Big changes are in store for the 10th annual Summer’s Best Music Fest in downtown State College.
This year’s event, organized by the State College Downtown Improvement District, will include two nights of nationally known headlining bands and the addition of two beer gardens between stages.
Downtown Improvement District Executive Director George Arnold said the group has been looking to grow the festival over the past three years and looked to the Flood City Festival in Johnstown as a model. The DID partnered with Lucky Dog Productions, which books music for Flood City, to help bolster the Summer’s Best lineup.
“They had taken that event from an event to a nonprofit and transitioned it to a full-blown music festival,” Arnold said. “They’ve been where we’ve been and ended up where we want to be.”
Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds will headline Friday evening. Singer Arleigh Kincheloe described the band’s sound as “hard soul” and said they hope to have people dancing in the street at the festival.
“The live show is very high energy,” Kincheloe said. “My goal is just to have a good time and hope people are having a good time, too.”
Despite the addition of more national acts, Arnold said organizers didn’t want the festival to lose its local roots. Local favorites Spider Kelly, Pure Cane Sugar and Eric Ian Farmer are just a few of the acts performing Friday and Saturday.
Summer’s Best began in 2006 as a way to highlight local musicians and increase traffic to downtown businesses during the traditionally slower summer months, Arnold said. The timing in early June helps to avoid competition with the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts in July.
Arnold said he expects 6,000 to 8,000 attendees.
Two stages on either side of the Garner Street parking lot will feature back-to-back performances, a common practice at larger music festivals. Stages on Calder Way and Locust Lane will feature local acts on a similar schedule for free.
Arnold said the idea of adding alcohol to the festival raised a few eyebrows initially but pointed to other events in the area as examples of when it can work.
“We want to ensure that it is a family friendly event where you can enjoy a beer outside without things getting out of hand, much like a Spikes games or WingFest at Tussey Mountain,” Arnold said. “We agreed on roots/Americana theme for the music to pair with the other activities we had planned.”
Mandolin player Sierra Hull will perform Saturday with her trio, which encompasses musical styles from bluegrass to jazz and everything in between. Hull has been performing since she was 12 and said she continues to be surprised by what she can pull off in a festival atmosphere.
“We played Bach at a festival a few weeks ago and there are still elements of things like that where you think you could only do them in a theater or club show,” Hull said. “You have to trust those people to take in whatever you’re willing to give them.”
Single-day tickets for Summer’s Best are $20, and two-day passes are $40. Shows on the Locust Lane and Calder Way stages are free.
IF YOU GO
- What: Summer’s Best Music Fest
- When: gates open at 3:30 p.m. Friday; 11:30 a.m. Saturday
- Where: downtown State College
- Info: summersbestmusicfest.com