Competitive cheer and dance made a triumphant return to Daytona Beach – and in this case, it even left the city cheering.
The National Cheer Association and National Dance Association Collegiate Cheer and Dance Championship, the single largest collegiate competitive spirit event in the world, stuck its landing in Daytona when it came to town April 7-11, marking its 40th anniversary as well as the 25th anniversary of the event being hosted in that community.
“The event went perfectly,” said Linda McMahon, director of group sales with the Daytona Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Even the weather was perfect.”
The fact that the event went on as scheduled was an enormous improvement over 2020, she noted. Last year, the organization, knowing its constituency loved coming to Daytona, put off cancellation as long as possible but ultimately had to throw in the towel. That, however, only strengthened the resolve to return in 2021.
“Their intention was always to return this year,” McMahon noted, “and to bring people together again. They had been moving forward in a very positive manner and were already having virtual competitions around the country.”
Typically, the five-day event attracts more than 7,000 thousand competitors from top colleges and universities, along with their coaching staff and families, to compete for the national title each year in April. McMahon said that up to 5,000 spectators often attend. This year, the numbers were down somewhat; the college championship brought in 3,000 athletes and 2,000 spectators; the high school event had an additional 3,000 athletes. Other squads competed virtually, making it a true hybrid event.
Events took place both in the Ocean Center and outdoors in the bandshell. And while local hotels and restaurants benefitted tremendously, as did a host of other vendors, it was something that happened during the event that took Daytona Beach by surprise. On Friday, April 9, NCA/NDA Senior Vice President Bill Boggs presented the iconic NCA Megaphone Trophy to Commissioner Quanita May, City of Daytona Beach, and Heather Post, Volusia County Council District 4 Representative, in appreciation for the partnership, support and dedication shown to the Collegiate Championship for the last 25 years.
“Daytona Beach has proven to be the perfect home for our Collegiate Cheer and Dance Championship. Our teams, staff, corporate partners and spectators absolutely love the city and its beautiful beaches and venues. This year especially, Daytona Beach helped to make our championship safe and accommodating for all those in attendance, so thank you,” said Bill Boggs, senior vice president and director of NCA & NDA College Programs.
“That came as a complete surprise,” said McMahon, “and really was such an honor.”
Since assisting with the initial recruitment and eventual relocation to Daytona Beach in 1996, the Daytona Beach Area CVB has seen the event grow substantially. It includes a trade show and meetings, as well as the tournament – which typically closes out the competition year.
This year, a number of health protocols were in place. The trade show was smaller than normal, and rather than having give-aways and samples that people picked up and handled, vendors took down names of visitors to their booth and sent items and information later.
Additionally, spectators, officials and staff were required to wear masks. Athletes had to wear masks at all times unless physically competing.
And, says McMahon, they did.
“It really gave us hope, without a doubt. To see the enthusiasm of these young people following the protocols without any problems was very inspirational. They had no issue with it at all. It was so great to see how positive they were about everything.”
Even without the typical crowd numbers, the spirit was almost palpable.
“I will say their enthusiasm, even if they couldn’t have as many people, was just as high, just as strong as if they were performing in front of huge crowds.”