Marching bands from Africa, Asia, South America and Europe will be coming to town for 2023 competition

BUCKHANNON – More than 5,000 participants are expected to take part in the 2023 World Association of Marching Show Bands Championship in Buckhannon, West Virginia.

During the May 4 Rotary Club of Buckhannon-Upshur meeting, Buckhannon City Recorder Randy Sanders talked about the preparations being made in anticipation of the event.

“We have bands from Honduras, Congo, Brazil, Bahamas, Angola, Guatemala, Thailand, Poland, Colombia, El Salvador, Netherlands, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Ireland, Canada, Venezuela, Germany, Uruguay and Ecuador,” Sanders said. “I think there are four or five from Colombia alone, and the list goes on. We’re up to 29 bands right now, and we’re working across the country to secure some United States bands as well.”

Sanders has been building relationships with the W.Va. Department of Tourism in Charleston and working on potential grants with Region VII.

“It’s going to take Central West Virginia and beyond to be prepared, so with the help of Laura Meadows, the CVB will be coordinating efforts up and down Interstate 79 and will reach out east and west of I-79,” Sanders said. “We’ll reach out to partners in the college and universities around the state to open up some additional housing as well, because we anticipate upwards of 5,000 participants in the competition. We can’t house them all at Wesleyan and obviously we can’t have them all in our local hotels or motels, so this is going to be an economic boom for most of West Virginia.”

Sanders is currently in talks with Upshur County Schools to network with other superintendents to utilize buses for transportation.

“We’ll probably have to go the commercial route as well to provide proper transportation,” he said. “We’re going to be looking at the security infrastructure, because there’s going to be a lot of people from all over the world coming in, so it’s going to take a little bit more help than what the City of Buckhannon can normally provide or the sheriff’s department can provide.”

West Virginia Wesleyan College also plans to upgrade Ross Field, which does not currently have lights.

“We’re working with Talley Sergeant and her team,” Sanders said. “They’ve already launched a campaign to install field lights at Ross field to make sure that bands will be performing under high quality lights, and they will be installing and renting bleachers to expand the seating capacity at West Virginia Wesleyan College.”

Other area fields will also be used as part of the event.

“We will open up practice fields — we’re going to be utilizing fields at the high school for instance, as well as the auxiliary fields at Wesleyan and probably other fields around Central West Virginia,” Sanders said.

The dates of the event itself are July 17-July 23, 2023.

“We’ll have a welcome party and concert at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, July 18, and on Wednesday, July 19, field practices will begin for the participating bands and we will have our first band feature parade, so we will open up Strawberry Lane and all of the participating bands who are marching will be there,” Sanders said. “We’ll have a March to the Flame that evening and we’ll have the Opening Ceremonies at Ross Field. The Opening Ceremonies will be modeled somewhat after the Opening Ceremonies at the Olympics. It won’t quite be like the Olympics, but we are going to be looking for some interesting talent.”

Thursday will feature the concert and jazz adjudications, drumline competition and the field parade competition at Ross Field. Friday will include the preliminary field competition, and there will be free shows and music on Main Street and in Jawbone Park. The final competitions are set for Saturday, along with the Parade of Nations. Sunday offers a wrap-up and closing ceremonies at Ross Field.

“We’re really looking forward to putting together a world class event spotlighting Buckhannon, Upshur County, West Virginia and the United States,” Sanders said. “We’re going to be looking at assistance from not only Buckhannon and Upshur County, but from West Virginia and United States, so when we go into these meetings and we build this infrastructure, we’re looking for support from the West Virginia Department of Tourism and the United States Department of Tourism.”