After 52 years, Arts Fest continues to add new events and features

Sara Kahler and Eliot Zeigler view various artwork of Penn State Ceramics during the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts in July 2017.
Sara Kahler and Eliot Zeigler view various artwork of Penn State Ceramics during the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts in July 2017. Centre Daily Times, file

Get ready for arts, crafts — and laughs.

Executive Director Rick Bryant said this year's Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts will feature a new addition to the lineup — a stand-up comedy show.

In collaboration with The State Theatre, the 52nd annual Arts Fest will present stand-up comedian Joe Machi at 10 p.m. July 14. A State College native and Penn State graduate, Machi has been featured on NBC's "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" and "Last Comic Standing."

"We don't typically have comedians, " Bryant said. "We don't typically have shows at 10 o'clock at night, but there are lots of people out at 10 o'clock and we thought they'd like to have a comedy show."

Another new aspect of Arts Fest is a booth called "The Art of Discovery" in the Willard Building, where people can learn about a variety of topics ranging from coral reefs to zombie ants.

Approximately 125,000 people from around the country gather in downtown State College and on Penn State's campus to participate in Arts Fest. Activities include strolling down the Sidewalk Sale and Exhibition and watching artists paint the roads with colorful masterpieces in part of the Italian Street Painting located in the 100 block of Hiester Street. There will also be a "Little Art Alley" where artists of any age and ability can purchase a space to draw on.

From woodwork to digital art, Arts Fest brings in hundreds of artists with a wide variety of skills.

Schlow Centre Region Library is hosting a juried art exhibition titled "Images 2018." The exhibition includes paintings, photography, mixed-media and more. Artists involved are primarily residents of Pennsylvania.

Over the course of four days, festivalgoers can watch a pile of sand transform into a three-dimensional masterpiece. Sand sculptor Greg Glenn will perform his work in the Sidney Friedman Park.

Performances are scheduled throughout the weekend — Black Cat Belly Dance and Penn State Taiko Drums are just some of the wide ranging acts that will perform through the afternoon of July 15.

Bryant, who has been the executive director for 13 years, said the biggest highlight working for Arts Fest is the artists and musicians.

"The artists are my work friends," Bryant said. "I like to look out over at the sea of people on Allen Street listening to a good band and enjoying themselves and thinking I had something to do with that."

Children and Youth Day is reserved for children to sell their own handmade arts and crafts on the Wednesday before the festival begins. There are rules for the children — they can't make food or create items from a kit.

"They make everything from friendship bracelets, to one year I bought Adirondack chairs for my house at the beach," Bryant said. "An 18-year-old kid made it from scratch and I was like 'I can't believe this.' Kids are unbelievably creative."

Aside from the abundance of different activities during Arts Fest, Bryant encourages visitors to participate in events beyond the festival.

People's Choice Festival in Boalsburg and Heritage Days in Philipsburg are other events festivalgoers can visit. The Palmer Museum and Woskob Gallery will also open their doors to the public with exhibitions. The Millbrook Playhouse in Mill Hall will also feature a show for the public.

Bryant said there are several ways to make the most out of Arts Fest. He said to park at the Bryce Jordan Center parking lot for $5 and take the free CATA shuttle downtown, and look at the Arts Fest website before coming to the festival to map out activities for each day. Bryant said to try to catch at least one performance during the weekend.