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Dance, art, crafts show off W.Va.'s 'world'

July 17, 2005|by HEATHER KEELS

heatherk@herald-mail.com

Stepping out of their car onto the lively German Street in Shepherdstown Saturday afternoon, Bruce Sherman and his family had to take a few moments to take everything in.

On either side of the street, shop owners welcomed visitors with balloons and outdoor tables, signs pointed to art shows and dance performances, and the sounds of funky jazz music came from a side street lined with artsy booths.

"Let's loop around and make a circuit to see it all," said Sherman, 48, who had traveled from Washington, D.C., bringing relatives from Pennsylvania and Chicago after reading an article about Shepherdstown.

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They were a few of the many local and out-of-town guests who visited Saturday's Shepherdstown Street Fest, an all-day celebration designed to coincide with Shepherdstown's annual Contemporary American Theater Festival and Goose Route Dance Festival and highlight all that is "unique, artistic and welcoming" about the historic college town.

"They wanted to make it more like a festival atmosphere," said Jamie Murray, 19, a junior at Shepherd University, who was selling tickets to the Goose Route Dance Festival's evening modern dance performance from a doorway. In its fifth year, the two-weekend dance festival has become a widely anticipated Shepherdstown event, but the Street Fest brought in even more people than before, Murray said.

"It's easier when events like this are right together," she said. "These types of events are perfect for the personality of Shepherdstown. It's just an easygoing place where people are laid back, they want to do things."

For instance, balancing and climbing on each other to make various shapes, as a class of about 25 people did Saturday in a 10:30 a.m. advanced modern dance technique class taught by visiting dancer Tamieca McCloud. About half of the class' participants are members of other visiting dance troupes, but many are local dancers who live in the artistic Shepherdstown area, said Kitty Clark, the dance festival's artistic director.

Around the corner on King Street, The Sean Cookus Quartet performed on a stage between art stands, while Tammi Slovinsky, an artist from Harpers Ferry, W.Va., talked to visitors about her paintings under the shade of a tent. Slovinsky later would change hats to sing on stage with a group called The Sugar Daddies.

"It's definitely a liberal and creative hub in the midst of a fairly traditional and conservative area," she said of Shepherdstown.

A few booths down, Dennis Clark, an artist from Martinsburg, W.Va., added bright watercolor highlights to a picture of a house set up on an easel.

"I like to paint outdoors - plein-air," he said, referring to a style of painting that represents the effects of outdoor light and atmosphere. "And I like to talk to people as I paint," he said.

He'd had a booth set up since 5 a.m. to display his work and had sold five paintings by 1 p.m.

Meanwhile, his wife, Lola Clark, was browsing some of the other vendors' booths, which displayed items ranging from fabric bags and quilts to jewelry, stained glass and hard-to-find Celtic folk CDs.

"I'm just looking around, and looking to maybe buy a treasure," she said, holding a vase made of yellow, red, orange and blue stained glass up to the light.

At a stand selling wicker hats and baskets, Gerrie Sturman, 56, a resident of Alexandria, Va., found a treasure of her own: a wicker fan, which she used to fan herself and her husband, Ron, in the afternoon heat.

"I love Shepherdstown because of the very artistic feeling," Gerrie Sturman said. The two said they planned to walk around and look at art until the 2 p.m. theater festival performance of Sonia Flew.

"We love West Virginia," Ron Sturman said. "It's just a world away from Washington - an hour-and-a-half drive, but a world away."

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