Whether a passion for fitness, music, the arts or community, one can find it all in Shepherdstown, W. Va. The small village, arguably the oldest town in West Virginia, offers quaint shops and restaurants on what appears to be a quiet main street.
Appearances can be deceiving. The town, small though it may be, boasts a plethora of activity year-round, but is extremely active in the summer months.
Any holiday in town calls for a parade, and the kick start of summer is no exception. July 4 will find floats, balloons, children and bands marching down German Street in a celebration of the nation's independence. The parade will be held starting at 11 a.m. on German Street downtown. It will begin at Church Street and end at Princess Street.
Following the parade, the entire community is invited to attend an old-fashioned picnic at Morgan's Grove Park, just outside of town. The picnic will include children's activities on the beautiful sprawling grounds of the Shepherdstown Community Club-owned park. Live music at the pavilion and great food make the event a memorable one.
According to Rotarian Peter Smith, the event is an annual one hosted by the Rotary Club of Shepherdstown.
"The goal is to provide a wholesome, family-oriented Fourth of July celebration for the town and vistors," Smith said.
While there are not fireworks planned within the town's celebration, on July 5, the sky will light up just a few short miles away at Sam Michael's Park where a first-class fireworks show for the county takes place. Gates of the park open at 2 p.m. where visitors can peruse business vendor booths set up for the afternoon, enjoy live music from the park's stage or simply enjoy some games and quiet time on the park grounds.
A dedication of a new Veteran's Memorial Pavilion at the park will be a highlight of the afternoon as the dedication ceremony will bring many local veterans to the grounds.
When darkness strikes, the sky will light with a show provided by Digital Lightning, a Washington-D.C. Based company offering special event lighting and fireworks productions for both local and national events.
July is not only for the celebration of the fourth, as Shepherdstown provides many other events for visitors and residents alike.
The Town Run, a spring-fed waterway that travels through the town limits, offers picturesque views and calming sounds for those who find a spot to relax and enjoy. But one day out of the year, the Run can be found full of ducks floating lazily toward the river. The annual Rubber Duck Race, a fundraising activity for Good Shepherd Interfaith Caregivers, offers a friendly compeition as folks are given the opportunity to purchase a numbered duck to be placed in the Run. In this annual event, more than 600 rubber duckies will be fighting their way for the prestigious winning spot at the end of the race. The top three ducks to reach the finish line first, as well as the last duck to cross the line, will win monetary prizes for their sponsos. The event is scheduled this year for July 19.
The Contemporary American Theater Festival, founded in 1991 and hosted by Shepherd University, returns for its 24th season July 11-Aug. 3.The festival, which features "America's newest plays in West Virginia's oldest town," is dedicated to professionally producing five new American plays each season.
Managing Director James McNeel shared, This year, we've refocused on the five plays rather than ancilliary programs and events. That's always been the core of who we are."
According to McNeel, the CATF's Hostel Youth! program will continue for its third consecutive year this season. The program is open to youth ages 14-18, and gives them an opportunity to watch the plays, attend workshops and hone their theater skills.
This season's CATF lineup features "The Ashes Under Gait City," by Christina Anderson, "One Night" by Charles Fuller, "Uncanny Valley" by Thomas Gibbons, "North of the Boulevard" by Bruce Graham and "Dead and Breathing" by Chisa Hutchinson.
Always community-minded, the small town takes every opportunity to assist each other and address local needs, while offering unique events. The fifth annual Identity Crisis, set for Aug. 9 provides a reason to stroll the red carpet dressed as a Hollywood star or famous rock musician. The gathering serves to raise funds for breast cancer awareness.
"We chose red carpet because it has such a timeless history going back to Ancient Greece and then traditionally marking routes taken by heads of states on formal occasions," said organizer Tara Sanders Lowe. "In our culture the red carpet has been embraced in modern day in the entertainment industry for film, theater, and television. Now we all can have an opportunity to feel like a star for evening while helping and honoring breast cancer patients and survivors."
Man's best friend is important in Shepherdstown. Honoring the love between man and his dog, the Better Experiences for Shepherdstown Tourists (BEST) group has established the annual Dogfest, slated for Aug., 9-10 this year. Offering everything from a 5K to dog shows and traning demonstrations, canines and their owners will enjoy a fun-filled weekend. This year's event adds a sheep herding demonstration, that will feature trainers from the Virginia Border Collies Association. BEST member and emcee for this year's event, Meredith Wait, said she is very excited about this addition to the lineup of activities. Another new feature during this year's show is an Americna Kennel Club rare dog breed show, she said.
There is never a shortage of something to do in Shepherdstown. Walking along historic trails, visiting one-of-a-kind shops, joining in the Thursday night jam sessions at O'Hurley's General Store or picnicking overlooking the river at Rumsey Park where James Rumsey ran the first successful steam engine in 1787-the opportunities are endless. Sporting events at Shepherd University, concerts, theater productions and more can be found within the boundaries of this contender in Outside Magazine's "American's Best Place to Live" contest.
For more information on town events and history, visit www.shepherdstownvisitorscenter.com,