My roommate tapped the first keg, and we were off and running. We quickly ran out of beer and several sorties were arranged to keep the stock fresh. The music was fantastic and with all those bodies in the backyard, soon it was quite warm. We had people from every part of the spectrum: Slackers, Jocks, Stoners, Cheerleaders, White, Black, Asian, Latin, Indian, Goths, Preppies, those who refuse to be labeled, etc. It was the Benetton of parties.
It started to rain and yet MORE people were coming. Even when we ran out of beer for the last time and the headlining band, The Mental Custodians, had to move their act into the living room of one of the houses, people were still arriving and paying just to be able to hang out and enjoy themselves.
We all took turns working the door. Me? Well, I didn't really get to participate in much. When I wasn't working the door and checking IDs, I was doing "sweeps" of the alley and the front of The Row for beer cups, bottles, or whatever could get us shut down. I walked over to the firehouse a few times to see if everything was cool with them. They said they couldn't hear a thing. Over the course of the event, I had maybe one beer, and I don't even think I had time to finish it, but I didn't care. Everyone else was having the time of their lives. That was what Skidfest was supposed to be about, when Susie and I envisioned it the previous fall.
At the end of the night, well into the morning, we all gathered in my room to count the money. After all the expenses were paid -- mostly on kegs -- we had $850. Not bad at $2 a head. One girl suggested we should give the money as a tribute to the 20th anniversary of Earth Day. It was a nice idea, but I had other plans for it. I opened the phone book and found the phone number for "AIDS Delaware" and decided to call it the next day.
Before I went to sleep, I called the campus radio station, told them what had just taken place, and asked if they could play a request in honor of Skidfest. I requested "Wire" from U2. "Wire" will always be associated with Skidfest and Skid Row for me.
In the morning, I called the number for AIDS Delaware and spoke to a man by the name of Tim, who told me what their organization was all about. It was a shelter for people with AIDS who were disowned by their families and had nowhere else to go. I asked for their address and directions. The next day, we drove to the address, knocked on the door, and Tim answered. We introduced ourselves and he let us in to take a tour of the place. It was in need of upgrade, but they were doing the best they could. Tim informed us that they had also just lost their funding. We thanked him for his time and he walked us back to the door. As we said our goodbyes, I reached into my pocket, pulled out two money orders totaling $850 and gave them to him. I said, "This is for you and your organization from all of us at Skid Row. Spend it any way you like. It's yours."
A week later, we received a thank you letter from Tim letting us know how much our little contribution helped them. I'll never forget the look of shock and appreciation on his face or how warm I felt inside. So did everyone who contributed to that first Skidfest in April 1990. Driving back to The Row, one of my housemates turned to me and said, "We did it. That was great. I can't believe it, but we did it." We certainly did.
I was a UD student from the Fall of '95 to the Spring of 2000. The infamous five-year plan. My sophomore year I was living somewhere in Gilbert on East Campus. Towards the end of the spring semester, I was caught carrying a keg of Beast into the dorms. This didn’t sit well with the Hall Director or the Housing Office. But since it was close to the end of the semester and I had a clean record, they let me stay in Gilbert. I was placed on Academic Probation and Deferred Suspension from the dorms. So, finding somewhere to live off-campus for the next semester was a priority.
I had been to one Skidfest before, and had a great time. So the idea of living on Skid Row was appealing. I got a tip that the owner / landlord of the property was a Biology prof on campus. I got lucky, and he had a vacant unit for the following semester. In August of '97, my three roommates and I moved into 28 Academy Street. We moved out in May of '99. At that time I moved to the other side of The Row. I lived in “34 1/2 Down” from May of '99 till the end of my super senior year, May, 2000.
I didn’t know much about Skidfest when I moved there. “Wasn’t it a party for Hippies?” That’s what everyone said. “Not true,” I responded. I got involved with the party when my neighbor Kate was asking for volunteers to staff the door at the Skidfest in Fall of '97. She wanted two people at the door collecting admission at all times. Each person had a two hour shift, from 12 noon to about 8 PM. I volunteered for an early shift. That way, I could relax and enjoy the show when I was done. Kate ran the show again in the Spring of '98. I didn’t tell her or anyone else, but I was paying close attention to what she was doing. I had aspirations of taking over sometime soon.
However, these aspirations would be put on hold, as I temporarily relocated to Florida to work as an intern at Disney World. I returned to UD, and the toughest semester of my HRIM academic career in Spring of '99. But I was determined to take on the responsibility of Skidfest. A good friend of mine had moved into the house next to us, and he and I agreed that we would partner up and begin planning for the Skidfest of Spring '99. We weren’t coordinating the next Woodstock, but the logistics of the party were numerous to say the least:
1) Set a date. This was harder than it sounds. We had to check with the church on Main Street. If there was a wedding on our prospective date, the noise from our bands would interfere with the ceremony. Also, we had to plan Skidfest for a Saturday with nothing else going on, such as the North Chapel Round the World.
2) As tenants of Skid Row, we didn’t want to piss of the landlord, so we asked for his permission to throw the party. He was kind enough to do so. However, the city was a little less agreeable. We “stopped” into the Police Department to run things by them. We figured it would be better to notify them ahead of time and remain in their good graces, than surprise them with any trouble in the future. They informed us that they wanted a written contract outlining the details of our event. We would submit a “Proposal for Skidfest” which would amount to a legal disclaimer for the city if anything went wrong. In retrospect, I should have called a lawyer to help us out! Luckily, the proposal was approved under the pretense that we wouldn’t provide any alcohol at our party. Skidfest would have to be BYOB.
3) Once all this legal BS was complete, we could actually begin planning the details of the party. Finding a sound technician was imperative. There were a few in Newark. We had only two concerns: does he have the equipment to run the show, and is he cheap? Dave Muddiman was our answer. He was the stereotypical Hippie. He looked like the English teacher from Beavis & Butt-Head (Digger’s Note: The teacher was Mr. Van Driessen!) But Dave knew what he was doing. He had run it before, and was even familiar with some of the bands, so that was a plus.
4) Bands can’t play without a stage, so that was our next task. There was a rental place towards Wilmington that cut us a deal. All the funding for this gig came out of our pocket, and we wouldn’t see any money returned until the show was over…and hopefully turned a profit.
5) Finding the bands was an ongoing responsibility. We wanted to dispel the notion that Skidfest was a party only for Hippies. So we set out to diversify the line-up. Really, there was no shortage of bands who wanted to play at our gig. In fact, I literally had people knocking at my door, asking to play. Even though we couldn’t afford to pay them, it was good publicity. And it meant free admission to one of the best off-campus parties of the semester. We were thrilled when a great band from the Baltimore / DC area agreed to drive up and play for our show; The Kelly Bell Band. They’re still quite popular from what I hear. The rest of the bands played mixtures of Blues, Funk, Reggae and Rock.
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