A few hundred smooth stones evolved into pet rocks Wednesday, thanks to crafty youngsters attending opening day at Arts Fest.
Children gathered around a table, adding googly eyes, multicolored smiles with markers and even hair and clothes to their new creations.
“We did 300 rocks last year and ran out,” said assistant Emma Kesidis, 18, of State College. “So this year we brought 360.”
The rocks were a big hit last year, she said, and drew a large crowd, so organizers decided to do it again this year.
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It’s what Children and Youth Day at the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts is all about: the chance for kids to create. Arts Fest kicked off Wednesday with youth-led performances, art pieces and activities geared toward the festival’s youngest visitors.
The main stage along South Allen Street featured adolescents and their instruments, while a few feet away, a handful of attendees had buckets of water dumped onto their heads as a way to beat the heat and enjoy this year’s new water installation.
Beyond East Beaver Avenue, art vendors and food stands stretched down South Allen as far as the eye could see (or at least to East Fairmount Avenue). Among those stands, Ezra Raupach-Learn, 14, of State College, had done well selling his “Spray Paint Kosmos” paintings.
Made in the style of sidewalk spray paint artists, Ezra decorated his boards with multicolored space-scapes with swirling planets and spatters of stars. Marking his third year at Arts Fest, he had sold about 35 paintings by late afternoon.
“About four years ago, a woman here used to do the same paintings,” he said. “But when she decided not to come back, I sort of took over her legacy.”
Ezra said he was inspired to start doing spray paint art after seeing her work that first year. His paintings and sales have gotten better each year, he said.
Depending on the size and detail, it can take 10 to 25 minutes to finish a painting. While he said he doesn’t feel up to doing paintings live just yet, he will be showcasing his work at the Bellefonte Arts and Crafts Fair in August.
As children gathered in and around Alpha Fire’s ladder truck, others flocked to Discovery Space of Central Pennsylvania. Situated in the heart of Arts Fest, the museum offered free admission for kids and half off for adults Wednesday.
“We’re very busy today,” Executive Director Allayn Beck said. “We love kids day because it gives us a chance to have some new visitors that are here for Arts Fest.”
More than 300 kids stopped by the museum last year, she said. The key to handling that many visitors is the volunteers — five helping Wednesday up from the usual three — to make sure everyone has a good time.
The fun wasn’t confined only to South Allen. Across East College Avenue, on the lawn of Old Main, booths and a stage offered more activities and performances for fest-goers. Games and exercises in science dominated the lawn, giving kids the chance to try different experiments or expand their education on subjects like biology, astronomy or the environment.
The festival stage on the lawn offered dance crews from around the area, including almost 100 girls from the Centre Dance studio in State College who showcased 18 performances.
The studio features many different dance styles, instructor Tiffany Glab said, including jazz, tap and hip-hop. Students’ ages range from 2 to 18.
The performances Wednesday were a sampling of pieces from the studio’s spring recital, for which the students had practiced since September, Glab said.
Makayla Raptosh, 8, of State College, and her team danced to the song “Night Changes” by One Direction. While she said she never performed at Arts Fest before, she has been dancing for five years now and wasn’t nervous.
“We’re glad they were able to dance at Penn State this year,” her mother Michele said. “It’s a good experience.”