Spelling bee champions from 36 area schools will compete in The Missourian’s regional spelling competition, The Bee, Saturday, April 22, at East Central College.

This is the seventh year for The Bee, organized by The Missourian and sponsored by hth companies, Union.

Families, teachers, friends and the general public are invited to watch The Bee, which begins at 9 a.m.

Schools have been preparing all school year to select their school champion, who will represent them at this spelling competition.

Students in grades four through eight were eligible to advance to The Bee, where they’ll have the chance to win medals, trophies and cash prizes.

Kelci Moore, an eighth-grade student at Riverbend School in Pacific, won The Bee in 2016, and Nolan Vilcek, a fifth-grade student at Coleman Elementary School in Villa Ridge, was runner-up.

To help students prepare for both their school spelling bees and The Missourian’s regional competition, the newspaper published a 12-page Study Guide to The Bee in January. The resource still may be accessed online at emissourian.com.

ECC will host the competition in the John Edson Anglin Performing Arts Center located in Hansen Hall at East Central College in Union. Dr. Jon Bauer, president of East Central College, will serve as the pronouncer.

Judges will be Leigh Kolb, ECC journalism and English instructor, and Sue Henderson and Linda Barro, ECC English instructors.

The Bee steering committee includes Jay Scherder, East Central College, Eric Lause and Jennifer Hawkins, St. Clair School District, and Jennifer Baker, Terri Ogle and Patty Kellmann, retired educators. Dawn Kitchell, educational services director for The Missourian, organizes The Bee.

Students were provided a word list in the study guide to prepare for The Bee, and the competition words will come from that list – at least to a point.

According to the official rules, if the judges are unable to determine a champion through the word list provided to the schools, they’ll pull out a “secret list” of words to use.