A year and half of planning culminating with a year’s worth of events will wrap up Shepherdstown’s 250th anniversary celebration this weekend with a community soup fest and a “Coming Home Parade,” one of the biggest in town history.
Mayor Jim Auxer boasts that Shepherdstown “is the first town in West Virginia to celebrate a 250th anniversary.”
Shepherdstown was founded in 1762, at the time still part of Virginia. West Virginia gained statehood in 1863 in the midst of the Civil War when it broke from Virginia and the Confederacy.
Planning for the town’s “semi-quincentennial” birthday began in April 2010, said Meredith Wait. She was appointed by Auxer to set up a committee and plan a year-long series of events.
“We needed a structure in place,” Wait said. “We set up five standing committees — community outreach and coordination, marketing and media relations, signature events and legacy, and steering.”
Individuals, groups, clubs, churches, historic societies, businesses, artists, musicians and schools, among others, were recruited to plan events linked to the town’s history and to follow the anniversary’s motto: “Remember, Celebrate, Imagine.”
Eventually, up to 300 volunteers got involved, Wait said. “It’s been a remarkable two-and-a-half years,” she said.
Highlights of the 12-month celebration included a series of public lectures by members of the Historic Shepherdstown Commission on history, residents and events. Launching the anniversary last November was a “wall of ice” that was imbedded with 16 old photographs of people, community life, places and buildings.
Films on early settlers, 19th century architecture, the history of the Town Run that courses through the downtown on its way to the Potomac River, and the integration of the town and schools were held throughout the year.
There was a special Fourth of July celebration, musical productions in churches and performed by a local professional orchestra, more than 400 residents signed a legacy quilt which will hang in the Town Hall.
Trees and daffodils were planted and a U.S. Postal Service stamp noting the 250th was issued along with 250th logo license plates.
The Daughters of and Sons of the American Revolution identified and marked the graves of 19 Revolutionary War soldiers buried in town.
Events start Friday with a community potluck supper from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Community Club. A dance featuring Sacred Groove, a Grateful Dead tribute band, will follow at 9 p.m. Admission is free.
On Saturday, a plaque will be dedicated to Thomas Shepherd, the town’s founder, at 10 a.m. at the Shepherd family graveyard on New Street. An open house will follow at the Thomas Shepherd Grist Mill on High Street.
Sunday’s main event starts at 1 p.m. with a steam engine demonstration in honor of James Rumsey, local inventor of the steam engine, followed at 3 p.m. by the Coming Home Parade.
Peter Smith, chairman of the three-day “Coming Home Weekend,” said the only marchers will be 61 descendants and representatives of the town’s earliest families who will march in alphabetical order with signs displaying their family name. Those unable to walk will ride in vehicles.
An announcer will give a brief biography of each family’s history.
The official closing ceremony will follow the parade on the steps of McMurran Hall.
After the closing ceremony, a Soup Fest will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday in 10 locations across town. A free Pan Tran shuttle bus will provide transportation from the Shepherd University parking lot to all 10 soup sites.
An open house will follow for free desserts, coffee and live music from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Train Station on Audrey Egle Drive.
Editor's note: This story was edited Friday, Nov. 9, to add one weekend event and correct the date of the Soup Fest.