By 9:30 p.m. on Friday, about 17,000 spectators were shuffling their way out of Penn Park to take refuge from a thunderstorm. Penn Police and Penn Rec workers funneled guests through the Penn Park Bridge as quickly as possible, steering people away from the large metal stages that had been built for the evening’s events.
Four and a half hours earlier, eager guests arrived at Penn Park for the biggest event in Penn’s history, Time to Shine, to celebrate the $4.3 billion that Penn has raised over the past five years.
The event featured performances by dozens of campus organizations, as well as Grammy-award winning band Train and 1999 College graduate John Legend.
Many spectators were drawn to attend because the event was free.
“The free food is why I’m here,” said Laura Xu, a graduate student studying chemical engineering.
Sara Borden, a Temple student working at the Penn Museum, added, “This event more than meets my expectations. When everything is free, you can’t really go wrong.”
Borden was joined by her mother, Pat, who came to see Train’s performance. Students gathered with friends, family and faculty throughout the evening, enjoying everything from free chili to custom-designed mats with the official Time to Shine logo attached.
Scott Sharpe, Penn’s director of programs and special events, said the event took two years to plan. “Finally knowing this date was coming up, we’ve been communicating with various advertising tools” to draw in a large crowd, he said. This included the display of kites and signs down Locust Walk, media coverage on Penn Current, Time to Shine T-shirts on the Bon Appétit staff and even a new chalk drawing on 34th and Walnut streets.
Sharpe added that the use of Penn Park for a non-athletic event in this capacity was unprecedented. Sharpe’s team arranged everything from the musical entertainment to catering with the hope of “covering a great demographic.”
Sharpe predicted that Train would draw in a younger crowd, while Legend, as a Penn graduate, would be a nice touch to attract the other members of the Penn community.
“There’s clearly a lot of thought that was put into this,” College sophomore Tara Kutzbach said. “There are parents, alumni, students, faculty … I think it’s a great way to end the year.”
As Train was getting ready to perform, spectators migrated from across Penn Park to the makeshift stage on one of Penn Park’s soccer fields.
In anticipation of the star performances, students were very enthusiastic. “This is not only the best concert in four years — it’s the best free concert in four years!” College sophomore Emily Kager said.
Jenny Ma, a College junior and member of Penn’s ultimate frisbee team, said that because her team had to miss Fling for sectionals, it was “nice to have an additional weekend to have such a good time.”
Train performed for a full hour, entertaining guests with hit songs and anecdotes.
Patrick Monahan, Train’s lead singer, threw signed t-shirts into the audience and told the crowd to “send all your love to Boston.”
Later in the performance, Monahan announced that he’s a big John Legend fan and wanted “to give him all the time to perform he can before the rain starts.”
The audience then sang along to “Drops of Jupiter,” and before long, Legend took the stage. “They’re worried about you guys in the rain, but I’ll perform as long as I possibly can,” he said.
Unfortunately, Legend’s performance was cut short when the rain began a few songs later. His mic was cut and the stage lights shut off. Legend blew a kiss to the audience before walking off stage — without singing his hit song “Ordinary People.”
“I felt bad for the student group that came on stage to close the event after John Legend was cut off,” College freshman Cassandra Kyriazis said. “We were such an uncooperative audience because we all wanted to hear John Legend sing ‘Ordinary People.’ I really wish I could’ve heard him sing it!”