For the second year in a row, the Twin Cities’ regional spelling bee could be in peril if it doesn’t find a patron.
The Scripps National Spelling Bee is looking for a local sponsor for the regional event, which qualifies the winner for the dramatic, nationally televised competition in Washington, D.C.
Local parents and children are sounding the alarm in hopes that a new sponsor will again save the regional bee. Sponsorship includes having to pay for the winner to travel to the national bee.
“We are trying to get all the sponsors lined up by December,” said Valerie Miller, a Scripps spokeswoman. “It’s a grass roots effort. We try to reach out as best we can.”
More than 120 Twin Cities schools host spelling bees and send their winners to the regional competition.
Augsburg College sponsored the tournament from 2013 to 2015, but the Minneapolis school ended its sponsorship when it decided to focus on events for its own students.
In January 2016, Minnesota Public Radio agreed to back the event — just in the nick of time — and hosted the regional spelling bee in March at the Fitzgerald Theater in downtown St. Paul.
But MPR let Scripps know last summer that it would not be repeating its sponsorship for 2017, MPR spokeswoman Angie Andresen said.
“It was something our team was able to make happen quickly, but it isn’t something in which we’re able to make a long-term investment,” she said.
So far, Scripps has come up empty on a replacement.
Miller said the cost of hosting the bee is around $5,000 — that’s the easy part. The logistics of coordinating the event, and the manpower needed to pull it off, require a deeper commitment.
There are about 270 regional bees held across the country. In other cities, TV stations, newspapers, colleges, even the foundation for the Tennessee Titans NFL team, have stepped up to sponsor spelling bees. Miller said it’s a great opportunity for a group looking to do more community outreach.
For local parents and kids, another year of uncertainty surrounding the bee comes as a blow.
“I couldn’t believe we are back to square one after we all worked so hard to find a sponsor last year,” said Kristine Spanier, a Minneapolis mom.
The Spaniers are a legacy family in the spelling bee circuit. Eighth-grader Josie Spanier has spelled her way to regional competition several times. Now little brother Leo is nipping at her heels; a fifth-grader, he’s hoping to go head-to-head at the regional bee.
Leo is doing more studying, but Josie has experience on her side, their mother said.
“He is studying a couple of hours a week,” she said. “When he heard there wasn’t a sponsor, he got discouraged.”
Families are talking about the lack of a sponsor on social media. This year, they hope they can draw a patron for the long haul.
“We hope the next sponsor for the regional bee will be able to commit to several years, so the kids can concentrate on studying and the parents can concentrate on encouraging them,” Spanier said.