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National Senior Spelling Bee returns to Knoxville July 9

July 6, 2016

The National Senior Spelling Bee, now in its 21st year, convenes at the Knoxville Convention Center at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 9. Contest organizers encourage senior spelling enthusiasts to join the competition for a national title and invite area word lovers to “come visit and sit for a spell.”

“This marks the third year we’ve hosted the National Senior Spelling Bee in Knoxville, and it’s always a great time,” event organizer Scott Firebaugh said. “We have contestants from across the country, some from as far away as California and several who have participated in the past. It’s sure to be another great time of fun, fellowship and good competition.”

Firebaugh, a 2010 National Senior Spelling Bee champion, has a lifelong connection to spelling bees. As a youngster, he placed 16th in the then-called Scripps Howard Spelling Bee, now known as the Scripps National Spelling Bee. His three daughters also competed nationally.

He took over the senior spelling bee and moved it to Knoxville in 2014 when the competition was in danger of disappearing after a national sponsor ended its support. Today, his leadership of the event is a labor of love and something that keeps him engaged year-round.

“I send out a weekly newsletter to about 60 subscribers with challenge words, grammar rules and general information about the English language,” Firebaugh said. “It’s a good way to keep everyone connected and keep our minds sharp and active.”

Firebaugh went on to say that he would love to find another national sponsor to take over the event and give it more exposure. “Because this event is for seniors, some are unable to participate because of health issues, financial constraints or responsibilities as caregivers. We love this competition and want to see it continue. Having a national sponsor would help us reach a much wider audience and engage an even higher number of competitors,” Firebaugh said.

“This is our third year hosting this national event, and we are happy to have these competitors back in Knoxville,” said Bogert. “Events like this are a great way to show off all that Knoxville has to offer, and we appreciate local residents, like Scott, who consider Knoxville for events through their professional associations or recreational groups.”

Lauren Matz from Utica, N.Y., winner of Knoxville’s first senior spelling bee and pronouncer for the 2015 contest, will again serve in that important role.
Words for the National Senior Spelling Bee are taken from the 11th edition of The Merriam-Webster Dictionary. The written portion of the contest begins at 9:30 a.m. on July 9 and entails three rounds of 20 words each. The 16 contestants with the highest scores advance to the live spelling round, which begins about 1 p.m. Contestants have the chance to miss up to three words before being eliminated from the competition.

A cash prize of $1,000 is awarded to the top speller in the live round with $500 awarded for second place, $300 for third place and $200 for fourth place.

Participation is open to all individuals age 50 and above. To register as a participant in the National Senior Spelling Bee, visit Registration is $40. Contestants registering the day of the competition should arrive by 9 a.m.

About the Knoxville Convention Center

The Knoxville Convention Center, managed by SMG, is located in downtown Knoxville adjacent to the Sunsphere. It boasts a 120,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a 27,000 square-foot divisible ballroom and up to 25 meeting rooms. For more information, visit

About SMG

Founded in 1977, SMG provides management services to more than 230 public assembly facilities including convention and exhibition centers, arenas, stadiums, theatres, performing arts centers, equestrian facilities, science centers, and a variety of other venues. With facilities across the globe, SMG manages more than 15 million square feet of exhibition space and more than 1.5 million sports and entertainment seats. As the recognized global industry leader, SMG provides venue management, sales, marketing, event booking and programming, construction and design consulting, and pre-opening services for such landmark facilities as McCormick Place & Soldier Field in Chicago, Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, Houston’s NRG Park and the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. SMG also offers food and beverage operations through its concessions, catering and special events division, SAVOR, currently servicing 130 accounts worldwide. For more information, visit