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Summer's Best Transforms State College Into a Musical Wonderland

by on June 07, 2015 6:00 AM

Downtown State College was unrecognizable on Saturday as the Summer's Best Music Fest took over town for the day.

Streets that are normally clear, save for the cars that frequent them, were transformed into outdoor music venues.

Five stages were dropped into town, featuring artists from the county, state, and throughout the nation, showcasing performers who came from near and far. From the music scene to a Kids Zone to a pig roast, there was no shortage of activity in town as the festival raged on.

State College resident Ben Varner set up a folding tailgate chair on Locust Lane for The Boomers, a Johnstown-based classic rock trio that played favorites like "Spirit in the Sky" and "December, 1963." But as much as Varner enjoyed the music, he was more interested in watching people.

"This is great weather for the festival and it keeps you young being around all these young people out there," he says. "The music is good and you can just walk around and watch people."

And while Varner and his wife waited for Jackie Brown & The Gill Street band, one of the couple's favorite bands, he kept soaking in the crowd downtown.

"My wife has been doing some shopping," he says. "For me, if I’m not listening to music, I’m watching people."

Just down the street, on Calder Way, a large crowd gathered to watch Eric Ian Farmer. The State College-based singer and songwriter played a mix of covers and originals, strumming his acoustic guitar, accompanied by an accordion player and a drummer.

"He’s passionate. He’s in it. And you can see it in everything," says Nayib Felix, who watched the entire set.

It wasn't just Felix who enjoyed Farmer's performance. The entire audience seemed to be loving the music. 

"People liked it. A lot of people were really into it," Felix says. "Infants were even dancing. They were like three months old and they were twerking."

Kyler Sherman-Wilkins, another festival attendee who caught Farmer's set, provided some insight into what got the crowd excited.

"I like how lost he got in his music," he says. "He just has his eyes closed. And then after the song is over he blinks a couple of times and gets back into the real world."

In that real world, something special was happening in downtown State College. The streets were filled with music and smiling people and plenty of activity. 

"It brings people together," Felix says of Summer's Best. "I just talked to a woman that I never would have talked to in my life if I hadn’t come here. I spilled something on her, but still, I spoke to her."

Sherman-Wilkins was happy to see the town showcase some local artists in addition to the bigger acts, like country singer Jo Dee Messina, who played at the festival. 

"It shows that State College has culture, because some people don’t think it does," he says. "It’s really important. You have these people you know from the community and interact with on an everyday basis, and then you get to come out to events like this and get to see their creative side as well."

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Zach Berger is the managing editor of StateCollege.com. He graduated from Penn State University in 2014 with a degree in print journalism. Zach enjoys writing about a variety of topics ranging from football to government, music, and everything in between.
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