Patrons, vendors dodge the rain during opening day at People’s Choice Festival

Bob Weaver works on his pen and ink art at his booth. The 23rd annual People's Choice Festival of Pennsylvania Arts & Crafts began Thursday.
Bob Weaver works on his pen and ink art at his booth. The 23rd annual People's Choice Festival of Pennsylvania Arts & Crafts began Thursday. CDT photo

The threat of rain wasn’t enough to keep visitors from flocking Thursday to the opening day of the 23rd annual People’s Choice Festival.

Featuring about 190 vendors, the festival once again took over the open area in front of the Pennsylvania Military Museum with crafts, food and activities for the whole family. No precipitation fell during the first part of the afternoon even with some gray clouds hanging in the sky — a turn that surprised festival organizers.

“I was surprised how many people came out today despite the threat of rain,” concessions coordinator Rich Snyder said.

When it starts raining, Co-Director John Madison said, people are usually pretty quick to head to their cars and wait it out. Once the rain stops, they come back.

“Rain doesn’t scare them away,” he said.

The festival also features numerous returning vendors, he said. The festival is a consistent show, he said, adding that if a vendor has a good product and the people take to him or her, that’s almost a guarantee that vendor will be back.

Average booth sales are typically $4,000 a space, he said. This year, only three or four vendors had to cancel.

“They’re a die-hard group,” he said.

Stephen Pidcock, 58, traveled from Lancaster to offer his photographs for sale. Labeled as “Vertizontal Arts,” the landscape photographs depicted riverbanks when displayed horizontally, but unique faces could be seen when the piece was turned on its side.

“I’ve always seen faces,” Pidcock said, “but I was afraid to tell people. One day I showed one of my pictures to a friend, and when I turned it, he said, ‘Holy cow, there’s a face in there!’ ”

Originally from Colorado, he said he missed the mountains, so he began kayaking on the Susquehanna River. After collecting pictures of some “faces,” a fellow photographer who saw his work told him it was “fine art” and that he needed to start doing his own art shows.

Since then, he said, he published his first book of photographs, “Faces of the Susquehanna.” He’s now working on a second book, and has since traveled through the Adirondack Mountains, through Utah, Colorado and Georgian Bay in Ontario, Canada.

Building on what he learned as a carpenter for the theater, Pidcock said his artistic journey began in 2009. He said he enjoys what he does with no pressure to make a living doing it.

Farther up the line of vendors, Cindy Hamady, 58, of Sidman, displayed her Ukranian eggs. The delicate, empty shells boasted a rainbow of colors in the artistic form that has existed since the pre-Christian era.

Hamady said the practice, known as “pysanky,” is still carried on by all Eastern-bloc religions and given out during Easter.

To create the egg, she said she first writes on the egg with beeswax using a stylus called a “kistka.” Everything written directly on the shell will remain white. The egg is then dyed the first color and written on again in wax. More colors are added until the final color, usually a dark color like brown or black, is reached.

She then heats the egg over a candle to melt the wax off, she said. Any color under the wax will have been preserved, creating the intricate designs.

Finally, she said, she uses a syringe to drain the egg, leaving only the shell.

A typical chicken egg can take about three hours to finish, she said. Hamady also works in goose eggs and ostrich eggs.

The People’s Choice Festival may be a popular attraction for regional residents, but the draw of the arts is enough to bring some in from beyond the state.

Edie Kreider, of Ohio, said she graduated from Penn State along with her husband. The Pittsburgh native said she’d been to the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts in downtown State College before, but had never checked out People’s Choice before.

She said she was definitely glad she did, and was having a wonderful time.

“It’s amazing how many booths there are,” she said. “There’s so much content.”