‘More affordable art for everyone’: Annual family-friendly People’s Choice Festival focuses on crafts created in Pennsylvania

Sandy Weaver, of Leola, paints gourds in her booth.
Sandy Weaver, of Leola, paints gourds in her booth. CDT file photo

When it comes to planning a trip to an arts event, visitors sometimes have to choose between high-end or family- and budget-friendly.

Organizers of the People’s Choice Festival of Pennsylvania Arts and Crafts, held at the Pennsylvania Military Museum, say they cater to the latter — and they bring in Pennsylvania artisans only.

“It’s very family-oriented,” co-director Cindy Rockey said. “Artisans go in a big circle, and activities for kids are in the center, all in one location. It’s very easy for a parent with an old enough child to say, ‘You can go on the bouncy. I’ll go see five booths and come back to check on you.’ ”

Held at the flat, grassy grounds of Boalsburg museum, the People’s Choice festival runs through July 13 — overlapping with the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts.

“Visitors will find a totally different set up and atmosphere” at the People’s Choice Festival, Rockey said.

In addition to plenty of kid-centric entertainment built into the heart of the festival, Rockey said there will be picnicking areas, family rest tents and other amenities designed to make it easy on families and budgets. That’s aside from tables of arts and crafts — from clay, fiber, glass and leather to metalwork, woodwork, photography and two-dimensional art. There also will be 23 food booths and more than 40 entertainers or group performers.

“We have a great free shuttle program,” she said. “If you’re handicapped or older or even just loaded down with bags and need a ride from one end of the court to the other or your parking spot, we have golf carts going around. I think those kind of things are extremely different from the festival downtown.”

The 191 artists all are from throughout the state and must meet the festival’s requirement to send the actual artist, not a representative. That way, families can learn the stories of their purchases first-hand.

“Our Pennsylvania artisans provide a fantastic selection and quality of crafts,” Rockey said. “(The Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts) will have potters, and we have potters. They have weavers, and we have weavers. Our festival can provide more affordable art for everyone. There are a lot of reasons for that. If you’re traveling from California to sell your product, it’s going to cost more.”

Kid attractions are set up to entertain a variety of ages, with train rides, a petting zoo and bounce houses for the younger sets and a tent for ages 8 to 18 to sell their own art.

“All children’s events go on during the whole festival,” Rockey said. “We have special entertainment shows for them. There’s a whole day built around kids in between really young and teens.”

A full schedule of events, vendors and entertainment is available at peopleschoicefestival.com.

Organizers work to make sure the entertainment is local, too, and even the big acts are typically those who have a Pennsylvania connection, according to co-director John Madison.

Madison has been involved in the festival since it began 22 years ago, 26 years after the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts started. At the time, he was a vendor, selling hats his wife makes.

“The downtown show was drawing other artists from other states,” he said. “That was the reason we started this festival: to give Pennsylvania artists a place to show their goods. As far as we know, everything is handmade by the people who are there. And people want to talk to you about what you do, so we don’t allow vendors to send other people on the road to sell here.”

That community mindset flows into food vendor selection and even the companies organizers choose for setup, Madison said. This year, there also will be a “community service” tent with a different nonprofit present each day: the Boalsburg Banner Project (proceeds from sales benefit the Wounded Warrior Project), Pets Come First, Nittany Greyhounds and Nittany Beagle Rescue.

“It’s good for the community,” he said. “People do support it. If it wasn’t for the locals and the volunteers, this would not go off the ground. We try to create a family-friendly atmosphere, a place where you can let the kids run and don’t have to worry about them running across the street. Go shopping, sit down and have a bite to eat with your family and friends.”

Entertainment schedule

July 11

• 11:30 a.m.: Happy Valley Cloggers (North Stage)

• 11:30 a.m.: Riley Roth (South Stage)

• 1 p.m.: Kevin Neidig Band (N)

• 1 p.m.: J.R. Mangan Band with Olivia Jones (S)

• 2:30 p.m.: Andy Tolins and Haystack Lightnin’ (N)

• 2:30 p.m.: Robert M. Sides Rock Camp (S)

• 4 p.m.: The Fireskippers (N)

• 5:30 p.m.: Deacons of Dixieland (N)

• 5:30 p.m.: Lindsey Erin (S)

• 7 p.m.: Cliff Turner Band (N)

• 7 p.m.: Derek Woodz Band (S)

July 12

• 11:30 a.m.: Nittany Knights Barbershop Chorus (N)

• 11:30 a.m.: Your Dad’s Friends (S)

• 1 p.m.: Jay Vonada Trio (N)

• 1 p.m.: Black Cat Belly Dance (S)

• 2:30 p.m.: Miss Melanie and the Valley Rats (N)

• 2:30 p.m.: 28th Infantry Division Band (S)

• 4 p.m.: August Room (N)

• 4 p.m.: Pages of Paul (S)

• 5:30 p.m.: Greenwood Community Brass Band (N)

• 6 and 7:15 p.m.: Jackie Brown and the Gill Street Band (S)

• 7 p.m.: Faces 4 Radio (N)

July 13

• 11:30 a.m.: Chris Woodward and Shindiggin’ (S)

• noon: Holly and Araelia (N)

• 1:30 p.m.: Altoona Chorus of Sweet Adelines (N)

• 1:30 and 3:30 p.m.: Elvis impersonator Brad Crum (S)

• 1:30 p.m.: “The Compleat Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) (Young Artisans Tent)

• 3 p.m.: Little German Band (N)