Jerry Kuhlman – Drummed up the Summer Solstice Music Festival: It’s only Rock and Roll but he likes it
When Jerry Kuhlman ’89 (Shippensburg) and his wife Kimberly hosted a backyard college reunion, they had no idea that it would slowly morph from a casual social gathering to a lively, family-friendly music fest.
For more than 30 years, they’ve hosted the annual Summer Solstice festival. Over 2,000 fans attend to enjoy live, local bands playing classic rock favorites, and the festival has raised more than $375,000 for a number of charities.
Dancing days – Building the event
A fan of classic rock, Jerry wanted to relive some of his best college memories after graduation. In the 80s, Shippensburg fraternities squared off for the Greek Week crown, capped off by a battle of the bands. Pilam assembled a motley crew of “musicians” named the Shadoobie Band, an homage to the Rolling Stones.
The Kuhlman’s backyard BBQ gained momentum when Jerry “got the Pilam band back together” and started jamming. Jerry said, “then we started adding real bands, and more people started to come.”
The Summer Solstice now features a mix of bands who play a variety of classic rock. The talent changes from year to year, and has included Dylan Zangwill from America’s Got Talent, and the Steve Liberace Band (yep, he’s related) among many others.
Getting by with a little help from their friends
The music fest is entering its 33rd anniversary thanks to a loyal fanbase and the efforts of Jerry and his family. They’ve even expanded to hosting a winter solstice event.
Jerry thanks his friends and family who have all played a part in helping to organize the event. His youngest son has been helping since he was seven years old, selling t-shirts and shooing kids off the bouncy castle when their time was up. Jerry calls him the VP of Operations.
When it comes to organizing or setting up, he joked, “my Pilam brothers are zero help.” Though he admitted, “I love that they’re still coming after all these years, and they bring their kids now, which is great.”
Help is on the way – Supporting charities.
As the popularity of the Summer Solstice grew, Jerry saw it as an opportunity to raise money for causes that were close to the hearts of supporters, friends, and family.
Through their loyal following and some sponsorships, they’ve raised over $375,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, a number of cancer-related charities, and a watershed association, the Brandywine Red Clay Alliance.
Pilam and the Shadoobie House
Though Jerry was accepted by Villanova and the Philadelphia College of Sciences, he unapologetically chose Shippensburg, because it was listed in the top 10 party schools by Playboy magazine. His parents were not pleased.
He enjoyed his time on campus, admittedly to the detriment of his studies, and pledged Pilam in his sophomore year with a couple dorm friends. He said, “the Pilam guys were different. Everybody was very cool. There were no attitudes. They were interesting to be around and liked to have fun. I made lifelong friends.”
When he became a brother in the spring, the chapter acquired a new house, which he said was haunted. Jerry stayed in Ship over the summer in the new fraternity house, bonded with his brothers, and they started throwing huge parties.
Some of his fondest memories are road trips to Florida for Spring Break (when MTV Spring Break was wild), and a spontaneous pilgrimage to Mardi Gras. He and his brothers were impulsive, had no money, slept in their cars, but had the best time.
Jerry still stays in contact saying, “we have a text thread, telling old stories and busting on each other. We keep each other up to date.” He also travels to get togethers with his classmates face-to-face.
Open invitation to Summer or Winter Solstice
Jerry invites all Pilam brothers to come and enjoy the music and the atmosphere while supporting a good cause.
The Winter Solstice festival 2024 is scheduled for January 6 at Stolen Sun Brewery in Exton, PA. Summer Solstice 2024 is a date TBD in June.