People’s Choice aims to please with more vendors, larger footprint

Kim Bowersox, of Spring Mills, places purses made from recycled fabrics at her booth at the People's Choice Festival of Pennsylvania Arts and Crafts on Thursday.
Kim Bowersox, of Spring Mills, places purses made from recycled fabrics at her booth at the People's Choice Festival of Pennsylvania Arts and Crafts on Thursday. CDT photo

The 22nd annual People’s Choice Festival of Pennsylvania Arts and Crafts kicked off Thursday with more vendors and a wider festival ground than in previous years.

Thirty vendors have been added this year, according to assistant co-director Don Rockey, of Pine Grove Mills, creating an “inner circle” of vendors. Guests can now find tents along the perimeter of the festival and in an inner row along the northern and southern sections of the grounds.

The festival is pushing capacity at this point, he said. “If it gets any more crowded, it will be too much.”

While the festival has grown in size, Rockey said, things didn’t change too much. It’s mainly for the children of the area, and the children bring the adults.

Co-director Cindy Rockey said she was pleased with the turnout.

“It’s been packed in here today,” she said. “It’s supposed to be nice weather this weekend.”

Disturbances are always at a minimum, she said. “We never anticipate problems, and if there are any, they’re little ones.”

Rockey said she enjoys seeing all the artisans who have come back, including some who have been coming since the festival first began.

Photographer Chris Hornaman, 70, of Allentown, has been selling his work at the fair for seven or eight years. Hornaman sells photographs he’s taken in such locations as South Africa, Madagascar, Zimbabwe and Ireland.

“It’s still a hobby,” he said. “It’s not serious work. As long as it’s a hobby, I’ll have fun at it.”

Jon and Judy Baughman, of Saxton, have been coming to the the festival for about 10 years, Jon Baughman said.

“We love it,” Judy Baughman said. “We love all the handmade things. Everything is just lovely.”

Handmade is the name of the game for Richard Horner, 54, of Rimersburg. Horner creates pens that he lathes from various materials — such as exotic wood, antlers, alligator jawbone — and materials covered in clear acrylic, such as feathers, snakeskin and watch parts.

He said he seriously got into the pen-crafting business after he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. During his recovery, making pens helped keep him busy.

“We like to say that prayers and pens got me through the ordeal,” he said.

Krista Capparelli went to the fair with her son Lucca, 11; nephew Alex Dirsmith, 4; and neice Kinsey Bowser, 17. They had only just arrived at the festival, but Capparelli said she was already impressed with all the booths.

“I love the variety,” she said. “We’ve always loved the craft booths, the food and the entertainment. It’s a lot of fun.”

Being able to bring entertainment to the park requires sponsorship dollars, and it’s up to marketing and sponsorship Director Diana Stapleford to bring them in.

Stapleford, who has been working at the festival for 19 years, credited longtime sponsors Dix Honda, Magnum Broadcasting and Snappy’s convenience stores for helping to bring support and entertainment to the festival. Booth fees also help support the facilities.

Stapleford reaches out across Pennsylvania in purchasing media, from Johnstown to Williamsport. She also covers 16 counties in the northern tier of the state.

Finding sponsors, like the vendor applications that are due in December, starts early, she said.

“Usually we take about two months off after the festival, then we start on it again. We can usually raise sponsorship around that time, then we start marketing in February.”

The People’s Choice Festival runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Parking is available on site for $5.