The Dayton Convention and Visitors Bureau said the WGI events are the largest annual convention-type event the region hosts each year.
“We are essentially the Olympics of the indoor marching arts,” said Brent Flynn, WGI marketing and communication manager.
Last year’s competition brought more than 55,000 competitors and spectators to the area, creating an estimated economic impact of about $13 million, according to the CVB. And this year’s events are bigger.
The color guard competitions today through Saturday are the first part of WGI’s two-week run in the Dayton area — called the Sport of the Arts World Championships. The group’s percussion and winds championships will be held at most of the same sites April 20-23.
Bart Woodley, director of operations and sponsor relations for WGI, said there are 321 color guards performing this weekend, and 250 winds and percussion groups performing next weekend.
“We added another prelims venue (Dayton Convention Center for color guard and Hobart Arena for percussion) because the number of performing groups is up significantly,” Woodley said.
Flynn said after a series of smaller regional events from January to April, over 14,000 students from 40 states and four countries will compete here over two weeks. The competition includes prelims, semis and finals as teams compete for gold, silver, bronze.
The Winter Guard events have been a Dayton staple for decades. WGI Sport of the Arts, the parent nonprofit group, is based in Miamisburg. This year marks WGI’s 46th anniversary according to the Dayton CVB, and it is the 36th year that the competition has been hosted in Dayton.
Like so many events, WGI had a two-year hiatus in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have bounced back very well, showing an over 30% increase from last year,” Woodley said of event participation. “We are still a little shy of the numbers we had in 2019, but are getting closer each year to being ‘100% back.’ "
The WGI competitions are truly national and international-level events. When performances began at 9 a.m. Thursday at UD Arena, the first six color guards on the schedule were from Georgia, Arizona, California, Texas, Canada and the Netherlands. Of the 74 teams competing Thursday at UD, 71 were from outside the Dayton area.
That’s not to say local students aren’t involved. The dozen Miami Valley teams competing at various sites this week include high school squads from Beavercreek, Bellbrook, Centerville, Fairmont, Franklin, Miamisburg, Northmont, Springboro, Mason, Middletown and Hamilton, plus the independent Onyx team.
WGI says color guard combines dance and interpretive movement performances that include the use of flags, sabers, mock rifles, and other equipment. The events are described by WGI as “combining the athleticism of an Olympic event with the pageantry of a Broadway stage performance.”
Woodley said tickets for Friday’s semifinals and the Saturday morning Open Class finals are available at the door at UD Arena. But he said the Saturday night World Class finals was nearing a sell out Thursday. Saturday night reserve tickets are available at wgi.org/tickets.
Event schedules can be found on wgi.org.
Friday’s local semifinals
UD Arena, 9:20 a.m. to past midnight
Nutter Center, 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Saturday Open Class
UD Arena, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Saturday World Class
UD Arena, 5 p.m. to past midnight
Tickets: All tickets except Saturday evening are available at the arena doors for $57.50, per WGI’s Ticketmaster page. If any Saturday night tickets remain, they are at wgi.org/tickets, for $72.50.