET, 7 p.m. CT. It will also be simulcast on the Laff and TrueReal TV channels. The finals will rebroadcast on June 3 and June 5 on Newsy.