Lovers of all things local to flock to the People's Choice Festival

Kay Jaramillo laughs with a costumer in her booth at the People's Choice Festival in July 2017.
Kay Jaramillo laughs with a costumer in her booth at the People's Choice Festival in July 2017. Centre Daily Times, file

From bluegrass bands to jewelry artists, lovers of all things local can rejoice in the People’s Choice Festival, set for the weekend of July 12-15.

This year’s festival will mark 26 years since it was founded by local artist George Marion.

According to the festival’s official website, Marion wanted to create a brand new arts festival in Boalsburg.

With the booths organized in a circular shape, festivalgoers will have a clear view of each Pennsylvanian artisan vendor. Ranging from leather to glass, People’s Choice hosts a variety of artists with different talents.

Participants can add a flair to their celebration with local wines. Eight wineries from around Pennsylvania will set up booths at the festival for wine lovers to rejoice.

More than 40 acts will perform throughout the weekend, including local a capella doo-wop group Rama-Lama and Miss Melanie & The Valley Rats.

Festival Director Cindy Rockey said a main focus of the festival’s improvement is for the Centre Court area, where kids and their families can participate in activities.

Children can engage in a variety of activities, such as a hands-on kids science museum, a petting zoo, pony rides and tie dyeing shirts.

Over at the food tent, 27 vendors will be in attendance. From gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches to maple glazed kettle corn popcorn, Rockey said the festival has “everything you want.”

There will also be a specialty food tent, filled with distinct sauces and dips, such as Maple Peanut Butter and a sauce called ‘Zombie’ by Torchbearer sauces.

A personal favorite food of Rockey’s are the handmade french fries at the festival.

Rockey, who has been involved with the festival’s operations for 24 years, said she decided to get involved because of her passion for art.

“I just really love what I call the craft business. I’m a seamstress, I try new things all the time, I’ve been doing shows for 25 plus years,” Rockey said. “It just came to the point where this show was so important to me.”

Rockey said she originally attended Arts Fest in downtown State College for a few years but decided to switch to People’s Choice because the festival focused on local artisans.

“It’s just a more pleasing atmosphere, we have great parking, everything is located in this huge circle,” Rockey said.

She said the audience size has grown every year.

“There was approximately 118,000 people through the show last year. We expect that or more this year,” Rockey said.

Originally, the festival hosted around 40 to 50 artisans. Now, it's at capacity — with around 195 artists.

Rockey’s favorite part of the festival is being able to catch up with artisans that she’s known for more than 20 years, as well as meeting new artisans who are fresh to the business.

“(Seeing artists) shows me that this isn’t a dying art,” she said, “we’re always thinking about products that people are producing that are being produced in foreign countries for almost nothing competing with a person at home spending hours making these handmade items.”

Another aspect of the festival is its use of sustainable alternatives. Last year, Chris Kepler Audio Services used a solar powered generator to power the north stage. The generator creates no noise or pollution, according to Kepler.

Rockey also enjoys seeing families enjoying themselves by setting up picnics and participating in activities for children.

She also has tips for people who want to visit — get a festival guide at the information booth when you first arrive, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Parking is provided by the Pennsylvania Military Museum located right across from the festival grounds.