BUCKHANNON – Nearly 11 months of work went into a bid for Buckhannon to be tapped as the official location for the 2023 World Association of Marching Show Band Championships.
But for city recorder Randy Sanders, it was all worth all the effort.
That’s because at the Thursday, Jan. 7 Buckhannon City Council meeting, Sanders could finally present Buckhannon mayor Robbie Skinner with an official, framed letter of sanction from the Robert Eklund, the president and CEO of the World Association of Marching Show Bands stating that Buckhannon had been approved to host the international event.
Expected to draw thousands of marching show bands and spectators from countries across the globe, the 2023 WAMSB competition is slated for July 18-24, 2023. The 2020 and 2021 events – which had been set to take place in Bangkok, Thailand and Rastede Germany – had to be canceled. The 2022 event will head to Limerick, Ireland in July 2022 — and then, to Sunny Buck in 2023.
Sanders told council at its early January meeting that he had expected WAMSB to make an announcement around Jan. 10, 2021 but was happily surprised when he learned the announcement crowning Buckhannon winner of the bid would actually take place New Year’s Day. (See My Buckhannon’s original story here.)
During the virtual Jan. 1, 2021 announcement, Sanders said Eklund, the WAMSB president, discussed the factors that contributed to the organization’s decision to choose Buckhannon.
“We heard from the CEO, the president of the World Association of Marching Show Bands, Robert Eklund,” Sanders told council. “He joined us from Canada and informed us that we had been up against some pretty fierce competition in the beginning – he mentioned Malaysia, Taiwan and another country in Asia. There were four other countries besides the United States that had entered bids.”
Sanders noted only one other U.S. city had applied, but its bid to host was rejected early in the elimination process.
“Mr. Eklund said that as time went on, each country dropped out as the U.S. (Buckhannon, West Virginia’s) bid kept looking stronger and stronger, and [he said] that what came through loud and clear in the 48 pages that we presented was the commitment by the community and the history the community had of working together to put on events.”
Sanders extended his gratitude to the committee members and organizations that assisted him, including Alisa Lively, director of student life at West Virginia Wesleyan College; John Waltz, vice president for enrollment management at Wesleyan; Laura Meadows, executive director of the Upshur County Convention and Visitors Bureau; Callie Cronin Sams, information coordinator and grant writer for the City of Buckhannon; members of the West Virginia Strawberry Festival Board; Skinner; and former mayor David McCauley.
“We started this journey back in March of 2020,” Sanders noted. “Brad Kellison and Lee Winters brought it to me, and our then-mayor David McCauley said, ‘Let’s get it on the agenda’ and our current mayor Skinner embraced it. So, we put together a proposal, and we put our heart and soul into it, and fortunately, they read [that] into the proposal. We did receive an official letter of sanction.”
Sanders asked that the framed letter of sanction be placed in the entrance to city hall for all patrons to see.
“We hope that everyone will assist us in showcasing Buckhannon to the world,” Sanders said.
Skinner congratulated Sanders.
“We certainly wouldn’t be here without you and your efforts to get us here, so we thank you, Randy, for putting Buckhannon on the map,” the mayor said. “The commitment that Buckhannon has shown thus far was what put us over the edge. Your proposal was excellent, and we’re going to be yielding to your direction regarding how we can help to make this a world-class event. Buckhannon is going to show the world what we’ve got.”
According to its website, WAMSB is an international band association dedicated to promoting global communication and interaction between marching show bands.
“The Association aims to encourage active participation in marching show bands universally, to strengthen the movement internationally, and to stimulate the staging of world-class band events,” its mission reads.