Music takes the summer stage

There’s a lot riding on a name — particularly with a moniker like Summer’s Best Music Fest.

Fortunately, a lot of the finer details have already been taken care of.

The event begins at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, placing it just shy of the right season. There will be well over a dozen local, regional and national artists in attendance, which significantly increases the odds that there will be music of some sort. Plus, as luck would have it, there are few things more festive than an ice cream cone.

But best? That’s a high bar to clear.

George Arnold, executive director of the Downtown State College Improvement District, thinks that this year’s festival is up to the challenge.

“We’re very excited about it. Ice cream and music and then you’ve got all of the food around,” Arnold said.

It is a potent combination, one that Arnold hopes has helped Summer’s Best Music Fest continue to evolve over the past nine years and attract audiences from beyond Centre County.

“The last couple of years in particular we’ve looked at how we can grow this event,” Arnold said.

Growth spurts will abound on Saturday, most notably with the presence of a national stage featuring the talents of country artist Jo Dee Messina and an All-You-Can-Eat Pig Roast and Country Olympics with the cast of CMT’s “Party Down South.”

Arnold said that national performers help draw attention to the event, which was developed in part with the intention of drawing people into the atmosphere of Downtown State College.

Additional local flavor will be provided by a wide variety of musical and dance acts like The Unbanned, Zero Point and the Happy Valley Cloggers.

“I think we’ve got a really great lineup of bands. I’m really excited about them,” Arnold said.

Even the kids are getting in on the act.

The Downtown Improvement District reached out to music teachers across the area to recruit five young artists with the chops to occupy the Big Break Stage, a platform to showcase young emerging talent.

Among the five scheduled performers is Hannah Richardson, the winner of last year’s Centre Sings talent show — a big draw that will still have to compete with all of the other attractions in the festival’s Kids Zone.

The young person’s paradise will include Home Depot project kits, a robotics demonstration and a life-sized Candy Land.

Family appeal is fundamental to the festival’s success and while parents may not get the same kick out of Candy Land as their kids, the State College Rotary Club’s Ice Cream Festival should provide some common ground.

For the cost of a $5 ticket, visitors can enjoy samples from each of the six ice cream vendors in attendance.

“We are trying to make it something for everyone,” Arnold said.