BOALSBURG — For Bob Haffly, rainstorms Sunday couldn’t put a damper on the final day of the People’s Choice Festival of Pennsylvania Arts and Crafts.
A longtime fixture at the festival, celebrating its 20th year, Haffly’s hand-crafted brooms could be spotted everywhere Sunday — in the hands of shoppers young and old alike.
“I’ve been coming for years and years and years,” Haffly said. “I get a lot of return business, a lot from word of mouth.”
Haffly, of Amberson, and other Pennsylvanian artisans, said business was strong during the four-day event, founded 20 years ago to showcase local artists and vendors.
“It’s been really good considering everyone says the economy is down,” said Karen Bradford,
whose husband, Tim, was hammering away on a piece of hot iron on his forge.
The Bradfords, of Pleasant Gap, have been coming to the festival for 18 years. They called the turnout this weekend “remarkable.”
“People save up all year and come here (to the festival),” Karen Bradford said. “They buy their Christmas presents here.”
She acknowledged the large crowds that regularly gathered to watch her husband’s fiery demonstrations gave business a boost.
“The fire and the hammering helps,” she said. “But (aside from helping business), it’s nice to show kids an anvil isn’t just something dropped on you in a cartoon.”
Another longtime vendor, Rip Bartman, of Blooming Grove, said loyal patrons bring business even in a down economy.
Bartman, who has been coming to the People’s Choice Festival for 18 years, said past customers travel from as far as Atlanta to reconnect and see his latest paintings.
Despite the strong sales Sunday, heavy rains did, at least briefly, slow the festivities down around 2 p.m.
Artisans closed the flaps of their tents and vendors scrambled for tarps to cover their food and beverages. Shoppers ran for cover under trees or booths. Many packed into the covered stage area, prompting an Elvis impersonator performing there to quip, “Man, you get a full house in a rainstorm.”
Then, just as quickly as it started, the rain stopped and the sun returned. Festivalgoers were just as quick to get back to business — and for most that meant shopping.
Mary Ann Rizzo and Sue Allison, of Johnstown, who have been coming to the festival for 13 years, had their hands full with bags, brooms and windmill lawn ornaments.
“It’s so much fun — food, entertainment, shopping,” Rizzo said. “We’ve made it a girls weekend.”
Allison, without a hand to spare, added “everything here is so affordable,” before remembering something she forgot to pick up and heading off again.
Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter