Five Minnesotans were in the Washington, D.C., area Wednesday competing to be the nation's next spelling bee champion, and two remain in the hunt.

The preliminary round of the 71st Scripps National Spelling Bee started Wednesday with 285 spellers at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., with the top 49 spellers making it to the semifinals on Thursday morning before a champ is crowned Thursday night. The semis will be telecast live on ESPN2, with the finals live on ESPN.

Among the top 49 advancing were Minnesotans Christine Farnberg and Maxwell Meyer. Farnberg, 13, an eighth-grader at Holy Spirit School in Rochester, made it to the national bee in 2013, bowing out in the prelims. Meyer, 13, is a seventh-grader at Minnetonka Middle School East.

The others who represented Minnesota were Cade Klimek, 14, an eighth-grader at Chisholm High School; Briana Joseph, 11, a fifth-grader at St. John Vianney School in Fairmont; and Ammy Lin, 12, a seventh-grader at Forestview Middle School in Baxter.

All five got their first words correct: Klimek (malaria); Meyer (oolong); Joseph (pacifism); Farnberg (kuruma); and Lin (aristocracy).

Last year, two winners were declared after a five-round duel in which neither missed a word. In the end, Sriram Hathwar of Painted Post, N.Y., and Ansun Sujoe of Fort Worth, Texas, shared the prize. It was the fourth time in the bee's history that winners shared the title. Others were in 1950, 1957 and 1962.

The National Spelling Bee started in 1925 with nine contestants. Minnesota has had one national champion, Sean Conley of Shakopee, in 2001.

This year's champion receives $35,000 cash, a $2,500 savings bond and reference library materials.

Paul Walsh

Perry to sing at Starkey Hearing gala

Katy Perry will headline the Starkey Hearing Foundation's 15th annual So the World May Hear Gala on July 26 at RiverCentre in St. Paul. With money raised at the gala, the Eden Prairie-based organization provides hearing aids to children in developing countries. A total of $8.7 million was raised last year. Past headliners have included Elton John, John Mellencamp and Garth Brooks, but Perry marks the first time Starkey has landed a hot current — and younger — star to top the bill. Perry, 30, is known for the hits "Firework," "Roar" and "Dark Horse" and for performing the halftime show at this year's Super Bowl.

JON BREAM

VocalEssence to give what Stones need

VocalEssence, the Twin Cities choral ensemble, has performed classical music, bluegrass and lullabies in concert halls throughout the country. The 46-year-old group will try something new: singing rock 'n' roll with the Rolling Stones in a football stadium. Artistic director Philip Brunelle declined to give details but gushed in a statement, "Mick Jagger and I share a birth month and year — July 1943. Maybe we'll have an early celebration on stage." In past concerts, the Stones have used local choirs to sing the encore of "You Can't Always Get What You Want."

JON BREAM