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Music in the Streets

by on June 12, 2012 9:04 AM

With musical performances ranging from classical to hip-hop, the sixth-annual Summer’s Best Music Fest presents music lovers of all genres with a relaxing, fun-filled day of concerts, coupled with the opportunity to experience the atmosphere and attractions of downtown State College.

The daylong festival returns on June 30. The event features nearly 20 local and regional acts performing during the day on three outdoor stages. The Penn State Downtown Theatre Center also features intimate performances by Easterly Chamber Players and Jay Vonada Jazz Trio during the afternoon.

Todd Snider, an alternative country/folk/rock singer, headlines the festival with a performance at the State Theatre at 8 p.m. Other artists who are scheduled to perform include Tyne & the Fastlyne, Triple A Blues Band, Tussey Mountain Moonshiners, The Nightcrawlers, Insomniacs, and Spider Kelly.

“We try really hard to showcase as much local and regional talent as we can,” says Shannon Bishop, chairperson for the festival. “We have such incredible local musicianship with original music. Though you won’t hear 100-percent original music, you will hear a lot. Sometimes in a college town covers are all you hear because that’s what many people want. It’s nice for artists to be able to play some of their own music.”

She adds that the festival has grown tremendously since it began because of the local feel that it gives to visitors. “The festival is put on to support downtown State College,” she says. “It’s a nice event that feels really local. It brings people in to see what State College has to offer by showing a lot of local businesses and talent.”

She says the stages are split up as a way to have people experience the many different parts of downtown State College.

Tom Wilson, owner of Centretainment, a talent-booking agency in Bellefonte, worked with Bishop to fill each of the stages with local and regional acts. This was his first year booking the entire festival, but he is no stranger to the State College music scene. He has been involved with music in the area since the 1960s, and opened his booking agency in 1992.

“Centre County is blessed with a wealth of wonderful musicians performing a wide variety of musical styles,” he says. “We have tried to book a good mix of styles that will perform a 60-minute set.”

Though much of the festival’s focus is on musical performances, Bishop says additional activities have been added over the years. For the fourth year in a row, Rise Above Productions will showcase BMX extreme stunts in between musical performances on “Action Alley,” located in Calder Alley. The Downtown Street Bazaar will line Allen Street and Calder Way. Centre County PAWS will host live events featuring dogs from the shelter. PAWS also will be holding contests and accepting donations for the shelter. Four-legged festival visitors can take a break and cool off in PAWS’s dog-specific swimming pool.

While the event is free, visitors can purchase optional $3 wristbands that allow them to enjoy various discounts at numerous downtown businesses. All proceeds from wristband sales will benefit local student musicians through the State College Area School District’s Heritage Fund. Selling wristbands “is a great way to support a local initiative for kids who are interested in musical arts,” Bishop says.

Her main goal is for every visitor to enjoy the music, and experience something he or she might not be able to experience elsewhere. “See some musician that you might have never seen before. Come down and adopt a dog or just see everything that downtown State College has to offer,” she says, “Do some shopping, listen to music, eat some great food, and experience the whole package.”

For Wilson, the event creates the perfect relaxed outdoor setting for local musicians to share their talents with the public and to showcase downtown State College. He encourages people to attend the festival and support local live music.

“The event provides additional foot traffic for merchants and gives you the opportunity to hear a great variety of musical styles,” he says. “It’s a great day for the downtown merchants to showcase their stores and restaurants and a nice day to just bring the entire family out for a day of great music. It will make you smile.”

For more information on Summer’s Best Music Fest and a schedule of live performances, visit summersbestmusicfest.com.



Samantha Hulings is a 2012 Penn State graduate and a contributor to Town&Gown.
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