PortFolio Weekly

PortFolio Weekly
December 23, 2003

Executive Director, Norfolk Festevents Ltd.

by Jim Newsom

Karen Scherberger’s ambition was to be a university president. After graduating from Old Dominion University, she earned a master’s degree in Higher Education Administration from the University of Georgia. But during her undergrad days at ODU, she discovered another love, and higher education’s loss has been Hampton Roads’ gain.

“I volunteered to help with Harborfest,” she remembers. “I was invited to pick up trash, which I did proudly. I was really touched by the enthusiasm of the people down there. It was a very loosely knit group in terms of organization, but boy were they tight in terms of enthusiasm and commitment. You could tell there was an energy and vision that they had, and I wanted to be a part of it somehow.”

After finishing her graduate studies in Athens in 1979, she returned to Norfolk where she worked in her alma mater’s admissions office. And she became even more involved with Harborfest. When the city decided to go forward with the development of Waterside and the adjacent waterfront, then-city manager Julian Hirst looked to the volunteer board of Harborfest for ideas. The group ended up with the contract to manage ongoing events there, incorporating as Festevents.

“I was ultimately hired as the first director,” Scherberger recalls. “We opened our doors on November 22, 1982.”

The opening of Waterside and Town Point Park in June, 1983, coincided with the publication of the first issue of a new magazine called Port Folio. Karen Scherberger was on the very first cover.

“I was going everywhere from the musicians union to Clowns ‘R Us,” she laughs. “I was in the Virginia Opera’s old office on Bute Street, and out comes Betsy Trundle. She had just gone in to tell about this idea she had for a lifestyle magazine.

“She said, ‘I feel like something’s about to happen and we need a publication that captures the energy of this new Norfolk.’ I said this is what I’m doing. She said we need to find a way to work together. Port Folio actually became our mouthpiece. People at that time were very skeptical. That’s why I became the first cover. What we were doing is what Port Folio was all about.”

Karen Scherberger has played a major role in the resurgence of Norfolk over the last twenty years. She and Festevents first gave people a reason to come downtown. Nowadays, there are many. But Festevents remains the flagship, and Scherberger plans to continue providing entertainment for the region for years to come.

“I don’t have artistic talent that’s mine,” she says. “What I love is bringing other people with talent and creating en environment to present that talent in. That’s my art form. I feel so fortunate that I have this opportunity to do what I enjoy doing. This is my passion, this is my joy.”

copyright © 2003 Port Folio Weekly. Used by Permission.