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Patty Kleban: Fun Week of Festivals About to Kick Off

by on July 09, 2012 6:27 AM

It’s festival week.

This week is one of the best things about living in Central Pennsylvania. We have the Festival of the Arts in downtown State College and the People’s Choice Festival in Boalsburg.

It’s what summer is all about in State College.

For the week of Arts Fest, downtown State College comes alive with visitors, Penn State students and alumni, kids and families, and townies.   

With an estimated 125,000 people coming through to see the art, sample the food, and listen to the music, Arts Fest is a bump of excitement in the slow, lazy days of summer semester.

The week officially starts with Children’s Day on Wednesday but the anticipation for many will begin a day or two before as the Fest planners block off Allen Street and start landscaping, putting up the kiosks and bringing in the water features that attract so many little bodies each year.   

Every year at Arts Fest, I think the pedestrian mall on Allen Street might be neat to continue throughout the year with concerts, street sales, etc.   

However, the insight of the downtown business owners who question a permanent disruption of business and parking tells me we should limit it to the limited festival schedule. It makes it more special and fun while it lasts.

People come back to State College for festival week in numbers that rival Homecoming. For students who have gone home for the summer or alumni who have left the area, Arts Fest is the perfect excuse for a long weekend in Happy Valley.

Wednesday’s Children’s Day activities and the youth sales booths were a summer staple when our kids were little.  Mom or dad pushing strollers or pulling the wagon, carefully selecting purchases made by hands not much bigger than their own and filling up on junk food made the day feel like going to the carnival. We have fond memories of picking up the “must have” craft each year. The wooden pop gun. The balloon yo-yos. The princess tiaras with sparkly streamers.   

To this day, when my kids go to the Festivals, they buy their drinks at McLanahan’s instead of at the $6 lemonade booth.  We trained them early.

Thursday night of Arts Fest is traditionally townie night. Locals will walk the festival and meet for dinner or drinks at one of the downtown restaurants.    

My favorite memory of Thursday night of Arts Fest was the night we followed our toddler around, with Grandma and Grandpa in tow, trying to persuade baby No. 2 to make his or her appearance. She was born at 12:12 the next day. That baby turns 20 tomorrow. 

Despite my continued whining about parking in downtown State College, parking during Arts Fest is surprisingly no more difficult than on a regular weekend.   

Kudos to Festival  Director Rick Bryant and his team for managing parking, garbage and all the people – artists, volunteers, visitors. Kudos to the Borough staff and employees for their hard work as well.  I am sending a special shout out to Staci and Lauren, Arts Fest student interns. As students in Recreation, Park and Tourism Management, they are gaining valuable experience in event planning.

Every year, I promise myself that I will stay up past my bedtime to catch the Phyrst Phamily at the shell on Old Main lawn but I never seem to make it. For a couple of years in a row, my tiny tap dancers got to perform their recital dances in that shell. 

Sometime over the weekend, we will also go to the People’s Choice Festival in Boalsburg. Nancy Marion, who founded the People’s Choice with her husband George, was my eighth grade algebra teacher. The open space of the lawns around the Pennsylvania Military Museum, the centralized organization and grass walking area gives the People’s Choice a different feel from the “city” festival.     

For visitors to Central Pa., it’s a great opportunity to hit two great events. Parking and access at the People’s Choice are just as easy as downtown.

For the past several years, we have enjoyed a beef sandwich at the People’s Choice that makes my mouth water even thinking about it. Add that to the strudel from the booth on Allen Street, the chicken on the stick, kettle korn and a beer at Pickle’s and festival week means I will be back on the diet starting on Monday.

This week will inevitably be hot. It will rain at some point. It always does. Like the predictable rain, there will also be those people who selfishly drag their dogs through the crowds and through the heat at both festivals.  I love my dogs enough to leave them at home.   

Festival week has not been without it’s controversies over the years. I remember the big deal when Mr. Binh at Kaye’s Korner (now the Growing Tree) wanted to sell soda from his door. The cost of the art. The cost of the food. How much influence our local community has on the offerings. That stupid riot. Even the formation of the People’s Choice from the larger festivals.

The festivals come back stronger and better each year.  

With the economy as it is and gas at over $3 a gallon, the Central Pa. Arts Festival and the People’s Choice are a great option for a mini-vacation or a day trip for the family.

I can’t wait.

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Patty Kleban is an instructor at Penn State, mother of three and a community volunteer. She is a Penn State Alumna. Readers of State College Magazine voted her Best Writer of 2010 and 2012. She and her family live in Patton Township. Her views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State.
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