We’ve Got Sax Appeal: Thousands worldwide expected to attend 2023 international band competition in Buckhannon

BUCKHANNON – City officials started marching through 2021 on the ‘right foot’ as they learned Buckhannon was selected to host an incredibly unique event – one that promises to put Buckhannon, Upshur County and West Virginia on the map.

During a virtual announcement on Friday, Robert Eklund, International President and CEO of the World Association of Marching Show Bands, announced that Buckhannon will be the site of the WAMSB Championship Event in 2023. This is only the second time in the competition’s history that the host site has been in the United States.

“Buckhannon, West Virginia will be the site of the 2023 World Association of Marching Band Shows Championship,” Eklund said. “Other countries who were anxiously applying to host the event at the time — Thailand, Germany, Malaysia, Taiwan — were very much involved in applying. One by one, they dropped out toward the end once they realized the level of support Buckhannon had in their city. The city support is what really made the difference in the decision.”

The event will be held July 19-26, 2023 and is expected to draws thousands of participants and spectators, with an economic impact of several million dollars. Competitions will be held at West Virginia Wesleyan College and Buckhannon-Upshur High School.

Buckhannon City Recorder Randy Sanders said in March, Brad Kellison came to him with the idea to present Buckhannon to the world.

“He said we should ask if the World Association of Marching Show Bands would consider allowing Buckhannon to host the 2023 WAMSB Championship,” Sanders said. “I felt we had everything together to properly present a proposal to the WAMSB and to put Buckhannon out there. We can handle an influx of people from all cultures around the world, and we can pull off an amazing world championship under the banner of WAMSB.”

Sanders said the 48-pages proposal took a lot of input. His last pitch took place on Dec. 13, 2020, when Sanders said he told the international selection committee members that Buckhannon is the geographical center of West Virginia and that it is located close to Columbus, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Washington, DC.

“You can head over to those places, as well as New York City,” Sanders said. “International travelers would have an option to extend their visit in the United States and have a wonderful experience.”

Eklund said the event will feature between 25 and 30 bands – all high scorers in the WAMSB qualifying competitions – who will compete in Buckhannon for the title of the World Association of Marching Show Bands Champion. Bands compete in jazz, concert, street parade, field parade and field competitions.

Sanders said the event will draw thousands of people from the United States and around the world . The week will include elaborate opening and closing ceremonies, as well as parades and other events.

“We anticipate this to be the West Virginia Strawberry Festival on steroids,” Sanders said. “We are going to fill up not only Buckhannon, but all the communities up Interstate 79, and there will be thousands and thousands of individuals who will attend.

“It will be an economic boom to the area and a chance for West Virginia to be on the map internationally. Millions of dollars will be pumped into the economy when you consider all the folks traveling in by way of the airports and the buses. There is a term called ‘heads in beds’ and there are going to be a lot of heads in beds in West Virginia because of this – it will be a significant economic boost in the area.”

Buckhannon Mayor Robbie Skinner thanked everyone for their hard work putting the proposal to host the championship.

“Thank you to Mr. Eklund and your board for choosing Buckhannon as the 2023 site,” Skinner said. “We are very excited and we cannot wait to host. I know you will find Buckhannon to be just as charming and welcoming as the proposal has highlighted.”

Skinner said he wanted to congratulate the community and said there is a lot of work still ahead.

“I am confident we will put together the very best host we can and I know you are going to be wowed,” Skinner said. “Our community will certainly rally around this and enjoy all of its events.”

According to a press release from the City of Buckhannon, West Virginia Wesleyan College played an integral role in the bid and will provide support to the July 2023 week-long event. John Waltz, vice president for enrollment management, and Alisa Lively, director of campus life, were instrumental in crafting the bid and providing key resources across the campus, such as housing and dining options for the competition participants.

“We are honored to host the WAMSB World Championship and to welcome musicians from across the globe,” Waltz said. “Wesleyan’s excellence in music and the arts, geographically diverse student body, flexible facilities and record of safety and security make us an ideal campus host for these talented students and musicians in 2023.”

Superintendent of Upshur County Schools, Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus, said the school system is also excited for the event.

“We are excited. This is just an example of how our community comes together and how Upshur County wants to see this kind of growth in our community,” Stankus said. “We want to bring diversity into our community and bring the arts to our community. This is important for our young people, and absolutely, Upshur County Schools stands behind this 100 percent. We will support this event and others like this in the community in the future. Thanks for supporting this and making the application and pulling us all together. When we come together, we can accomplish things.”

The World Association of Marching Show Bands, according to their website, is an international band association dedicated to promoting global communication and interaction between marching band shows. The Association said they aim to encourage active participation in marching show bands universally, to strengthen the movement internationally, and to stimulate the staging of world-class band events.

Additional information about WAMSB is available on their website at www.wamsb.org.

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