State College

Bernie Keisling to step down as 4th Fest executive director

Bernie Keisling, the executive director of 4th Fest, shown in a 2011 file photo, works from his “4th Fest Office” in his Stormstown home. Keisling is stepping down after 12 years of service to the fest.
Bernie Keisling, the executive director of 4th Fest, shown in a 2011 file photo, works from his “4th Fest Office” in his Stormstown home. Keisling is stepping down after 12 years of service to the fest. CDT file photo

When Bernie Keisling retired from IBM after 35 years, he thought he would get to do “all those things retired people do.” But not long after retirement, he found himself drawn to a new calling on the board for the Central PA 4th Fest.

As executive director, Keisling has his hands in everything. From event planning to finance, legal issue and permits, he’s the man who makes it all happen.

But after 12 years of service to the fest, he said, it’s time to hang up his hat of many trades and retire for real now.

“It’s a natural progression,” he said. “I would like to do some things in my retirement, and I think it’s time to let that retirement begin.”

Although 4th Fest takes place on one day, planning the event is a yearlong process, marketing Assistant Chairman Skip Webster said. The executive director is a part-time position, but in June and July, it becomes a full-time job.

“Most of the board is pretty loose — we get together, joke around and have fun,” Webster said. “But it’s serious business when you get 60,000 to 80,000 people together.”

Keisling brings expertise and organization to that board, Webster said. If you ask how many cars parked in 2006, he will have it in his records.

Keisling said he would work with 4th Fest for the remainder of the year, saying the best plan is for him to stay on for the 2015 event and work with the new executive director during the planning process.

“This is the time when the plans we made in the fall and winter take shape and form,” he said. “It’s getting to be the time when we execute those plans.”

The hope is to have a new person brought on by March or April, Webster said. This will allow the new executive director to shadow Keisling and allow for a more seamless transition.

Webster couldn’t hint at what is in store for 4th Fest this year, saying only that the board is exploring a big draw because July 4 falls on a Saturday.

“In a matter of weeks” that addition will be disclosed. “But I just can’t do that right now,” he said. “But we hope it will be a big draw to get people up there early and stay for the fireworks.”

Keisling said being the executive director is a very exciting job that gets you engaged in the community

“I have great pride in 4th Fest and in the team,” he said. “I want to them to be as successful as they’ve been in the past.”

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