State College's biggest summer event kicks off on Wednesday as the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts celebrates its 52nd year with a mix of traditional favorites and new events.
From Wednesday through Sunday, the festival, which draws an estimated 125,000 visitors each year, will feature five days of music and entertainment, activities, food, and, of course, fine arts and crafts by more than 300 exhibitors throughout downtown State College and on the Penn State campus.
Children and Youth Day gets things started on Wednesday, with more than 250 young artists and artisans showcasing and selling their work in a special sidewalk sale along South Allen Street.
The day also includes children's creative activities on Old Main Lawn and in Sidney Friedman Park and performances throughout the day by musicians and dancers on the Allen Street Stage and the Festival Shell. 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.
At 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, 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.
The festival gets under way in full on Thursday 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 are $10 and are available at a number of locations.
Some festival highlights include:
Comedian Joe Machi
A State College native and Penn State graduate, Machi has been making his name as a stand-up comedian, winning first place in the Emerging Comics contest at the New York Underground Comedy Festival. He's since performed on shows such as "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," and finished fourth on NBC's "Last Comic Standing." He will perform at 10 p.m. on Saturday at the State Theatre. Tickets required.
Music and Entertainment Galore
All of your favorite local musicians and some nationally touring acts make for a packed schedule of musical performances covering a huge range of genres. Check the entertainment schedules for the full lineups each day, which start before noon and continue into the night.
You'll also find an array of other entertainment on festival stages as well, with Black Cat Belly Dance, Penn State Taiko Drums, NU Musical Theatre, Three Names dance and acrobatics, and a workshop at The Makery.
Steamboat Bill, Jr.
Experience Buster Keaton’s 1928 silent film "Steamboat Bill, Jr." accompanied by a virtual theatre organ, an instrument developed by accompanist Ben Model at 8:30 p.m. on Friday in the State Theatre (button required). The virtual theatre organ uses keyboards and digital technologies to bring movies by Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton to 21st century theaters.
Italian Street Painting
Honoring the 16th century Italian tradition of using special chalks to paint on the street, the Italian Street Painting exhibition on the 100 block of Hiester Street will feature a variety of local visual artists creating 6-foot by 4-foot paintings. The Young Artists Alley allows children to create, for a $5, a 14-inch by 14-inch square street painting of their own. Painting ends at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 4 p.m. on Sunday, weather permitting.
Art of Discovery
Penn State's booth, next to Willard Building on campus explores the art of science, the science of art, and where the two fields meet and overlap, through a series of free demonstrations on "The Sound of Data," zombie ants, astronomy, prehistoric paints, augmented reality, coral reefs and more. [Schedule]
Sue Crowe Memorial Arts Festival Races
Started in 1976, the Arts Festival races, renamed in 2006 in honor of local running legend Sue Crow, now include a 5k and 10k, as well as a kids fun run. Races are on Sunday morning. Check here for full details.
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.
At the Library
Schlow Centre Region Library is at the heart of the festival, and it will be host to several events, including BookFest PA from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. More than 20 participating authors cover a number of genres, including young adult fiction, fantasy, romance, historical fiction, children’s fiction, comics and more. Visitors can meet the authors, as well as purchase and have the authors sign books.
Schlow also is once again home to the Arts Festival’s juried exhibition, “Images 2018.” Thirty-six pieces were selected for the exhibit, are on display now through Tuesday, July 31,
At 2:30 p.m.on Thursday, author Nikki Grimes will be honored with the 26th annual Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award. Following the presentation, Grimes will speak about her writing and read from her award-winning book “One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance.”