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THAW Festival Bringing Films, Comedians & Bands to State College

by on February 24, 2015 10:40 AM

It may be cold outside, but a new winter arts festival that starts this week going to help State College thaw out.

Wednesday marks the beginning of the first THAW Festival – a completely free, five-day-long series of films, musical performances and comedians that spans both downtown and the Penn State campus.

“We wanted to offer this community more things to do together, so that students and local residents can come together for a common good,” says THAW spokesperson Vinh Vuong. “We want everyone to benefit from this, because there is definitely going to be something for everyone.”

Penn State professor and event organizer Matt Jordan says planning has been underway since last year. Though it was originally envisioned as an event to draw in big name bands, he says the focus shifted to focusing on local talent and musicians.

Popular bands such as Pure Cane Sugar and Natascha & The Spy Boys will perform, as will numerous university student organizations like the No Refund Theatre and the Penn State Thespians.

But Vuong says the organizers still brought in some out of town talent, including Last Comic Standing runner-up Ron G, juggling comic extraordinaire Michael Rosman and the comedic contortionism of Jonathan Burns.

Jordan says the festival will also incorporate the third annual College Town Film Festival, which merged with THAW this year. He says film buffs will have the chance to see about 30 new independent films that haven’t yet been widely distributed. Festival goers can also meet the directors, take part in panel discussions and sample short films made by current Penn State students. 

Jordan says the festival falls on the same weekend traditionally celebrated as State Patty’s Day – a student-created faux-holiday drinking event. He says THAW Festival is, in part, a way to offer an alternative to the drinking holiday, which has been steadily decreasing in attendance over the past several years. 

“But there are more reasons for the festival than just State Patty’s Day,” Jordan says. “We wanted to create an interesting arts festival that gives people the chance to experience films and acts they might not otherwise have the chance to see.”

Centre County Visitors Bureau Executive Director Betsey Howell says the festival falls during a time when there has traditionally been a lull in the number of visitors coming into the State College area. By holding THAW Festival – which the organizers hope becomes an annual event – Howell says the local economy could see a big boost during a slow time of the year.

“We don’t know how big this is going to be or what the turnout will be, but you’ve got to start somewhere,” Howell says. “And that’s what we’re doing, so we hope that the community comes out to support what we’re doing for them.”

The festival starts on Wednesday, with films and student group performances (mostly on campus) through Friday. Saturday features a full roster of films, bands and other acts across numerous venues. The festival closes on Sunday with the TEDxPSU series of seminars, including speeches from Penn State head football coach James Franklin and other luminaries.

A full list of events can be found on the THAW Festival website.

Disclosure: The reporter plays in a band booked for the THAW Festival.


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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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