Williamsport to host DCA Championships this weekend

With Little Leaguers and their fans rolling out of town following Sunday’s LLWS championship game, area residents won’t have to wait long for the next worldwide event to come to the city. In fact, they can expect to see teams for the next major championship to be held in Williamsport start rolling in today. Teams that are much bigger and a lot louder.

The 2018 Drum Corps Association Championships are coming to Williamsport Area High School’s STA Stadium this weekend, with festivities kicking off on Friday evening in downtown Williamsport. With the championships will come thousands of musicians, staff members and fans — and big money for Lycoming County businesses.

“I am very excited. It has been over two years in the making, since the first time I had a site visit with the visitors bureau and met everybody from Lycoming County,” said DCA president Allen Buell. “It has been a very long process and now I am so excited that it is just a week away. I just want to get there and show Williamsport what it is all about.”

For those who are unfamiliar, a drum corps performance is a lot like watching that of a high school or college marching band, except that drum corps — who rely on brass instruments as opposed to woodwinds — are much louder and more powerful.

The DCA drum corps teams coming to Williamsport this week first started learning the music for their respective routines last winter and have been practicing drills for their visual performances since last spring. After touring with DCA throughout the summer, all the groups will be on the top of their game this weekend, which will be evident through the high level of technical skill they put on display.

Buell said he loves watching someone experience a drum corps competition for the first time and seeing the reaction they have to the performance. Like when he took Marc Schefsky, general manager of the Genetti Hotel, to a show last year to give him a taste of what it is like.

“He is a very animated guy and instantly his arms were flailing, and he was like, ‘I can’t believe what I have seen,'” Buell said. “It was brilliant. It was a really great moment to watch him because I know what I am seeing — I have seen it for decades. So, for me, it was more fun watching him watch the show. It was really a great moment.”

Along with bringing a great performance to town, Schefsky will also enjoy the extra business this week’s championships will bring to his hotel the area at large. With each of the 25 teams bringing in anywhere from 150 to 200 people with them, not including the fans who will come to watch, they are expected to bring in anywhere from $6 to $7 million in local revenue over the four days they are in the area.

“It is not like we are doing this for the first time and just guessing, we have 54 years of paperwork that we can track,” Buell said. “This is a massive piece of business. Every single hotel in Williamsport, Lycoming County and all the way out to Lewisburg are completely packed and sold out.”

Buell noted that, though the DCA Championships are much smaller than the Little League Baseball World Series overall, the crowds they will bring to the city will be ready to spend money.

“The difference in our events is that with Little League you have mom and dad, but you also have a boatload of kids that don’t have pockets full of money,” he said. “Our event is all adults, and every single person is coming into he city with $1,000 in their pocket because they want to have a good time — it is a mini vacation for four days.

“Restaurants are going to get hammered, as will gas stations, hardware stores and everything else,” Buell added. “There will be a major impact on this town.”

But for as excited as the city is to be hosting the event, those at DCA are equally thrilled, feeling that Williamsport is the perfect place for their championships to be held.

“When we first came to Williamsport and they took me to the stadium, it was kind of like a happy-medium,” Buell said. “I thought it was beautiful and I was happy (the stadium) was in the countryside, so it is not in a dangerous downtown atmosphere. A lot of major cities sadly don’t have their stadiums in the best part of town.”

Buell was also happy that the city was willing to add 2,000 additional seats to STA Stadium for the championships, bringing its total seating capacity to 6,000. He said that’s the perfect number for the event, which doesn’t need to be held in a humungous arena.

“When you turn that corner and see a packed crowd from wall-to-wall in the stadium, your adrenaline goes through the roof,” he said. “When you are in a massive stadium that holds 25,000 people and you come out and there is just a small dot of people surrounded by empty seats, it sort of takes away that feeling.”

Starting today, those in the area will likely hear practice sessions from the drum corps, as they prepare for their big weekend ahead. As a part of the bidding process to host the event, the county had to promise rehearsal space for each of the teams involved.

“They will be practicing all over town and you will hear them all over the place, whether you live in Williamsport or on the other side of the bridge,” Buell said. “Some of them are in schools, some of them are in parks, some of them are on athletic fields.”

As a kickoff to the championships, DCA will be bringing its Individual and Ensemble Competition, and Mini Corps Show to West Forth Street at 5 p.m. Friday. With a large portion of the street being shut down, the event will offer free musical performances and food vendors, and open containers will be allowed. At 8:30 p.m. the festivities will move inside the Community Arts Center, 22 West Forth St., for the Mini Corps Show.

“Our goal is that we turn on the locals and they enjoy this,” said Buell. “Then they will want to come to the prelims and the finals, which will be at the high school.”

There will be two separate drum corps tournaments going on over the weekend: Class A and Open Class. The difference in the classes is in their size, as Class A teams can have maximum of 65 members while Open Class teams can max out at 128 members. In both tournaments, teams must enter and exit the field within 17 minutes and must perform for a minimum of 10 minutes. Both preliminary tournaments will run from 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday, while the championship finals will start at 5 p.m. Sunday.

There are seven judges, each with a specific focus — music, percussion, color guard, overall effects, visual effects, and music ensemble — that will score the teams based on a specific criterion. After the scores are tallied by a computer system, the winners are announced during the Retreat Ceremony.

Buell is certain that none of those in attendance will leave feeling anything but utterly impressed by the teams that have performed.

“We call ourselves sport of the arts,” he said. “When people come to see it, if they don’t know what it is, they are just blown away with the professionalism, the speed and the high accuracy level of what they are doing on the field.

“It is really quite amazing to listen to and is quite a site to see as well,” added Buell.

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