Those people pouring the beers, checking IDs and taking tickets might look an awful lot like suburban parents. The music starts not at 10 or even 8 p.m., but at 5, promising to get the crowd home at a reasonable hour. And volunteers will be collecting food shelf donations.
It’ll also be hard to miss the fact that it’s being held on the grounds of a small Catholic elementary school.
Faithful Shepherd Catholic School this weekend will hold its signature event, Septemberfest, which raises money for the school and community charities by packing a tent with a few thousand rock fans.
“Really, what grade school has a rock concert?” said Mary Haugen, a school parent who’s helped promote the shows over the years. “It’s definitely not usually on the top of the list.”
From its beginnings as “a bunch of football dads with this idea,” Haugen said, Septemberfest has grown into a three-day event that also includes a carnival, a family expo and, this year, a poker tournament. It’s gone from a seat-of-your-pants undertaking to a year-round effort with a growing roster of business sponsors that have helped stabilize its finances.
It’s still driven by volunteers; parents help set up the big tent and stage on the school grounds, bake cupcakes for the cakewalk or even donate the use of their businesses’ generators or forklifts, said festival co-chairman Todd Corbo. Even students get involved in advance of the event, helping to fulfill their school community service requirement.
The school opened in 2000, drawing from three parishes: St. Peter’s in Mendota and St. John Neumann and St. Thomas Becket in Eagan. Septemberfest started in 2004. National acts including Davy Jones of the Monkees, Kansas and the BoDeans have taken the stage in past years, but this year organizers are bringing last year’s lineup back for a return engagement: Two local cover acts that glorify the hair bands and prog rockers of the 1980s.
Hairball plays the music of bands such as Kiss, Motley Crue, Queen and Aerosmith, complete with costumes and stage spectacle. Arch Allies specializes in Journey, Styx and REO Speedwagon.
“I gotta think that you’ve got a lot of us school parents who probably were in high school and college in the ’80s, and it’s that whole nostalgia thing,” Haugen said.
Last year’s show sold out, and planners are predicting the same this year, with nearly 4,000 people expected.
It may seem like a strange event for a suburban Catholic school with fewer than 600 students, but the school community’s aim is that the festival will transcend the school in much the same way the Basilica Block Party in Minneapolis has blown up far beyond its beginnings as a church fundraiser.
Planners have worked to brand the event as an Eagan festival, not just a school event, because they want everybody to feel welcome.
“To put something on of this magnitude, it takes a village,” co-chairwoman Robin Corbo said. “And also, we want the village to be there.”