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Arts Fest, People’s Choice festivals capitalize on differences to draw crowds

Foster Gill, left, Lizzie Gill and Isabella Fortney, right, spin tops in the science museum tent Sunday at the last day of the People’s Choice Festival of Pennsylvania Arts and Crafts, in Boalsburg.
Foster Gill, left, Lizzie Gill and Isabella Fortney, right, spin tops in the science museum tent Sunday at the last day of the People’s Choice Festival of Pennsylvania Arts and Crafts, in Boalsburg. CDT photo

Sean and Nora Nissenbaum took turns building cube pyramids at the People’s Choice Festival of Pennsylvania Arts and Crafts one day after they were drenched by dump buckets at the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts.

Their mom, Sandy, said that if the two festivals were on separate weeks, they wouldn’t have attended both. She was able to make plans with her friend, Maggie Thomas, of Indiana, to go to both.

People’s Choice Co-Director John Madison said that is part of what makes the festivals successful.

“Both shows complement each other really well,” Madison said. “They have fantastic, high-end art work that draws a lot of people. We have more local art work that attracts a lot of people. It’s more convenient for people from far away to plan for both festivals on the same week. If someone wants to buy something that isn’t there or here, they aren’t going to find it anywhere.”

The Nissenbaums, of Tredryffin, said they like the differences between the festivals.

“We get to go on the moon bounce (at People’s Choice), and it’s more for children,” Nora, 8, said. “But the arts festival has the dump bucket every year.”

Sean, 10, said there are perks to both festivals.

“At the Arts Fest, you can go into stores and shop or go to the vendors,” Sean said. “I like People’s Choice, because it has more diversity and more tents to go to. You can see everything better at People’s Choice, because there’s more space. And it’s geared toward kids more, and you can do a lot more hands-on things, so it’s not just browsing.”

Sheryl Freas, who sold handmade “crushable” hats at People’s Choice, said the turnout left her hatless for the festival’s last four hours on Saturday. She had to drive almost three hours to near Philadelphia to pick up more hats from her uncle.

“It was my first year, and I saw right away how well-organized this festival is and how many people love it,” Freas, of Richard’s Seagrass Hats, said. “I didn’t anticipate the huge crowd Thursday, so I didn’t have enough hats to last for the entire weekend. A lot of that, too, had to do with the fantastic weather, so people saw the hats and wanted a little shade.”

Cassie Deardorff came back to People’s Choice on Sunday to buy one of Freas’ hats after she nearly sold out of 500 in three days. Deardorff, 23, of Spring Mills, also bought a stacked silver ring from Barry Gebhart’s Jewelry, which has become traditional for her. She has gone to each festival for as far back as she can remember.

“There is so much worldly art at Arts Fest, and People’s Choice is all Pennsylvania artists, and it’s really nice to see both,” Deardorff said.

Michelle Pierce, Deardorff’s friend, said that they could look but not afford to buy anything at Arts Fest.

“You have to be really well off to buy something that’s $600,” Pierce, 23, of Bellefonte, said. “You go to Arts Fest to see things and eat some food. You can buy a $7 silver stack ring or a $12 gold stack ring (at People’s Choice), and everything else here is really nice and affordable.”

Jamie Murphy, who operates Luna Jaze, sold handmade leather bags at Arts Fest and said she increased her sales from last year. She brought 100 bags and sold more than 50.

While Madison said he anticipates 80,000 in attendance, Arts Fest Director of Operations Carol Baney said that they hope they had more than 100,000.

“We’re both really lucky to have each other, because we both bring in such great crowds,” Baney said.

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