By BEN NUCKOLS
WASHINGTON (AP) -- "Gargantuan" might be an appropriate word to kick off this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee.
The competition will be super-sized because of a new wild-card program that provided a path to the bee for kids who didn't qualify by conventional means and were willing to pay their own way.
Scripps was willing to allow the bee to nearly double in size, and that's exactly what happened: There will be 519 spellers in this year's bee, up from 291 last year.
That means some changes to the already packed bee week schedule: Now, there will be an extra day of spelling, with competitors taking the stage for three days instead of two.
More than 850 kids applied for the wild-card program. The 241 who were accepted will have to pay a $750 entry fee and cover their travel and lodging at a convention center outside Washington where the bee will be held the week of May 28.