The Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts is nearly 50 years old and attracts more than 120,000 people to the county every year.
Combine that with three other major festivals during the same week, and it creates an economic boom that can be felt countywide.
Over the years, the arts festival has been joined by the People’s Choice Festival of Pennsylvania Arts and Crafts, Heritage Days in Philipsburg and most recently the Remington Ryde Bluegrass Festival. The four festivals together make up the biggest weekend in the summer for Centre County tourism, said Betsey Howell, director of the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“It is probably one of the biggest summer weekends that we promote,” she said. “With the addition (of) the bluegrass festival, it gives us a whole new dynamic to market.”
Howell said there were a few rooms remaining in local hotels and bed-and-breakfasts this weekend, but many were sold out as of Wednesday.
She added that it’s a huge weekend for businesses, which use it as an opportunity to promote and give out some special deals.
At the Tavern Restaurant in State College, owner Pat Daugherty said his business jumps about 30 percent over a normal July or August weekend, which already is much bigger than weekends in June.
He said it’s also better than a Penn State football weekend because people don’t all look to eat at the same time after a game or tailgate. He said it’s spread out enough that he is able to do all the business without long lines.
“It’s a great weekend, and it doesn’t put a lot of pressure on us because we do good numbers without a long wait,” he said.
And the reach is felt far outside of State College.
Heritage Days Chairman Jim Pollock joked he’d normally be lucky to run into 10 people in Philipsburg in an hour, but during the annual event, the town is like New York City.
“It really drives a lot of cash that pours into the community,” he said, adding that the town’s merchants love it.
He said the family-friendly event draws natives back to the area and attracts people who are vistiting the other festivals. Pollock is pleased that Heritage Days allows people to see the history of Philipsburg and support local businesses.
In Harris Township, People’s Choice weekend is bigger than a football weekend, township Manager Amy Farkas said.
The weekend gives the residents of Boalsburg an event in their town and attracts people from all over the county to the Pennsylvnaia Military Museum grounds and throughout the township.
“This is four consistent days of people in and out of the village,” she said.
It’s an important weekend for downtown State College businesses because a good portion of the cash flow stalls during the summer months when the bulk of the Penn State students leave.
Borough Manager Tom Fountaine said State College officials and businesses look at it as a positive weekend for the community.
“We rely on the Arts Festival during the summer to have an economic infusion into the community,” he said.
It also allows people to see the area who might not otherwise be able to.
Howell said the event can be marketed to more people because there is more going on than typical football weekends that see similar foot traffic.
And when they get to the county, many are hooked.
“Once we get visitors into the area we have found that they do like to return,” she said. “The area is an easy sell.”
Matt Morgan can be reached at 235-3928. Follow him on Twitter @MetroMattMorgan.