People's Choice Festival Ready for 4 Days of Art, Music, Food and Fun
It's been 27 years since George Marion and a handful of volunteers decided to put on a small festival on Boalsburg to offer residents and visitors another option for fun at the same time as the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts in State College.
Now the People's Choice Festival has become a destination in its own right, expecting to host about 110,000 visitors from Thursday through Sunday on the sprawling Pennsylvania Military Museum grounds. Combined with Arts Fest and Philipsburg Heritage Days, it helps make Centre County Pennsylvania's Festival Central and a tourist hotspot for four days every July.
"At that first festival back in 1993, there were maybe 50 vendors, a few food trucks and a bit of live entertainment. But people loved it," People's Choice Festival public relation director Steve Biddle writes in the festival guide welcome.
From those humble beginnings, People's Choice now hosts nearly 200 artisans, a wide array of food vendors, wineries, family activities and continuous music and entertainment on two stages.
"Several of the committee members have been with the festival, in one way or another, for all 27 years," Biddle wrote. "As you would expect, an enormous amount of work goes into planning and presenting this festival, but it’s a labor of love for the committee members."
The festival is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is free and parking is $5.
Artists and artisans displaying and selling their work at People's Choice are all from Pennsylvania and selected for quality and affordability. Offerings include jewelry, pottery, sculptures, photography, baskets, leather, metalwork, fiber, woodwork, caricatures and more. See the entire list of artists here.
With two stages, music and entertainment is virtually nonstop each day of the festival, and the open spaces of the Military Museum grounds mean there's plenty of room to dance or just take a moment to enjoy. This year's lineup includes a pair of headliners, with bluegrass band The Little Roy and Lizzie Show (6:30-8 p.m. Friday) and Talking Heads tribute Start Making Sense (6:30-8 p.m. Saturday).
But whatever your musical taste, you'll find something appealing. Blues, country, rock, pop, doowop and more are among the choices, with many popular local acts performing, such as Corner Bros., Kelly Countermine and Mark Hill of Biscuit Jam, Velveeta, Kristi Jean & Her Ne'er-Do-Wells, RamaLama, Chris Rattie & The New Rebels, Triple A Blues Band, Bellefonte Community Band, Frackwater Jack, Tim Vitullo, Friends of Lithium, JR Mangan Band and Beaver Ave. Beggars, to name a few.
Entertainment also includes performances by circus artist Dmitry Myers, Black Cat Belly Dance, Nittany Ballet and Central PA Youth Orchestra. See the full schedule here.
People's Choice is a family affair, and there are plenty of kids activities as well throughout the weekend. The Young Artisans Tent for young will showcase a wide variety of artwork, jewelry, photography and other items crafted by area youth.
Ashburn's Animals on a Mission once again will bring a petting zoo and new this year will have a reptile show as well. Kids can also enjoy face painting by State High Thespians, a hands-on science museum from Dominion Science Center, and the ever popular bounce house. Dialed Action Sports will perform BMX shows at 1 and 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Saturday is Character Day, with kids getting the chance to meet some of their favorites. WPSU also will be on hand from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with Buddy the Dinosaur from "Dinosaur Train." Choo Choo The Klown will have balloon animals, tricks and more from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The festival also offers a taste for almost any palate with vendors selling a huge variety of foods such as crab cakes, pierogies, sausage, gyros, pizza, barbecue, speciality grilled cheese, Chinese dishes, and sweet treats. A list of food vendors can be found here.
There will also be a specialty food vendors with Pennsylvania food producers showcasing a wide range of locally-made products such as cheeses, jerky, fudge, sauces, dips, jellies and jams and coffees.
Eight wineries will be on hand to offer bottles for sale. Happy Valley Vineyard & Winery of State College, Hawstone Hollow Winery of Lewistown, Mount Nittany Vineyard & Winery of Centre Hall, Sand Castle Winery of Erwinna, Seven Mountain Wine Cellars of Spring Mills, Starr Hill Vineyard & Winery of Curwensville, Stonekeep Meadery of Birdsboro and University Wine Company of Port Matilda will have booths.