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Penn State History Lesson: Movin’ On

I wrote about a forgone Penn State tradition called Gentle Thursdays two weeks ago. The event, which started out as a “day of sharing,” was cancelled in 1981. There were a slew of reasons for cancelling Gentle Thursdays, including major sponsors pulling their funding. But perhaps the most outstanding reason for canceling Gentle Thursdays was the fact that the event, which featured folk and rock bands, was just too similar to another music festival at the time.

This festival has a name you might recognize: Movin’ On. Yes, the music festival that’s set to rock the Penn State stage tomorrow actually started in 1975. That year, the Association of Residence Hall Students (ARHS) started a new week-long event called Residence Hall Week. According to an April 22, 1975 Daily Collegian article, ARHS called Residence Hall Week “Penn State’s greatest week of entertainment.” There were different events at each on-campus living area throughout the week. North had a riveting trivia quiz; East had three-legged races.

The week ended with the very first Movin’ On festival featuring several local rock bands. The concert was free for all that attended, but volunteers walked around the concert to collect donations for the Volunteer Service Center. The very first Movin’ On lasted 12 hours, starting at noon and ending at midnight on the HUB lawn on April 26, 1975.

For Movin’ On 1976, ARHS planned similar events. Those participating in Residence Hall Week enjoyed free movies, square dancing, and water battles during the week. But the entire weekend was devoted to the music festivities at Movin’ On. Once again, the music festival took place on the HUB lawn. ARHS budgeted $8,400.34 for Movin’ On 1977, according to an April 28, 1976 Collegian article, which helped them secure acts like Terry Beard. During his performance, Beard decided to play one of his more controversial songs, where he sang about God getting high off of two hits of “the best dope.”

The song’s lyrics didn’t sit well with Henry Male, the program director for the radio station WDFM. The station was broadcasting Movin’ On live when Male found out about Beard’s less than family-friendly song content. So, in the middle of one of Beard’s songs, WDFM cut the live broadcast. In its place, Male decided to broadcast pre-recorded public announcements and recorded music. People listening to the broadcast weren’t told about the switch, according to a May 9, 1977 Collegian article. When asked why he decided to pull the live broadcast, Male told the Collegian he had “a responsibility to everyone.”

1978’s Movin’ On saw a change in venues, going from the HUB lawn to the Intramural Fields behind Beaver Stadium. A May 7, 1979 Collegian article claimed the new location of the festival the previous year was a welcome change. Speaking of 1979, that year saw a major spike in audience attendance at Movin’ On. According to that same article, the festival was packed on its second day. That influx of people meant Movin’ On could raise even more money for that year’s charity, the Association of Barrier-free Living, Environment, and Design (ABLED). Movin’ On almost single-handedly pulled ABLED out of debt that year.

Movin’ On gathered more praise in 1980. According to an op-ed run in the Collegian on May 7, 1980, the weekend festival was incredible. Not only was the weather and atmosphere perfect, but the staff and volunteers were apparently huge standouts for this particular writer. The op-ed writer praised the event’s organization, saying that its skill rivaled professional festivals.

Miraculously, the weather was beautiful for Movin’ On 1981 as well, resulting in a “weekend of mellow fun,” as written in that year’s Collegian entry. Apparently, this mood was quite different from the past. The music in 1981 drew the crowd, instead of the previous attractor: an excuse to drink.

Movin’ On 1982 saw the first big name come to Penn State for the festival. Though most students now probably don’t know about them, Franke and the Knockouts playing at Movin’ On was a big deal. The band was pretty short lived, and generally fits the description of a one-hit wonder. They had a couple of songs reach the Top 40 charts, but broke up in 1986. Tom Swerzenski, the chairman of the University Concert Committee at the time, said Movin’ On was a chance “for the community to see an up and rising star,” in the Collegian following the festival.

Movin’ On continued to be a two-day event for one more year. But following Movin’ On 1983, the executive committee decided to cut the festival in half. The main reason for this, according to a May 11, 1983 Collegian article, was due to a number of events occurring at the university during the same time. Though the decision meant losing a day of music and more money to raise for the year’s charity, having a one-day Movin’ On meant ARHS was able to save money on the event. The two-day Movin’ On tradition went out with a bang, bringing in 13 bands for Movin’ On 1983.

Movin’ On 1984 took place on a rainy day, while Movin’ On 1985 was another success. There were eight musical acts, but the standout performance didn’t come from a musician at all. No, the artist Denny Dent apparently drew the most attention. In between acts, Dent would take the stage to paint giant finger paintings of John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, and Jimi Hendrix, according to a May 3, 1985 Collegian piece.

So that concludes the first decade of Movin’ On history. From there, the festival continued to grow to what we know today. Movin’ On has brought in some great acts in the past few years, including Fall Out Boy in 2005, O.A.R in 2011, and the Avett Brothers in 2012.

This year’s lineup has the potential to be just as awesome. Movin’ On has definitely changed since it began. It’s gone from a weekend to just one day. It’s moved from the HUB lawn to the Intramural Fields to the Blue Band Field. But it’s mission hasn’t changed: to bring great music and an even better experience to the Penn State community.

Photo: La Vie Archives

About the Author

Anna Foley

Anna is a senior majoring in Communication Arts & Sciences and Spanish with a minor in Theatre. Yes, she went to Spain. Follow her half-funny thoughts @exfoleyator and send her chain emails at [email protected]


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