Arts Fest Preview: Overview

Allen Street is always busy during the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts.
Allen Street is always busy during the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. CDT file photo

There’s no such thing as bad publicity — at the most it’s a little bit redundant.

After almost 50 years in downtown State College and on Penn State’s campus, the 2015 Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts needs little by way of an introduction to residents of the Keystone State.

Of the 125,000 people expected to show up at some point during the five-day extravaganza of art vendor tents, outdoor concerts and a 25-ton sand sculpture, only 35 percent are estimated to reside in Centre County.

The rest, fueled by the promise of good shopping and even better times, will be indulging in the grandest and most time-honored of the midsummer traditions — the road trip.

So drawing people into town isn’t the problem. What to do with them when they get here though? That raises a few eyebrows.

“My job comes down to two things: parking and toilet paper,” Rick Bryant, the festival’s executive director, said.

He’s kidding — sort of.

Bryant and his team begin planning Arts Fest as early as November, when almost 1,000 artists apply to secure tent space to sell their creations.

Photos of each piece of art are reviewed by judges before final decisions about who and what will be appearing in the sidewalk sale are made in February.

Admissions are only accepted from the artists responsible for the work, who must be in attendance at the festival to answer questions and provide background on their work — a personalized history that Bryant thinks distinguishes items like handcrafted bowls or cups from their counterparts lining the shelves at Target or T.J.Maxx.

“I think that the artists who engage do better,” Bryant said.

Being one of a kind has its drawbacks though.

It’s not uncommon for Bryant and his staff to receive phone calls throughout the year from past shoppers looking to replace items that have been chipped or broken — and they don’t always remember the name of the vendor.

“More often than not we’re able to figure out who it is,” Bryant said.

Kids ages 8 through 18 will also have an opportunity to indulge their own entrepreneurial spirit during Children and Youth Day on July 8.

This particular sidewalk sale is more likely to feature basic items like scrunchies and duct tape wallets.

Regardless of age, there’s a certain technique to the art of the sale and the sale of the art — and the right mood music is a big part of that.

There will be three outdoor stages in play during the festival featuring a variety of musical acts ranging from rock to bluegrass.

“It’s stuff that you might not have a chance to see normally because we like it to be out of the ordinary,” Bryant said.

The outdoor acts are free and open to the public but visitors are also welcome to purchase a button for $10 that will last for the duration of the festival and grant access to any of the indoor musical performances.

It’s a lot to keep track of — but fortunately there’s an app for that.

Android or iPhone users can keep track of music schedules, food vendors and exhibitor lists on their mobile device.

The free Arts Fest app received almost 1,400 downloads in its first year and can be found in the Apple app store or the Google Play Store.