This is THE big weekend of the summer in State College. 40 years ago, the borough of State College and Penn State joined forces to create The Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, an event that would showcase the visual and performing arts. The event quickly became embraced by all. Arts
Fest, as it became known colloquially, soon spread well beyond the town. It is now one of the largest Arts Festivals on the East Coast and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to the area each July.
The first event consisted of primarily local artists that hung their art on a snow fence that was strung along a stone wall on College Avenue, the main drag in town, in front of Old Main, PSU’s main administrative building.
From those humble beginnings, the event has taken over the town for pretty much the whole second week of July every summer. While the first event just took place on the block long wall mall, the event has now spread across both the campus and the downtown area. Several downtown streets are shut down to handle exhibits, performance stages, and food stands. Pretty much every venue in town that can handle an audience (Beaver Stadium excepted – JoePa doesn’t allow anyone on HIS field) is utilized at some point for the event.
To give you a feel for the extent of the festivel, here’s a schedule of today’s performing artist events. Other days schedules can be viewed by the links at the top of the page. And here’s a list of the over 300 exhibiting artists by media type (the event is now juried so you don’t get near the crap that showed up in the early days of the festival).
The variety of stuff that you can see here is just amazing. Some examples:
Comedy Juggling –
Michael Rosman, a former Ringling Bros clown who is now out on his own. He does a lot of corporate and cruise ship entertaining and has also appeared on Letterman. He actually makes a smoothie by juggling fruit into a blender on top of his head. Check out his video for a glimpse of what he does.
The National Marionette Theater will be performing their award winning production of Peter Pan (shown here on the right). Their shows are nationally reknown for the detail and complexity of their puppets and the flair of their performances.
A Trash Can Band –
Lidz – is a is a five-man trash can band from Altoona. They make music using trash cans, buckets, paint cans, and other things you can buy at the hardware store. Parents with empressionable young children might want to pass on this show if they ever want to sleep in on another Saturday or Sunday morning.
Musical Variety –
plus many more.
One of the neat things about Arts Fest is that it has become a defacto reunion weekend. The university has tried to artificially create Reunions Weekends with very little success. But the Arts Fest has become the weekend of choice for old friends to reconvene in State College (I can’t remember an Arts Fest weekend that I ever missed even after leaving town – heck I even missed a Phi Psi weekend once – something about getting married got in the way – but I never missed an Arts Fest). Old local bands take advantage of that by getting back together for once a year appearances back in State College. The members obviously love getting together for a set or two and their old fans back in town love seeing them.
I’ve got a few other Arts Fest stories to tell but this post could go on forever. I cut it off here and break my other stories off into other posts.