Three local festivals are making their final preparations before welcoming thousands of visitors to Centre County, a drive-to destination where theyll not only join in the activities, but also spend money in local hotels, restaurants and shops.
Betsey Howell, executive director of the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau, said visitors must drive to the area, so they probably will buy local gas, too. They might camp, so theyll buy groceries.
Its the trickle-down effect, she said.
Heritage Days begins today in Philipsburg. Not far behind are the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts in State College and on Penn States campus, starting Wednesday with Children and Youth Day, and the Peoples Choice Festival of Pennsylvania Arts and Crafts, in Boalsburg, starting Thursday.
All three events continue through Sunday. Each one definitely attracts a lot of visitors to the area and a lot of the visitors do multiple festivals while theyre here, Howell said. I would say, for July in this area, having those three festivals going on creates a very positive economic impact for the whole area.
For Arts Fest, that impact has been calculated at more than $12 million. Organizers work with Lock Haven University to determine the festivals impact, based on a rough estimate of 100,000 visitors.
Thats typically from the moment someone leaves their house to the moment they return to their house, said Executive Director Rick Bryant. That would include gas, tolls, beer, hotel room, food, and if they spent anything at the festival to buy art.
Bryants staff asks visitors how much they spend every year, and asks artists how much they sell.
Some of the answers have been zero, he said. Other people do very, very well.
Though Bryant said the recent recession didnt seem to change the impact of Arts Fest, he said he noticed this year that there was less movement on the waiting lists to participate.
While he said hes not sure what that means, Bryant said there are other big arts festivals also happening this week, including in Madison, Wis., Cleveland and Rochester, N.Y.
This year they think our option is the best, he said.
Borough Manager Tom Fountaine agreed that the community benefits from the festival are significant and, while the borough provides event support, the impact on operations is not.
There is some overtime in police, public works, health and ordinance enforcement, but these costs are offset in part by fees paid by artists and food vendors, Fountaine said.
Last year, the borough spent about $48,000 for those services, and received about $10,700 in revenue from temporary food/drink and retail dealer licenses.
Harris Township also spends a little more than usual for police protection during Peoples Choice, but Manager Amy Farkas said thats the only impact on the township. Boalsburg fire police also help, directing traffic.
Because the festival is contained to the Pennsylvania Military Museum site, Farkas said it creates a cultural benefit without any problems. And visitors have easy access to the event from U.S. Route 322.
Peoples Choice is the stopping point on the way into the Arts Festival, or they hit it on the way home, she said.
Jim Pollock, chairman of the Heritage Days committee, said the Philipsburg event fills a third niche this week, and attracts people who have visited the other two festivals.
We find people come back the next year and stay two days, he said. Its really created a huge impact for the area, with cash flow during this period of time, and also the awareness of how the town is changing and the new businesses that are here.
Pollock said many people time the event with class and family reunions, and weddings. He said that benefits the facilities holding the events, as well as local hotels and other businesses.
They schedule their vacations around this time to come back, he said. That pretty much has been our main focus drawing attention back to the town, its rich history, how nice it is to be back in town, and the country feel.
Jessica VanderKolk can be reached at 235-3910. Follow her on Twitter @jVanReporter