Dance floor is a draw at People’s Choice Festival in Boalsburg

bmilazzo@centredaily.comJuly 11, 2014 

— Zeb Crews took a seat at his drum kit and did a quick, 10-hit practice beat.

He just wanted to make sure the tom-toms were in check before his band took the stage.

Then, with little introduction, the five teens rocked the southside music tent at the Pennsylvania Military Museum in front of an estimated 150 people.

Crews, 13, Robby Ford, 14, Jeremy Gamble, 16, Michael Hesser, 17, and Janak Judd, 14, played covers of The Beatles, Eagles and The Rolling Stones — all of which they learned in the one week they’ve been practicing.

The group, Rocker Teens,was part of the Robert M. Sides Rock Camp this week, which performed at the 22nd annual People’s Choice Festival of Pennsylvania Arts and Crafts on Friday afternoon.

But they were just one of 33 musical acts and 190 vendors at the four-day festival that annually highlights arts and crafts from around the state. It also includes children’s science activities, pony rides and a BMX show through the Dialed Action sports team.

“Music is a form of art,” said Chris Kepler, entertainment coordinator who was in charge of booking the acts and running the soundboard for performers. “It gets a pretty good response.”

On Thursday night, Pure Cane Sugar — one of the larger shows — attracted around 400 people, Kepler said.

The most popular shows each year are the Black Cat Belly Dancers who will perform 1 p.m. Saturday and an Elvis impersonator that will perform at the south stage near the food vendors 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Kepler added.

People’s Choice co-director John Madison said

that with the live entertainment portion growing, a dance area accompanied the stages for the first time this year.

“Last year, we noticed all the people who got up danced, but didn’t have space to do that,” he said. “This year, we got it.”

Tina Goepper and her daughter Shadley, 4, were among the first to hit the hardwood when the JR Mangan Band with Olivia Jones started to play. Soon after, dozens of others joined.

“It’s just a big dance party,” said Laura Caldwell, of Boalsburg. “We come here each year for the arts and crafts, and each year it seems to have something new. … This year people are getting up and dancing to the music. It’s great.”

Craig Wesner, of Williamsburg, brings his small business, Hand Carved Wooden Flowers, to the festival each year.

His tent was stationed at the west end of the grounds near the walking trail, where he carved wooden flowers using a box cutter and a maple branch.

Wesner got into woodcarving as a child when his father, Jim, passed the trade along. He’s now been actively doing it for more than 40 years.

“The hardest part is going to the woods to find some branches; the rest is pretty easy,” Wesner said.

Once Wesner frays the branch to look like petals, he then paints it.

“I’ve been coming here since the start and it’s been good to me,” Wesner said. “I just like to share my hobby with others.”

The festival annually attracts between 80,000 to 100,000 people and takes at least 60 volunteers to set up, Madison said.

“We’re like a well-oiled machine getting things ready,” Madison said. “We all come together with one thing in common — to make people happy — and our biggest reward is seeing people have fun when they get here.”

The festival will continue 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @ M11azzo.

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