Festival made possible with the help of many

This is part of a weekly series that highlights the organizations or people behind one or more of the Foundation’s funds.

Parts of Allen Street are closed as organizers set up for the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts on Tuesday.

There’s an air of anticipation in downtown State College right now. The feeling that something big is about to happen here is palpable.

That something is the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, which, beginning tomorrow with Children and Youth Day, and ending Sunday, will bring about 125,000 people to sleepy, summer-time State College.

Erin Rowley is the Program Assistant at the Centre County Community Foundation, and a recent Penn State graduate.

Walking down Allen Street yesterday, much of which is closed off for the festival, I was met by the site of food stands, half-constructed water attractions and banners hanging above the road.

The street was vacant, except for a few construction workers.

But starting tomorrow, people will swarm the streets. They’ll crowd around the vendors to buy corn, of the cotton or kettle variety, and other treats. They’ll run under buckets of falling water to cool off. They’ll buy, sell and peruse all kinds of art, while live music emanates from all over the downtown area.

This will be my fourth Arts Fest as an adult. Since my grandparents live in State College, I’m pretty sure I was once one of those children excitedly running under buckets of water, but I don’t remember.

For one of those recent Arts Fest experiences, I was one of the 125,000 making the trip back to State College.

For the other two, I was living here, waiting, just like I am now, for the masses to descend.

And of those two Arts Fests, I spent one interviewing the festival’s artists and patrons for The Daily Collegian newspaper.

So I’ve had the opportunity to see Arts Fest from different points-of-view. And this year, I’ll take it in from two new ones.

Sand sculptor Brad Goll creates one of his masterpieces in the Central Parklet during the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts.

Having just graduated in May, this will be my first time at the festival as a Penn State alumna. This year, the reunions facilitated by Arts Fest will likely be filled with conversations about new jobs (or continued job searches), new apartments, and other real-world topics.

This will also be my first Arts Fest experience as someone who works at a non-profit organization. And working at the Centre County Community Foundation has made me more appreciative of the hard work the festival’s volunteers put in, and of just how much planning and funding is needed to pull the festival off without a hitch.

So many different people and organizations contribute to the festival, and many of them are associated with the Centre County Community Foundation. One of these is the State Theatre, which has a slew of events during Arts Fest, including a showing of Moonstruck on Friday, some of the proceeds of which will benefit the festival, Singing Onstage presents Seussical, and a showing of The Land Before Timetomorrow for free. (Never have I wished so much that I didn’t have to be at work at noon.)

Then there’s Discovery Space of Central Pennsylvania, a new museum, which will be open for a sneak preview starting tomorrow, and will be free of charge during Arts Fest.

Arts Fest is a great time for friends to get together and enjoy the festival's atmosphere.

Another organization that is heavily involved in Arts Fest is the Schlow Centre Region Library, which, for the second year in a row, is organizing BookFestPA, an event that gives festival attendees a chance to learn more about the written word as art, an element that had largely been missing from the festival in previous years.

BookFestPA, which will take place on Saturday and feature a few dozen authors and presenters, is made possible in part by a recent grant from the Centre County Community Foundation. (Check back for more information about the event later in the week!)

The Foundation also has two funds that directly contribute to the festival, including one created by Blake and Linda Gall, which supports the Arete-Best in Show Award, an annual prize of $2,500 given to the artist who is chosen as the best by the festival’s judges. The video below shows Linda Gall giving out last year’s Award.

Many other organizations that benefit from Community Foundation funds will make their presence known at Arts Fest, including Big Brothers Big Sisters of Centre County, which will have a booth tomorrow that features fun activities for the kids, and the Community Help Centre, which will provide free lemonade at its stand outside of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. (If you’re there on Saturday morning, stop by and say hello to our Executive Director, Alfred Jones, Jr., who is also a Community Help Centre board member. He will be there handing out lemonade!)

This year's Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts poster

The Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts is a magical event, but it doesn’t come together with the effortless flick of a wand. From volunteers who spend their time helping people navigate the sea of booths or picking up garbage in the hot sun, to less visible people, like those who donate their money to one of the many groups that contributes to Arts Fest, and those who spend months in advance organizing events and activities, so many people put so much effort into this yearly extravaganza.

We can argue over what our favorite part of the festival is (the art? the music? the atmosphere?) but there’s no denying that whatever you like best, it wouldn’t be there without a lot of people’s hard work and dedication. That’s clear no matter what your perspective is.

-Erin

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