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Art in the Orchard: Centre County’s Newest Festival Week Tradition

When Way Fruit Farm held its first Art in the Orchard in 2021, co-owner Jason Coopey didn’t envision it as a recurring event.

After all, the festival only came about because Centre County’s well-established mid-July events — Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, People’s Choice Festival and Philipsburg Heritage Days — canceled for the second consecutive year months in advance because of uncertainty related to COVID-19, and Coopey and his wife, Megan, wanted to offer something for vendors and the community.

“I was just planning on doing it one year and no one would let me quit,” Coopey said with a laugh. “I thought maybe we’ll do one year, maybe two years, then we’ll just go back to normal. In so many ways, life has not gone back to normal and it really became a hit. I kind of consider it more of the locals’ arts fest. It’s a nice, smaller venue. It’s a beautiful setting. It’s very comfortable.”

Now, Art in the Orchard returns for its fourth year Thursday, July 11, through Saturday, July 14, at the 150-year-old, family-owned farm located at 2355 Halfmoon Valley Road, Port Matilda.

With free parking and free admission, the festival will feature more than 75 local artists and crafters, along with food vendors, seven bands, a bunny petting area, family activities and some new features.

New this year are a butterfly tent on Thursday and Friday and live sand sculpting all three days by Eric Jones, who has been featured on Food Network and sculpted artwork for the Buffalo Bills. (He’ll also be returning for Way’s pumpkin festival Oct. 10-11)

“The sand sculpture and the butterfly tent are really the big additions this year, which I think are going to be big hits,” Coopey said. “We’re always looking to do something new and adventurous every year. And so we just keep trying to add to it — every year make it a little bigger, a little more special. That’s what we’re doing this year.”

The lineup of artists and crafters will also be the largest since the first year, when so many were available because other events had been canceled.

One of the distinctive elements of Art in the Orchard, Coopey said, is the affordability of the works for sale.

“It makes it more accessible, where people can actually come out and buy something,” he said. “There’s a lot of stuff that’s at a very fair price. It’s probably the most affordable one. I’m not going to have the fanciest of the art, but it’s the most affordable.”

He also seeks out an array of food vendors to offer something different. This year’s lineup includes Ice House Café, Twisted Whisk Catering, Beech Hollow BBQ, Sweet Dreams Snack Shack, Toda La Familia (Thursday and Saturday) and M.F Soul Food (Friday). The Way Café will be open as well, with a limited menu and the farm’s prized apple cider donuts.

It’s all part of what has made Art in the Orchard a valued addition to Centre County’s festival week, and one that has expanded its audience since the first year. Coopey appeared on a Harrisburg television morning show this week to discuss the festival, and the farm has increased its advertising for the event thanks to a Tourism Grant from the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau and Centre County Board of Commissioners.

“A lot of visitors come up here,” Coopey said. “What ends up happening with it is we end up getting the crowds that want to visit multiple entities. When I talk to a lot of our customers, they went to People’s Choice and then they came here. I kind of put it as it’s one big party weekend. People take off the day of work and you spend a couple hours at one, it gets hot, so you hop in the car, have the air conditioning and go to another one. It’s nice to have multiple ones to visit. So especially for the visitors staying multiple days, it’s just that one extra festival to kind of entertain yourself with.”

Art in the Orchard and other festivals throughout the year have helped expose Way Fruit Farm and its Downtown Market and Cafe at 252 E. Calder Way in State College to more community members and visitors, creating more regular customers.

“It just complemented everything we do so well that we never stopped,” Coopey said. “I think it’s very good for getting us out to the broader community….  Especially with our store downtown now, we sell a lot of things to visitors. What’s nice is if they come out here for this, they might visit here or they might visit us downtown. I think it’s a very important part of our business.”

For this week’s Art in the Orchard, Coopey is looking forward to another year of growth, but also the moments that make it unique among Centre County’s festival offerings.

“My memory of last year is, especially in late afternoon, the bands are playing, everyone’s sitting at the picnic tables eating,” he said. “And it was just a really cozy, fun atmosphere.”

WHAT:
Art in the Orchard

WHEN:
Noon-7 p.m. Thursday, July 11
10 a.m.-7 p.m., Friday, July 12
10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday, July 13

WHERE:
Way Fruit Farm, 2355 Halfmoon Valley Road, Port Matilda

WHO:
See the full lineup of artists, musicians and food vendors at wayfruitfarm.com/artintheorchard.