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Behind the scenes at the Scripps National Spelling Bee

Now in its 99th year, Scripps explores what it takes to prepare for the National Spelling Bee, on and off the stage.
Spelling Bee
Posted at 5:45 PM, May 27, 2024

What does it take to get ready for the Scripps National Spelling Bee?

It's a lot of work to make the annual event come alive, with production crews spending three days loading in audio and video equipment, banners, activities and the iconic Bee stage.

More than 200 people are involved in making Bee Week a success. That includes Scripps officials, production staff and college-aged volunteers, many of whom are former spellers.

"We help the kids have a great experience, you know, interact with the parents and their siblings and really make sure that they're having a really positive time at Bee week and really foster that sense of love of spelling and vocabulary," said Tara Singh, college crew co-leader.

Singh was 8 years old during her first appearance on the national stage. This marks her 11th year being active in the spelling bee universe.

"You can't keep away," Singh said. "There's something so special about the spelling bee. I say this to everyone I meet."

Her college crew co-leader, Amelia Ballingall, has been participating or volunteering in spelling bees since second grade, and that deep experience with words and language inspired her college major.

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"I had worked with kids throughout high school, and then looking into what I wanted to do in college, I stumbled across the major that I'm in now: speech therapy. It kind of brought together working with kids and linguistics," Ballingall said.

But the Bee Week experience is about more than just what happens on stage. Singh and Ballingall said Scripps does a great job planning activities and experiences away from the main stage to ensure the spellers and their families enjoy the entire week.

Some of those experiences include field trips around the Washington D.C. area and team challengers with prizes on the line.

So whether it's spellers, families or staff, Bee Week is a unique environment where a passion for words can develop into lifetime friendships.

And once the 2024 National Spelling Bee champion has been crowned, attention will quickly turn to next year when the Bee will celebrate its 100th anniversary.