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(My Buckhannon file photo by Brian Bergstrom)

Strawberry Festival Board, WAMSB organizers working on collaboration that would attract new events to the 2024 festival

BUCKHANNON – The West Virginia Strawberry Festival plans to partner with the World Association of Marching Show Bands to bring new events to the 2024 edition of the festival.

Buckhannon, West Virginia, became the second location in the United States ever to host WAMSB in 2023, and 2024 Strawberry Festival Board President Shane Jenkins said the festival board hopes to continue a lasting partnership with the organization and meld some aspects of each that residents enjoyed.

“It’s going to be a hybrid between WAMSB and Strawberry Festival; we’ve been changing things over the year, but it’s going to be the same Strawberry Festival – same carnival food, vendors and all that, but we couldn’t find a better pairing than WAMSB on our Mardi Gras-themed year,” Jenkins said. “Now we’re going to have more bands, brass bands, and music throughout Main Street, so we’re really excited about that.”

While the Strawberry Festival 2024 schedule is not finalized yet, the new partnership will introduce several new events to the lineup.

“[The Strawberry Festival] would be a regional qualifier for the international competition, so they would come here to receive a score that qualifies them for the international competition,” Jenkins said. “As a spectator, you almost won’t even be able to tell, but the Grand Feature Parade will be a scoring competition with WAMSB international judges evaluating each band.”

Jenkins said this should attract more marching bands to participate in the Grand Feature Parade and should they score highly enough, it could serve as an important part of their ticket to the 2025 WAMSB Championships.  

“To an extent, we would be a regional qualifier, but we would basically be the whole East Coast, including some parts of Canada, some parts of South America, and that includes U.S. territory islands outside of the continental United States,” Jenkins said. “It includes a lot of places, and we’ve already gotten a few bands who are interested in coming.”

Bands participating in the qualifiers in 2024 will be receiving scores for the 2025 competition in Indonesia. The 2024 WAMSB Championship event will take place in Germany, but the qualifying event in Buckhannon in May of 2024 takes place too close to the upcoming event.

“We are planning a drumline competition; I think they said that was the most popular event, and that is planned to happen on Main Street,” Jenkins said. “The drumline competition will happen during one of the evenings where we have Main Street closed for the street parties, and then another night, we are planning on doing a brass band event, and we don’t know whether that’s going to look like a competition, or whether that’s just going to look like a brass band just filling the street.”

Executive Director for WAMSB USA Brian Ingelson said he was glad to see another regional qualifier event pop up in the U.S.

“We’re really focused on developing bands, and one of the things that I really believe in is exposing the world to the culture of each country the event visits, so for instance, when we had the event in Palm Springs, we really focused on Southern California and the western United States,” Ingelson said. “Buckhannon did such an exceptional job of representing Buckhannon and West Virginia, but truly the eastern part of the United States, so it’s great to have another event on the other side of the country.”

Ingelson said Buckhannon did an excellent job hosting the 2023 competition and hopes WAMSB will return in the future.

“I want to emphasize the people of Buckhannon did such an exceptional job on behalf of the entire state and really, the entire region and I really, I really hope people realize what a service they’ve done,” Ingelson said. “The world came to Buckhannon, and Buckhannon showed itself to the world and that’s really special.”

Ingelson is thrilled about the collaboration.

“I commend Shane and everybody else that’s working on the Strawberry Festival,” he said. “I’m really excited that we’re going to have this affiliation and that we’re going to be able to move forward and bring bands from all over to be part of this very special parade, and hopefully, we’ll be able to host another World Championship in a few years.”

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