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Arts Fest Kicks Off for 53rd Year on Wednesday

by on July 09, 2019 1:01 PM

Bringing a host of traditional favorites and new events, the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts kicks off for its 53rd year on Wednesday and continues through Sunday.

With an estimated 125,000 visitors expected, the festival features five days of music, entertainment, activities, food and fine arts and crafts by more than 300 exhibitors.

Children and Youth Day starts off the festival on Wednesday with more than 250 young artists and artisans from  Centre County and surrounding areas showcasing and selling their work in a special sidewalk sale along South Allen Street from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

While the sidewalk sale is happening, free children's creative activities will be offered on Old Main Lawn, South Allen Street and Sidney Friedman Park with a wide range of opportunities from arts and crafts to face painting to scientific fun. Music and dance by area youth performing arts groups also take place throughout the day on the Allen Street Stage and Festival Stage on Old Main Lawn.

At 4 p.m., the Grand Procession begins on Old Main Lawn, with hundreds of children -- and adults -- carrying papier-mâché puppets, masks and drums through down town to Sidney Friedman Park.

The Pat Farrell Community Singalong at State College Presbyterian Church is open to everyone, no matter their singing skills or lack thereof, to join together and make joyful noise. Led by Russell Bloom, Erik Clayton and Leah Mueller, the singalong is an evening of traditional songs, folk melodies, camp songs and a Broadway number or two. A festival button is required to attend.

On Thursday, the festival gets into full swing with the Sidewalk Sale and Exhibition open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. A panel of five jurors will award over $17,500 in prize money to winning exhibitors.

Throughout the weekend, there are plenty of free performances and activities to enjoy. An Arts Festival button, meanwhile, will get the wearer admission to selected performances. Buttons, which are $10 and help support the festival, are available at a number of locations.


The popular street painting exhibition is moving to a new location this year. Because of construction of a new high-rise at the former Garner Street lot, street painters will move from Hiester Street to the heart of the festival at Foster Avenue and Allen Street. Based on the tradition of European street art, local and national visual artists will create 6-foot by 4-foot paintings throughout the day Thursday through Sunday, weather permitting. The Little Art Alley also he opportunity to create a 14-inch by 14-inch square street painting for $5.


Favorite local musicians and some nationally touring acts make for a packed schedule of musical performances covering a huge range of genres. Among some of the touring acts, Poor Man’s Gambit trio performs traditional music of Europe and America at 8 p.m. Thursday in State College Presbyterian Church (button required). Grammy-nominated Penn State alumnus Alex brings a unique mix of genres and instrumental versatility to the Festival Shell Stage at 8:30 p.m. Thursday. Acoustic duo Ryanhood plays at 8 p.m. Saturday at State College Presbyterian Church (button required). And Canadian roots band RPR takes the Festival Shell Stage at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Plenty of popular local acts are performing throughout the weekend, such as Triple A Blues Band, Jackie Brown & the Gill Street Band, Hops and Vines, Ted McCloskey and the Hi-Fi’s, Joe Baione Jazz Trio, J.R. Mangan Band, Chris Rattie & The New Rebels, Penn State Taiko Drums, My Hero Zero, Obvious Pocket, Jay Vonada, Doug Irwin, Scott & Jack Mangene, Zeropoint Big Band, RamaLama, Velveeta, The Nightcrawlers, Erin Condo, Miss Melanie and the Valley Rats and many more.

You'll also find an array of other entertainment on festival stages and venues as well such as with Black Cat Belly Dance and Three Names dance and acrobatics. See the full entertainment lineups for each day here.


Looking for laughs? Comedian Greg Warren — who has recently been seen on Late Night with Seth Meyers, The Late Show, and Comedy Central Presents — performs at 10 p.m. Friday at The State Theatre (Tickets required.)

Happy Valley Improv, State College’s premier long-form improv company, performs at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Saturday at The State Theatre. (Button required.)


Experience Harold Lloyd’s silent film "The Kid Brother," accompanied by a virtual theatre organ, at 8:30 p.m. Friday at The State Theatre. The virtual organ is an instrument developed by accompanist Ben Model and uses an assemblage of keyboards and digital technologies to bring silent movies 21st Century theaters. (Button required)

The documentary film on a local fly-fishing legend "Live The Stream: The Story of Joe Humphreys" will have two special screenings, at 6 and 8:30 p.m. at The State Theatre. (Tickets required.)


What's a festival without lots of great food? You'll find plenty of choices on Allen Street, at Friedman Park and on campus, including local favorites like Brazilian Munchies, Moody Culture Kombucha and Berkey Creamery ice cream, as well as a huge selection of foods from Chinese to gyros to corn dogs and much more. New this year, Maine Bay & Berry will be at Sidney Friedman Park with crab cakes and lobster rolls. See the vendor lineup and locations here.


Sand sculptor Greg Glenn returns to the festival for the traditional sand sculpture. Over three days, a 25 ton mound of sand in Sidney Friedman Park will be transformed into a work of art.


More than 20 authors and artists are expected at Schlow Centre Region Library from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for BookFest 2019.

Images 2019, the festival's juried exhibition of nearly 60 selected works by Pennsylvania artists, will be on display in Schlow Library and Kish Bank's Expect More Store, 114 S. Allen St., throughout the month of July.


Penn State's Art of Discovery booth, next to Willard Building on campus, will explore topics at the intersection of art and science through a series of free, hands-on demonstrations hosted by Penn State researchers and students. See the full schedule of activities taking place Thursday through Saturday.


Penn State's popular "AstroFest" program, a four-night festival of astronomy activities and stargazing, will welcome visitors for its 21st year from Wednesday through Saturday. The program will run from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. each night at Davey Laboratory.


Started in 1976, the Arts Festival races, renamed in 2006 in honor of local running legend Sue Crowe, now include a 5k and 10k, as well as a kids fun run. Races are at 8 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. on Sunday morning, starting at Snider Ag Arena. Check here for full details.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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