Scripps National Spelling Bee Canceled for First Time Since 1945

Popular spelling competition will resume in 2021

Scripps National Spelling Bee
A student competes in the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee, via Getty

The Scripps National Spelling Bee has been forced to cancel its annual event for the first time since 1945 due to the coronavirus.

“The Bee has determined there is no clear path to safely set a new date in 2020,” the program said in its announcement Tuesday. That will bring disappointment to all of the 150 spellers who had already qualified for the national finals, especially for the eighth-grade students who were hoping for one last chance to win the Bee. The program has decided they will not make an exception in the requirements for next year, which stipulate that Grade 8 is the last year students can compete in the Bee. The next Bee will take place from June 1-3, 2021.

The National Spelling Bee has been running since 1925. The last time it had to be canceled was during WWII between 1943-1945.

ESPN has aired the competition since 1994 and the Bee’s cancellation is another blow to the network’s programming slate. The 2002 documentary “Spellbound” followed eight hopefuls through the 1999 competition, and even earned an Oscar nomination.

Here is the official statement from executive director Paige Kimble:

“Our thoughts immediately go to our spellers and their families. 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. 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.

Our hearts go out to the spellers who won’t get their final shot at winning because of the pandemic and the difficult decisions it is prompting us to make. They are now part of a widely expanding group of children and adults who are missing out on opportunities due to the coronavirus.”

It joins a long list of media, sports and cultural events canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.