Contemporary American Theater Festival a boost for Shepherdstown, state tourism

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — An annual professional theater event on Shepherd University’s campus in Jefferson County now has official numbers showing the strong economic impact they are making.

A recent economic study conducted by Washington, DC-based Shugoll Research has revealed numbers indicating the Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF) has a positive impact on the Jefferson County economy and the state of West Virginia.

As of the study, the CATF had produced 127 plays including 52 world premieres and 10 commissions. The study shows this has resulted in $5.86 million in direct economic activity. In 2018, 19,000 tickets were sold for CATF events. This is up 65% from 11,500 in 2008.

“It validates what we felt,” said CATF Founder and Producing Director Ed Herendeen. Now we actually have a reputable research firm (saying) that we were reaching a lot of people. We could tell by the growth of the Shepherdstown economy that the arts mean business. Specifically, that the arts help drive as an economic engine the Eastern Panhandle tourism community and the State of West Virginia.”

In May, the CATF was named by the New York Times as one of the top 15 summer theater festivals. At a Thursday press conference, Shepherd University President Dr. Mary Hendrix told MetroNews affiliate WEPM the partnership between the campus and CATF is mutually beneficial.

“This was a wonderful opportunity to announce our partnership,” added Dr. Hendrix. “Specifically, the effects of our economic impact on our regional economy as well as the state of West Virginia. To be able to tell people about the highlights of our 28-year partnership, it was great.”

The Shugoll Research also shows the CATF brings a large audience from outside of West Virginia. In 2018, 60% of CATF’s audience members come from northern Virginia, western and suburban Maryland as well as the DC and Baltimore metro areas. This helps CATF generate $340,000 of total revenue to the local economy. Over 18,000 tickets were sold that year to patrons from 38 states, DC and across the world.

“To have this affiliation with them (CATF) really helps us with respect to recruitment, retention and enhancing our image,” Dr. Hendrix added.

Read Shugoll Research’s report  here.

Get more information on the CATF here.

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