Op-ed: Let’s show off the best of wild, wonderful West Virginia when international band competition comes to Buckhannon in July

By Randy Sanders
President of the WAMSB 2023 Buckhannon Host Committee

This year, Buckhannon, West Virginia will be a destination for individuals from 17 countries across the world. Our state will hold the honor that has been bestowed upon various other countries and destinations; we will host the equivalent of the Olympics for Marching Show Bands – the World Association of Marching Show Bands (WAMSB) World Championship – from July 17 to July 24, 2023.

WAMSB has international members from six continents and 32 nations across the world. Australia, Brazil, Germany, Japan and many other prestigious countries have held host to its World Championship, which initially started in Canada in 1996.

The WAMSB World Championship has actually been held in the United States one other time – in Palm Springs, California in 2017. This means that the 2023 championship will be the first time in six years the event has been held in the states and the first time it will be held on the East Coast.

And our state gets to be the host to potentially 10,000 or more visitors.

It would be fair to say that most of the individuals who will be coming to compete have never been to the United States, let alone West Virginia. Given that this will be their first exposure to the eastern United States, our state has a lot to gain from this week-long extravaganza.

Any other place in the world could have been picked for the event and receive this type of international attention. With Buckhannon being selected as the premiere event destination, now is the time to harness the opportunity. From tourism opportunities to economic growth developments and investments, the championship serves as a springboard to bring international interest to the region for years to come.

Through our various state leaders – West Virginia Tourism Office, Convention and Visitors Bureaus, Chambers of Commerce, Economic Development Authorities and other state and regional offices – West Virginia can showcase its recreational activities, unique culture, favorable business climate and skilled workforce to the world by welcoming these thousands of individuals into our towns, hotels, restaurants and businesses.

However, we must position ourselves to best capitalize on this opportunity. Through collaborative efforts, we can elevate our great state as a premier destination and fertile place to do business. But it will take everyone. 

This will require connections to our international partners who are already located in our state. Our economic development authorities will need to be preparing these companies here to support visitors from their home countries. Sponsorships, dinners, introductions to community leaders. These will all be important to fostering and building lasting relationships beyond the competition.

Additionally, our entire state will need to be prepared to be ambassadors for individuals who could potentially decide to return for vacations, send students to college or even relocate their families. We will need to prepare welcome committees. Ensure our hotels and restaurants are ready. Consider what opportunities there are to recruit individuals to our great state.

West Virginia will be the first exposure many of the visitors will have with the eastern United States and it is our duty to ensure they leave with a positive sentiment and a yearning to return.

There have already been various preliminarily visits from foreign dignitaries, ambassadors and economic development representatives in addition to competitors, the entire state stands to benefit greatly beyond the 2023 event.  

The WAMSB Championship Competition is a great example of how a unique opportunity can be much more than it appears. These events allow us to showcase our great state and develop relationships that can lead to long-term positive impacts. It is our responsibility to put our best foot forward for this event and to determine ways that we can capitalize on it for the future.

We, the WAMSB Host Committee, challenge you, West Virginia, to do just that. Let’s use this competition to show off our beautiful state and continue to build on the success that we have experienced in recent years to make sure this opportunity is one that has an impact beyond the event.

To learn more, visit www.wamsb2023.com.

Randy Sanders is president of the WAMSB 2023 Buckhannon Host Committee

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