Shepfest packs a spring punch for students

April 17, 2011|By C.J. LOVELACE |
  • Kimberly Bell, 6, of Martinsburg, W.Va., does a flip while riding a bungee inflatable at Shepfest 2011 as her mother, Ruth Bell, who is a sophomore at Shepherd, looks on. In the background, Perpetual Wetness performs "Sun Dress Chicks" while wearing women's sun dresses.
Photo by C.J. Lovelace

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — Midway through their performance, Shepherd University seniors Jon Schwartz and Rob Ciancaglini squeezed into two brightly colored women’s sundresses as a gimmick for their song “Sun Dress Chicks.”

“I feel so sexy right now,” Schwartz said just before performing the hip-hop ode to young women in little dresses during summertime.

Known collectively as Perpetual Wetness, the goofy tandem — with off-the-wall, satirical lyrics and a party-like atmosphere — was one of four acts to take the stage for Shepfest 2011 at Shepherd University on Sunday afternoon.

The annual student-planned outdoor concert event, which was in doubt due to about 2 inches of rain that fell on the area Saturday, has been held for about the past 15 years and typically draws around 1,000 people, according to Rachel Meads, director of student activities and leadership for Shepherd.

“We were just so grateful that the weather cleared out. We got this beautiful day — it’s windy, but it’s OK,” Meads said. “We can deal with wind compared to 2 inches of rain that we got yesterday. It was crazy.”

Several inches of water sat on Shepherd’s East Campus Midway, where the event took place, at about 10:30 p.m. Saturday, Meads said.

“The Midway as a whole was a mud pit,” said Nicole Taschner, a junior and two-year member of the Shepherd University Programs Board that organizes Shepfest.

But with the help of local farmers and her resourceful student board members, they were able to secure a truckload of straw to help dry out the area for Sunday’s show, Meads said.

“We’ve had some curveballs thrown at us on this particular Shepfest,” she said. “It’s all about how we choose to handle it, and this board handled it beautifully.”

Headlining this year’s event were Carolyn Malachi, a Grammy award nominee and 2006 Shepherd alumna, and hip-hop/classical group Black Violin, who drew a capacity crowd last August at Shepherd’s Frank Center Theater.

Man The Harpoons, a student metal band, also performed. They and Perpetual Wetness were the winners of a contest called Battle for Shepfest, which was held in February and featured 10 student bands, Meads said.

Rapper Travie McCoy, known for his hit single “Billionaire” and his role in Gym Class Heroes, was the original headline act for the concert, but he canceled due to a serious family illness, Meads said.

“When you have an artist fall out, it’s like the bottom drops out,” she said.

But Meads, who has about 10 years under her belt as the student adviser, called in a few favors, and Malachi and Black Violin really stepped up to fill the void.

“(Malachi is) the first person, to my knowledge, from Shepherd to ever be nominated for a Grammy, so it’s a huge thing,” Meads said.

Traditionally held in the closing weeks of the spring semester, Shepfest is the largest student-organized event on campus and is looked at as a celebration to the end of the school year, Meads said. It is free to all Shepherd students.

“Everyone looks forward to it,” said London Hines, a senior and executive director of the programs board.

In addition to the musical acts, students were treated to free corn dogs, ice cream and drinks thanks to various sponsors and vendors, as well as numerous other attractions, like a mechanical bull and a rock-climbing wall.

“It’s a great time because it’s right before finals,” Taschner said.

Those fans who were bummed that McCoy couldn’t make it should be able to see him in August.

Meads said that due to a change in the university’s calendar next year, Shepfest will be moved to the fall semester and McCoy has promised to perform, but this time he will be bringing all of the Gym Class Heroes with him.

“I think that’s going to see a huge turnout because the artists, but also because the time of year,” Mead said of the fall concert. “It’s a really nice weather time and I think that will go really well.”

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