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Soaring Into Summer begins new era at Jefferson Parks

By Staff | May 10, 2019

An official ribbon cutting ceremony at The Amp was one of the events at the Soaring Into Summer event at Sam Michael's Park on Saturday. Toni Milbourne

HARPERS FERRY — The clouds had event organizers a little worried on Saturday morning as they prepared for the ‘Soaring Into Summer’ event at Sam Michael’s Park. The event, to kick off the summer season, served as the official opening of the park’s newest feature, The Amp.

The amphitheater project, which at least in discussion, began decades ago, came to fruition as the Jefferson County Parks and Recreation Commission, staff and guests cut the ribbon on the long-awaited project.

“The project known as the John Brown Amphitheater project was first introduced in 1975, when Sam Michaels Park was designated as a West Virginia State Park,” said Jennifer Myers director for the park system. “During that time, the project was being explored and developed to encourage additional educational opportunity and tourism, that fit seamlessly with the offerings in the Harpers Ferry National Parks.”

The project was set aside over time, as the land was developed into a county park. In 2006, the county parks system constructed the Jefferson County Community Center at Sam Michaels Park, which has become home to the administrative offices of the park staff and the premier park in the county’s system.

Many remember the small stage that served in the events field at the park for entertainment at various events, including the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Mountain Heritage Festival for years, as well as the park’s Independence Day celebration each year. That small stage has now been replaced by The Amp which will be home to upcoming concerts, shows and other types of entertainment.

In addition to entertainment from the stage, festival-goers enjoyed remote control airplane exhibitions provided by The Hobbies Shop, kite building, paper airplane folding, a hot air balloon from Tailwinds Over Frederick, concessions, crafters and vendors and a beer garden.

“This is just the beginning of what is sure to be the biggest summer we’ve ever produced at Parks and Rec,” Myers said. “We will have summer family movies, a summer concert series, family entertainment, kid’s theater camps and so much more.”

After receiving written congratulations from both Senator Joe Manchin and Governor Jim Justice, neither of whom were available to attend the event, Randall Reid-Smith, commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, spoke briefly, commending the parks’ staff for their new venue.

Jefferson County Parks and Recreation received a grant through the Division of Culture and History that helped see through the completion of phase one of the amphitheater project.

“I’ve been to a lot of venues and I must say this one is just gorgeous,” Reid-Smith said, before pointing out to those in attendance and to Myers specifically, that there is more grant money to be had. He invited Myers to apply, noting that it is important that the county help reach the match required to receive the state grants.

Both before and after the ribbon cutting ceremony, performers were gracing the new stage. Included in the day’s lineup were the Jefferson High School Steel Drum Band, River Wood Band, Cross Connection Band and Last Among Equals.

Performing the National Anthem prior to the ribbon cutting ceremony was Washington High School’s Shelby Kuhn, who was joined in the ceremony by the Jefferson High JROTC.

Also taking the stage in the late afternoon was newly-signed MC1/Sony recording artist Morgan White. White, a West Virginia native, has been referred to as a modern-day “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Her first album, “I’m Gone,” produced two number one singles.

Following White, the headline band, Nashville Recording artists Waterloo Revival, rocked the events field, inviting young members of the audience to come on stage to dance with the band.

The country duo is comprised of Cody Cooper and George Birge, of Austin, Texas.

“Today we learned a lot and I know it will get bigger and better,” commented park staffer Becki Zaglifa, who has been involved with the phase one project from the start.

“I am so proud of our team,” Zaglifa said. “We are a small but mighty group.”