LYNN — If you’re wondering how the term “spelling bee” originated, you have plenty of company. And that would include the folks from E.W. Scripps, the national sponsor of the annual spelling bee that will make its stop in Lynn Wednesday night.
“The word ‘bee,’ as used in ‘spelling bee,’ is one of those language puzzles that has never been satisfactorily accounted for,” according to Scripps. “A fairly old and widely used word, it refers to a community social gathering at which friends and neighbors join together in a single activity (sewing, quilting, barn-raising) usually to help one person or family.”
Possibly, Scripps says, its origin comes from the nature of the bee itself — an extremely (busy hence the term “busy as a bee”), social insect whose members band together to do a single project.
Whatever its origins, 61 finalists will gather at Lynn City Hall Auditorium Wednesday to see who the best speller is among the schools under the umbrella of the 34th Daily Item Regional Spelling Bee.
And it’s a pretty big umbrella. The region encompasses 110 schools, up dramatically from the number that participated last year. That’s because various sponsors discontinued their involvement, with the Item picking the schools up.
Of those schools, 94 had competitions and winners. From there, the Item gave the school winners a written test from which the 61 finalists emerged.
“It was an extremely difficult test,” said Susan Conti, comptroller for Essex Media Group, who is among the coordinators of this year’s contest for the Item. “Honestly, I am not sure that I would have made the cut.
“It was such a great experience interacting with teachers and faculty across the state,” she said. “I can’t wait to meet the kids and their parents. They worked so hard to get here.”
The winner of Wednesday’s contest will compete in the Scripps National Bee in Washington later this year. Also among the prizes are: a round-trip plane far to Washington D.C., a week’s hotel accommodations at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, spending money for winners and chaperones, a one-year subscription for the Britannica Online Premium encyclopedia; The Samuel Louis Sugarman Award; a one-year subscription to the Merriam-Webster unabridged dictionary; a $100 Amazon gift card; and Valerie’s Spelling Bee Supplement — NEW “Animal Wards.”
Co-sponsoring the event are Joel and Mary Abramson of Swampscott, owners of Flagship Travel. To the Abramsons, sponsoring the bee is a labor of love. Joel Abramson still remembers a young student telling him, “you helped make learning fun again” at one of the competitions.
Other sponsors include the City of Lynn; Fauci’s Pizza, Lynn; Dunkin Donuts, Lynn; KFC, Lynn; and Park Press, Saugus.
“We want to celebrate the children,” said Carolina Trujillo, director of community relations for Essex Media Group, one of the coordinators. “This is the biggest bee the Item has sponsored.”
Other coordinators are Laurie Kennedy, manager of financial relations, KIPP Academy and Ernie Carpenter, director of sales and business development for Essex Media Group.
Contestants are to arrive at City Hall between 3:30 and 5 p.m. for registration and a meal. Joel Abramson will welcome them at 5, followed by remarks by Mayor Thomas M. McGee and Lynn School Superintendent Dr. Patrick Tutwiler and 2018 winner Will Robson.
The competition will begin at 5:20. The event is open to the public, and Dunkin Donuts will provide complimentary coffee and hot chocolate.